Thursday, July 19, 2007

Child's killer scheduled to die Nov. 15


Schwab to receive lethal injection

BY JOHN A. TORRES
FLORIDA TODAY

Junny Rios-Martinez Sr. has an appointment Nov. 15 that he is determined to keep.

That's when he plans to watch his son's killer die.

After 15 years on death row, child rapist and murderer Mark Dean Schwab has been scheduled for execution. Gov. Charlie Crist signed Schwab's death warrant Wednesday afternoon, ending a seven-month moratorium on the death penalty.

"I'm excited but I'm also apprehensive," Rios-Martinez said. "I feel justice will be served only when that maggot is put down completely and breathes his last breath."

Schwab, 38, was convicted May 22, 1992, of kidnapping, raping and killing 11-year-old Junny Rios-Martinez Jr. He was sentenced to death six weeks later.

Claiming at first that he acted under duress and then blaming sexual abuse he endured as a child, Schwab filed seven motions for appeal and a motion for executive clemency.

All were denied.

Crist designated the week of Nov. 12-19 for Schwab's execution. The death warrant was his first as governor. Florida State Prison Warden Randall Bryant scheduled the execution by lethal injection for 6 p.m. on Nov. 15.

"Schwab is a cold-blooded murderer who deserves to have his sentence carried out," State Attorney Norman Wolfinger said.

Wolfinger said he does not plan to attend the execution. Nothing will keep Junny's parents -- Vicki and Junny Sr. -- away.

"I want to be the last thing that maggot sees before he dies," Junny Rios-Martinez said. "I will be there in the front row, front and center."

Added Wolfinger: "The family deserves justice."

The crime

Before Schwab raped and murdered 11-year-old Junny, he'd already faced two life sentences for another brutal crime -- raping 13-year-old Than Meyer of Cocoa Beach. Schwab pleaded guilty in a plea bargain and was sentenced to eight years.

He was released March 4, 1991, after serving three and a half years.

When told Wednesday that Schwab's execution date was set, Meyer cried for 45 minutes.

"It made me realize (given) exactly what happened how lucky I am to be alive," Meyer said. "He can't put anyone's happiness in jeopardy ever again."

A few weeks after being released from prison, Schwab saw Junny's photo in a newspaper. He tried befriending the family by posing as a photographer and then as someone who could help the blonde-haired preteen launch a surfing career.

On April 18, 1991, Schwab called Clearlake Middle School in Cocoa pretending to be Junny's father. He asked school officials to have the boy meet him at a nearby baseball field.

Junny was never seen alive again.

Police received a break in the case when Schwab, having fled to Ohio, called an aunt there and told her that he couldn't cope with the death penalty or a life sentence. Police monitored and traced the call. He was arrested while still on a pay phone outside a convenience store.

Five days after kidnapping Junny and bringing him to a Cocoa Beach motel where he raped and suffocated him, Schwab was brought back to Brevard County, where he led police to a rope-tied footlocker in the woods in Canaveral Groves. Inside was the boy's body.

"I'm happy," Vicki Rios-Martinez said moments after hearing from the governor's office. "It finally got done. Now we can really try to put this behind us and move on."

The moratorium

The Rios-Martinez family knew their more-than-15-year wait for justice was nearly over this spring when they were contacted to write letters opposing clemency for their son's killer. But at that time a moratorium on executions, imposed by former Gov. Jeb Bush, was in place.

The temporary halt was instituted after the botched Dec. 13 execution of Angel Diaz, whose death by lethal injection took twice as long as normal. The needle passed through a blood vessel and spread the deadly chemical mixture into the soft tissues of his arm. Bush created a special commission that reviewed procedures and made a series of recommendations designed to prevent future lengthy or mishandled executions.

"I am confident that the training, organization and communication processes established by the Commission on Administration of Lethal Injection and adopted by the State of Florida Department of Corrections are consistent with the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution," Crist said Wednesday.

The Eighth Amendment forbids cruel and unusual punishments.

Mark Gruber, the Tampa-based lawyer representing Schwab, said he plans to file a motion attacking the revised lethal injection system.

Rios-Martinez Sr. said he nearly lost it when a Titusville attorney recently filed a motion for clemency, arguing that Schwab be kept alive for scientific study.

"Scientific study?" Rios-Martinez said, laughing incredulously. "They've had him for 16 years and haven't done one single scientific study on him. Why start now?"

"This isn't about revenge," he said. "These bleeding-heart liberals who say that we are out for revenge can never fathom what our family has gone through. I pray none of them will have to go through what we have had to."

Contact Torres at 242-3649 or jtorres@floridatoday.com

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