Sunday, February 23, 2014

Timeline of Hailey Owens Tragedy: Documents, Police Statements Tell the Story

After Hailey Owens was stolen from her neighborhood ... after the Amber alert ... after the 11 p.m. newscasts ...
... Springfield held its breath.
On social media, we shared news stories, photos of Hailey, pictures of what police called the abductor’s vehicle — our concern for the missing child.
Together, we hoped for the best.
But within a few hours of trying to escape her captor, Hailey — the little fourth grader with the giant smile — was dead.
Authorities arrested and charged a man who continues to claim his innocence.
Craig Michael Wood, a $17,000-a-year teaching assistant with a minor criminal record and what police have called child pornography in his house, has been accused of first-degree murder, armed criminal action and child kidnapping.
Although much of what happened since Hailey’s abduction on Tuesday remains unclear, court records and police statements give a timeline of Hailey’s final moments.

FEB. 18

4:48 p.m. Springfield police respond to the 3200 block of West Lombard Street in reference to a reported child abduction. Witnesses tell police they saw a young girl snatched from the street by a man in a truck. Witnesses tried to give chase, but the truck sped away too fast. Witnesses called 911 and tried to find the girl’s family.
5 p.m. Officers obtain preliminary information from witnesses regarding vehicle description, license plate number and the suspect’s appearance. Family identifies Hailey Owens as the missing girl.
6 p.m. The Springfield Police Department issues a news release and posts to social media information about the abduction, including the victim’s description and vehicle details. Following the protocol for issuing an Amber Alert, information is provided to the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
7:07 p.m. A statewide Amber Alert is issued and information is distributed to all area law enforcement agencies and media outlets. The suspect’s description as well as the suspect’s vehicle make, model and license plate number are released to the public.
Based on the witness information about the license plate number, officers from the Missouri Highway Patrol contact the registered owner of the vehicle, Craig Michael Wood’s parents in Ash Grove. Wood’s father said the vehicle was Wood’s. Springfield officers go to Wood’s home at 1538 E. Stanford St., Springfield.
About 8:30 p.m. Wood arrives at his home in a truck matching the description and license plate number of the witnesses’ account at the abduction scene. Police doing surveillance there ask him to go to police headquarters for an interview. He is not told — and does not ask — why. At headquarters, Wood denies any involvement in the abduction. Officers note what appeared to be blood on Wood’s shirt. He does not leave police custody.
Also about 8:30 p.m. Officers do a safety sweep of Wood’s home. They note a strong smell of bleach throughout the basement, but find “no one in need of assistance,” according to Police Chief Paul Williams.
11:56 p.m. Springfield police announce a suspect is arrested and being held, but Hailey is still missing.

FEB. 19

1:28 a.m. A Greene County judge approves a search warrant for Wood’s home.
2:15 a.m. Two Springfield officers enter the home under the authority of the search warrant. They note several bleach containers throughout the home. They later write that they found a body consistent with Hailey’s size inside two garbage bags within a plastic storage tote in the basement. Authorities also find a .22 caliber bullet casing and a ball cap matching witness accounts of the suspect’s attire.
The county’s deputy medical examiner eventually responds to the scene and identifies a gunshot wound at the base of the child’s skull and ligature marks on her wrists.
3 a.m. Police inform the family of Hailey Owens that a body had been found at the suspect’s residence but cannot yet confirm who it is.
At about 3 a.m. Police go to the Dutch Maid Laundry near Elm Street and National Avenue. Authorities have acknowledged processing the scene in connection with Hailey’s case but have given no details as to why or what may have been found there.
6:30 a.m. Police publicly name Craig Michael Wood as the suspect. Records show he is held in the Greene County Jail on suspicion of first-degree murder but not formally charged. Prosecutors must review police allegations against him.
8 a.m. Amber Alert canceled
11 a.m. At a news conference, Williams confirmed a body was found at the Stanford Street home and said police believe it was Owens, though an autopsy would be needed to confirm her identity and cause of death.
3:45 p.m. Authorities ask for a second search warrant for Wood’s home, looking for “papers, letters, journals, diaries, etc. documenting criminal plans, activities and/or desires.”
6 p.m. Wood is charged with first-degree murder, armed criminal action and child kidnapping. At a news conference, Prosecutor Dan Patterson publicly thanks the community and law enforcement for their efforts.

FEB. 20

All day The community continues to rally to support Hailey’s family, leaving notes and gifts at the site where she was abducted. Organizers also work to set up funds for the family and a memorial event for the girl.
About 5:30 p.m. Wood’s parents issue a statement through an attorney, joining the Springfield community in their concern for the Owens family.

FEB. 21

8:30 a.m. Wood is arraigned on the three charges against him in Judge Dan Imhoff’s courtroom. First Assistant Prosecutor Todd Myers objects to Wood’s attorney being a public defender, announcing that authorities have found evidence of a $1 million trust in Wood’s name, proving he has the financial means to hire his own attorney. Imhoff rules that public defender Chris Hatley will remain Wood’s attorney until the matter can be discussed at a later date.
11 a.m. Two search warrants detailing the evidence found in Wood’s home are released to the public. They reveal that police say child pornography, multiple guns and ammunition and notebooks filled with “stories” were found in the home.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Killer of 9-Year-Old Jimmy Ryce Executed in Florida


Juan Carlos Chavez, who raped and murdered 9-year-old Jimmy Ryce in an infamous 1995 crime in the Redland, said nothing as he went to his death on a chilly, damp Wednesday night in North Florida.
Chavez’s last statement came in a rambling handwritten note penned hours before his execution. In it, he made no apologies to the family he tore apart. Nor did he claim any innocence.
Instead, the brutal child-killer proclaimed his religious faith and wished Christ’s love on those who “in their pain desire my death.”
“No word or man will rob me of my peace today,” Chavez wrote.
For Don Ryce, who has spent the past 18 years crusading for tougher laws against sex predators, the execution of his son’s killer delivered a very different message. After stoically watching Chavez die from a lethal injection, Ryce warned pedophiles to think twice about killing their victims.
“People will not forget, they will not forgive,” Ryce said. “We will hunt you down and we will put you to death.”
Ryce’s older son, Ted Ryce, said he was reluctant to attend but came as a “symbol of strength.” Jimmy’s mother and sister both died in the past few years.
“To show you that in spite of all the terrible tragedies we’ve been through, my father and I still stand strong — and strength is something we are sorely lacking in our country today,” Ted Ryce said.
Jimmy disappeared from a school bus stop Sept. 11, 1995, sparking a massive three-month manhunt across South Florida. Chavez, after a marathon police interrogation, confessed to raping him and shooting the boy in the back as he tried to escape. The ghastly details of the crime — Jimmy’s dismembered remains were found in planters sealed with concrete — shook the community’s sense of security and spurred legislation allowing the state to indefinitely detain sexual predators.
The execution came after a tense delay of two hours as the U.S. Supreme Court considered, but ultimately denied, a last-minute request for a stay.
In the death chamber at 8:02 p.m., a curtain rose that allowed witnesses seated in a brightly lit white room to look through a two-way window at Chavez lying on a gurney. A white sheet covered his body, except for his face. Leather straps cinched Chavez’s wrists and ankles, and IVs for the lethal injection were inserted into his arms.
A prison official supervising the execution asked Chavez if he wanted to make a last statement. Chavez declined and the first of three drugs was administered.
Within a few minutes, a sedative took effect. Chavez yawned and closed his eyes. At one point, the corrections official said his name, “Mr. Chavez,” three times to make sure he was asleep. The official then leaned over Chavez and shut his eyelids.
As the lethal components in the injection kicked in, Chavez moved his feet slightly. His skin, already pale from years in prison, turned more ashen. His body lay still for several minutes. A doctor examined Chavez’s eyes, nose and mouth. A stethoscope detected no heartbeat. At 8:17 p.m., the corrections official declared Chavez’s death.
Throughout the process, none of the 19 witnesses showed any emotion. As he walked from the room with the aid of a cane, however, there was clear pain in Don Ryce’s eyes.
Other witnesses included Miami-Dade Assistant State Attorney Penny Brill, and former prosecutor Michael Band, both of whom took Chavez to trial. Former Miami-Dade homicide sergeant Felix Jimenez was also on hand, as was one juror who helped convict Chavez in the 1998 trial
Pat Diaz, the retired Miami-Dade police detective who led the investigation into Jimmy’s murder but did not attend the execution, still felt a sense of closure.
“Justice has been served for an evil man,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Chavez’s only visitor was a “spiritual adviser.” His demeanor during the day was calm, a Florida corrections spokeswoman told reporters. His last meal included a ribeye steak, French fries, a fruit cup and strawberry ice cream, washed down with mango juice.
The notoriety of the case drew an unusually large media contingent. About two dozen news reporters, photographers and TV satellite trucks gathered under drizzling gray skies in a sprawling field across from the Florida State Prison.
Chavez, who spent nearly 16 years on Death Row, was the 12th inmate put to death in Florida since the start of 2012.
The day started off with the Florida Supreme Court rejecting a last-minute bid to delay the scheduled execution.
Chavez’s lawyer, Robert Norgard, tried to persuade the Florida Supreme Court to reconsider Chavez’s argument that the sedative used as part of the cocktail of lethal drugs was ineffective as a pain-relieving anesthetic and therefore violated his constitutional protection against “cruel and unusual punishment.”
His lawyer filed an affidavit by a University of Miami anesthesiologist, David Lubarsky, to bolster his client’s latest claim Tuesday. Norgard based that claim on the state high court’s decision to consider the same expert’s evidence in another Death Row inmate’s petition.
But the Florida Supreme Court concluded that Chavez should have presented this evidence when he had the opportunity before the justices rejected his previous bid for a stay Jan. 31. And late Wednesday, the nation’s high court rejected the same argument.

Read more here:

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Justice for Jimmy? Wednesday Will Tell...

I met and became friends with Don and Claudine Ryce when I joined an organization called Team HOPE just outside Washington DC in 1999, six months after my own daughter, Andi, had been kidnapped and murdered. I will spare writing the details of the brutal murder of little Jimmy Ryce, because I just can't, you can Google it or read from the story below for more details. I chose to include this story from the Miami Herald from a year ago because the Ryce family has been through so, so much and the article is very well written. Jimmy's mother, Claudine died of a sudden heart attack in 2009 (Don says from a broken heart and I concur) and Jimmy's sister, Martha, died at a young age as well (you can read about it below). I have always felt they both died from a broken heart from the stress of losing Jimmy. Don said it best when he recently stated, "So many of my family members are dead, directly or indirectly because of Chavez, and he's still living. That does not feel right."
I write about this story today because the Governor of Florida, Rick Scott, has signed the death warrant for Juan Carlos Chavez to be carried out Wednesday, February 12th 2014. This case has been in the fore-front of my mind because I have so often asked myself the question why? I want to know why these killers kill people, particularly children, and why does the system continue to fail at carrying out justice? Chavez has exhausted his appeals but is sending a "hail Mary" appeal to the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS). Will they hear it, will they deem that the execution is cruel and unusual? I don't know, but I know I will be watching and praying for the Ryce family because I know that one day I will be walking in those same shoes. And frankly, it is all very unsettling to me. *Rebecca*


Juan Carlos Chavez has been on Death Row for 13 years and 39 days, an address where the average stay lasts 13 years and 80 days.
The average age of an executed prisoner in Florida is 44 years and 146 days. Chavez will turn 45 in March as his lawyers exhaust what will surely be his last futile appeals.
The numbers might make this particular death case seem unremarkable as the legal machinery plods through the usual judicial reviews required for a state execution. The Florida Supreme Court has twice considered and rejected his appeal claims and it seems unlikely that his lawyers will find much purchase in the federal courts. His execution has become inevitable.
Inevitable might be enough for most cases, but Juan Carlos Chavez did too much damage to this community, to a particular South Florida family, not to cause outrage at his longevity.
It was the death, on Dec. 30, of Martha Ryce that stirred these long-simmering emotions.
Normally, the suicide of a young woman would pass unremarked in these pages. Hers was different. It came with the melancholy realization that the killer of Jimmy Ryce, her little step-brother, had now outlived both Martha and her stepmother.
Both Martha, 35, and Claudine Ryce, who died of a heart attack in 2009 at age 66, had been activists in their Jimmy Ryce Center for Victims of Predatory Abduction, pushing anti-predator legislation in Tallahassee, danger-awareness programs in schools, raising money for tracking dogs for police departments, providing support for the families of missing children.
Yet the author of their shared misery, the ghoulish impetus for their activism, the killer who devastated their family, has now outlived them both.
Of course, there are sound reasons for years-long, exhaustive legal safeguards before the courts finally sign off on an execution. Florida courts, more than most, have made grave errors, even in murder trials. Innocents, later cleared by new evidence or DNA analysis, have been convicted. The risks and time-consuming appeals and the legal expenses necessary to maintain the death penalty raise questions about the worth of the whole morbid enterprise.
Guilt in this case, however, has never been much in doubt. On Sept. 11, 1995, nine-year-old James Samuel Ryce went missing from near his home in the Redland. For three months, the search for little Jimmy traumatized South Florida. Parents were guarding their children like refugees in a war zone. Until the landlady of a farmhand named Juan Carlos Chavez discovered Jimmy’s school backpack in his trailer.
After offering up a number of meandering explanations, Chavez finally confessed. He told police, in considerable detail, how he had kidnapped and raped Jimmy, then shot him. How he had dismembered the body and submerged the remains in large planters capped with cement. Chavez begged police to make sure he got the death penalty.
Police found the murder weapon in his trailer. And the farm tool used to dismember the child. He was certainly the child’s killer. The legal questions, over these 14 years, have been over the admissibility of certain evidence, including his confession, elicited over a 54-hour interrogation. Chavez had tried, futilely, to recant at his trial. And he also lost his enthusiasm for his own execution.
His lawyers did manage, over the years, to raise some interesting appeal issues. In 2007, his original defense lawyer testified to his own ineffectual conduct in the 1998 trial. “I was on medication for vertigo and a hearing disorder. There were times that I had to go to bed early.” The lawyer said the medication left him confused and disoriented.
The claim was not enough to give Chavez a new trial. Mostly, it renewed the family’s pain. Jimmy’s parents, Don and Claudine Ryce, after sitting through the hearing, issued an angry statement: “Our son’s killer’s claims he did not get a fair trial are ludicrous. What isn’t fair is that Jimmy did not have a chance to grow up and do all the things he wanted to do.”
Claudine died two years later. And now Martha. Friends, posting happy memories and photographs of a pretty, perpetually smiling woman on the “Remembering Martha Ryce” Facebook page, seemed at a loss to explain her private despair.
But the trauma afflicting the Ryce family has long been a shared public hurt in South Florida. And it’s hard not to rant, however irrationally, about the depressing inequity now looming over us.
Claudine and Martha are gone. Chavez still lives.

Read more here:

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Police Arrest Convicted Sex Offender for Failing to Comply

Police arrest convicted sex offender for failing to comply with reporting requirements.

38-year-old Joseph Jackson Edwards tells police he is homeless.

SPRINGDALE, Ark. —Springdale police said they arrested 38-year-old Joseph Jackson Edwards for failure to comply with reporting requirements as a sex offender on Wednesday.Edwards is a high-risk level 3 sex offender in the state of Arkansas, according to a news release. He was convicted Jan. 14 of a sex crime and sentenced to probation.

Authorities said Edwards did not check in with local law enforcement after being sentenced to probation, and they had been searching for him. They found him Wednesday at Casey’s General Store, on Old Missouri Road.
Police took Edwards to the Washington County Detention Center. Edwards told authorities he was homeless.
Springdale police said Edwards had been arrested four times for indecent exposure since 2009.
*Note from Rebecca*
 It's a scary world. Everyone please be aware of your surroundings and look out for creepers like this. There are trolls in the world, folks. Be safe. If you think I am being cruel by saying that, I am sorry (kind of) but, this guy knows what he is and evaded the law. The last thing anyone wants to see is him exposing himself, gross. Cudos to the Springdale Police Department for arresting him before he re-offended, because he would have...he's done it four times since 2009 and why he keeps getting out of the clink I will never know. Maybe they will keep him this time. Anyway, well done, SPD. 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Zachary Holly Defense: "Death Penalty Cruel and Unconstitutional."

You all know my stance on the death penalty. Yet, I feel I must state again that when you take a 6-year-old child out of her bed, carry her next door to an abandoned house, and then brutally rape and smother her, you should not be allowed to start whining that the death penalty is cruel. What is cruel is that there is a murdered little girl in this case, a 6-year-old cherub. 
Hey, Zachary Holly how can you even say that a little needle prick in your arm anywhere compares to being brutally raped and murdered. 
And, you people who defend these animals should reevaluate your souls.  
I'm so sick of it. 
PS Thank you Judge Karren. 

BENTONVILLE, Ark. —Judge Karren denied a motion from Zachary Holly's defense attorneys request for the death penalty to be taken off the table in Holly's murder trial. Holly's defense team called the penalty "cruel and unconstitutional."
Prosecutors said they will continue to seek the death penalty.
In August 2013, Holly was found fit to stand trial for the murder of Jersey Bridgeman after undergoing a mental evaluation. 
Holly's trial is scheduled for July 29 at 8:30 a.m. The defense has requested more time to get DHS records from California. 
On Nov. 20 2012, 6-year-old Jersey Bridgeman was reported missing from her home where she lived with her mother, Desarae Bridgeman in Bentonville. Within minutes, her body was found in a nearby vacant home. 
Holly, 24, was charged with Bridgeman's death. According to a police report, he and his wife lived next door to the family and  they had babysat Jersey the night before.
Holly has pleaded not guilty to charges of capital murder, kidnapping, rape and residential burglary. 
The young girl's death ended a short life marred by abuse. Her father and stepmother were sentenced to prison after being convicted of chaining her to a dresser in 2011.