Reported by: TCPalm
Last Update: 1/29 1:21 pm
STUART, FL — Prison inmate Ricky Silva thinks the death penalty is too severe a punishment for strangling his cellmate with a shoestring. In fact, he’s proud of what he did.
And he wants you to be proud of him, too.
“It’s not like I killed an innocent citizen or somebody who was undeserving,” said Silva, 29, of Terry Bell’s Oct. 14 homicide at the Martin Correctional Institution, where both men were serving life prison terms.
“Under my belief system, there’s still some people in the world that need killing and he was one of them,” he said. “I don’t believe I should pay for killing somebody that needed to be killed.”
Bell, 45, was convicted for raping a young Marion County girl after entering her bedroom through a window while her parents slept down the hall, said to Jerry Burford, a former state prosecutor who tried the 1999 crime. Bell left behind a palm print on a windowsill, he said, and Bell’s DNA was found on the victim.
Silva told several investigators he caught Bell committing an inappropriate act while holding a photo of Silva’s young niece. Silva said that prompted the attack.
But a fellow inmate has said Silva’s attack on Bell was racially motivated, and he’s threatened to kill again, said Assistant State Attorney Nita Denton, who said putting him on death row might be the only way to prevent Silva from harming anyone.
Silva, a former Fort Lauderdale laborer and landscaper serving life in prison, was no stranger to violence after twice brandishing a knife during a 2007 crime spree in Broward County. He has been convicted of armed-robbery, armed-carjacking kidnapping and other crimes.
During an interview at the Martin County jail, Silva recited details of Bell’s death.
“I stepped off the bed, I hit him, when he hit the door he fell to the ground,” he recalled, his voice flat. “I continued to hit him a couple of more times and then I wrapped a noose around his neck and I strangled him.”
A guard found Bell on a bottom bunk lying on his stomach with a black shoestring wrapped around his neck — the other end attached to a metal bed frame. , He was reported dead at 2:40 a.m.
“If you had kids, you would understand,” Silva later told a prison nurse treating wounds to his right hand. “You should thank me for it.”
Despite confessing to the grisly crime, Silva has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder. He said it’s wrong for state prosecutors to seek the death penalty against him.
“I don’t believe I should be punished,” he insisted. “I believe people should be celebrating and clapping their hands.”
Denton couldn’t disagree more.
“He has no respect for human life,” she said.
She said based on a stack of confession letters he’s written to her office, she alerted jail authorities that he’d threatened to kill again.
“He was asking for the death penalty,” Denton said, “and that he would continue to kill not only inmates, but the people he came around if he in fact did not get the death penalty.”
Silva in his letters, she said, railed on the prison system and claimed he killed Bell as a message to prison officials.
“I’m tired of the system,” Silva wrote. “They feed us like little kids, they won’t pay us for work ... there is no reason for me not to kill again.”
He’d keep killing, he wrote, until correction officials “give back everything they took from us: packages, weights, hobby crafts, paying jobs and three decent meals a day, or until I am dead.”
“I suggest (Bell) be taken as a warning,” Silva threatened, “because next time it will not be a black inmate who is killed.”
Silva, too, was accused by another inmate of killing Bell, an African-American, because of ties to a white supremacist group.
“He stated he’s made it his mission — from now on — to murder any blacks he gets access to inside the prison system,” George Warner wrote to prosecutors. “That was his chief motive for strangling his black roommate.”
But in a letter Silva wrote to Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers, the New York native presented himself as a struggling drug addict who was abused by an alcoholic mother until at age 3, he and his sister were separated and bounced from one foster family to another. By age 16, he was alone and often in trouble.
“I had no family,” he wrote, “I started using drugs and by 19 I was an addict.”
By age 27, he was sentenced to life in prison for a series of crimes including breaking into a Fort Lauderdale man’s apartment, forcing him at knifepoint to drive to an ATM to withdraw cash before returning $20 to the victim and stealing his SUV. He was arrested shortly after committing an armed carjacking at a 7-Eleven.
Then, while in prison and suicidal, Silva reconnected with his long-lost sister.
“She sent me a picture of my niece and two nephews,” Silva said. “Here is the family I craved, but never had.”
He kept the photo at the edge of his bed. On Oct. 14, he woke up, saw Bell holding it and went into a rage.
“Here was someone violating the only people I have in my life,” Silva said. “I am not trying to justify murder but if people could see it through my eyes they might understand and hopefully agree I don’t deserve the death penalty.”
Meanwhile, Denton’s not buying it.
“If he had such a hatred of Bell because of the crime he committed, he could have asked to be moved,” she said. “He could have asked to be transferred to another prison.”
Reported by: Melissa E. Holsman Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers