The Florida Supreme Court Thursday cleared the way for the state to execute convicted murderer Randy Schoenwetter in the next few years.
The state's highest court upheld an earlier ruling by a lower court denying 28-year-old Schoenwetter's appeal to overturn his murder conviction in the deaths of one-time neighbor Ronald Friskey and Friskey's 10-year-old daughter, Virginia, in August 2000.
Schoenwetter based his appeal on several issues, including the position that his lawyers should have objected to statements when he entered a guilty plea in the case.
But the Florida Supreme Court affirmed the plea, saying: "The record demonstrates that appellant (Schoenwetter) was not attempting to negotiate a plea deal, but rather to confess his guilt to the court and enter a plea of guilty," according to the 55-page ruling.
The court also ruled that his attorney's handling of evidence related to Schoenwetter's penchant for child pornography, pedophilia and Satanism "was not deficient."
Brevard County Assistant State Attorney Wayne Holmes said Schoenwetter's case was moving relatively quickly through the death-row appeal process.
"It's realistic that we could have a death warrant in the next two to three years," Holmes said.
Schoenwetter, once the youngest person on death row, now can take his appeal to federal court.
Schoenwetter, 28, pleaded guilty to the killings, but during the penalty phase, his attorneys argued his life should be spared because he suffers from a form of autism.
In early-morning Aug. 12, 2000, Schoenwetter said he broke into the Friskey residence to force one or both daughters to have sex. He was in their bedroom, when Ronald Friskey and his wife ran into the room and found Schoenwetter.
A struggle followed, an Schoenwetter stabbed Friskey and his 10-year-old daughter to death. His wife and 16-year-old daughter survived.
"If you're going to have a death penalty, then this is the kind of case it's for," Holmes said.Of the 14 people from Brevard who sat on death row in the past five years, four have been granted new trials or had their sentences sent back for reconsideration, one died of natural causes and one was executed.