by Robert A. Waters
In 2009, Claudine Ryce (mother of Jimmy Ryce) died of cancer.
Juan Carlos Chavez lived on.
In 2012, Martha Ryce (sister of Jimmy Ryce) committed suicide.
Chavez lived on.
Finally, at 8:17 p.m., on February 12, 2014, Chavez was executed.
In September, 1995, Chavez kidnapped nine-year-old Jimmy Ryce at gunpoint. He drove the child to his trailer and brutally raped him. After the assault, Jimmy heard helicopters flying overhead as a search party looked for him. Jimmy bolted for the door, but before he could open it, Chavez shot him in the back. He then cut up Jimmy’s body and stuffed the remains in flower pots. Placing the pots near his home, he covered the gruesome evidence with concrete.
Three months later, Chavez’s employer found Jimmy’s book bag in the killer’s trailer and called police.
Ted Ryce, Jimmy’s older brother, spoke eloquently after the execution: “Many people have asked why I decided to come today. I did not come today to celebrate Juan Carlos’s execution. In fact, I did not want to come. So why did I come? I came here to represent my brother Jimmy Ryce. I came here for my sister Martha and my mother, Claudine. I came here today because I believe in the justice that has been served on this day. I am here to support that belief.
“I’m also here today as a symbol of strength 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 that is sorely lacking in our country today. Many people did not believe that Juan Carlos Chavez should be put to death for his horrible crime of raping and murdering my brother Jimmy Ryce. I believe this comes from a place of weakness, not strength. It comes from not being able to face the atrociousness of some men’s actions and punish them on a level commensurate with their crime.
“But we must be strong. We must do what it takes to send a clear message to other child predators that if they go after children, if they kill children, that they will die at the executioner’s hands. Today will bring no closure for my family. As my father has stated, ‘Closure does not exist,’ but the justice served this day after a painful 19 years will end the chapter on this part of our life and now we look forward to moving on. Thank you.”
If you would like to read the whole sordid story, check out my book Sun Struck: 16 Infamous Murders in the Sunshine State.