Saturday, May 3, 2008

Former librarian on death row likely killed himself

Associated Press

8:41 PM EDT, April 29, 2008


A former Broward County librarian condemned for fatally beating his girlfriend with a hammer was found dead in his cell on Florida's death row from what appeared to be a self-inflicted injury, a spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections said Tuesday.

The body of William Coday, 51, convicted in the 1997 hammer slaying and stabbing of his girlfriend in Fort Lauderdale, was discovered by corrections officers about 2:30 a.m. Monday in his cell at Union Correctional Institution.

"It appeared to be a self-inflicted injury. The medical examiner will determine the exact cause of death," DOC spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said.

Coday had a history of suicidal behavior. He tried to kill himself while awaiting trial in 2000 at the Broward County Jail.

A Fort Lauderdale attorney who once represented Coday, Assistant Public Defender George Reres, said he learned the inmate's death was probably a suicide from a colleague who talked to department contacts. He said he heard the inmate bled to death from self-inflicted wounds.

"We knew he was suicidal," Reres said.

Coday confessed to planning for a month to kill Gloria Gomez in 1997 in Fort Lauderdale. She was struck 57 times with a hammer and suffered 87 stab wounds.

A jury convicted Coday of first-degree murder in 2002 and recommended a death sentence. The Florida Supreme Court overturned the death sentence in 2006, ruling that the judge shouldn't have disregarded testimony and evidence from six mental health experts who found Coday to be suffering from serious mental illnesses. The case went back to the same judge, who again in May 2007 sentenced Coday to die.

In 1978, Coday was convicted in Germany of fatally beating another woman with a hammer. He served 15 months in prison and was sent back to the U.S. to get psychiatric help.

An autopsy was performed at the medical examiner's office in Gainesville, but it refused to release a preliminary cause of death and said the autopsy report will not be available for three months.

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