Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Kidnapping, Rape, and Cold-Blooded Murder of Adella Simmons

John Richard Marek wants to keep living. He is one of three Florida prisoners with active execution warrants. On July 1, the Florida Supreme Court heard arguments from the convicted killer’s attorney claiming that he should be re-sentenced to life in prison. Marek alleged that his cohort, Raymond Wigley, committed the actual murder of Adella Simmons [pictured]. Wigley is conveniently dead--he was strangled to death by another inmate in 2000.

The following transcript from the initial appeal of the Florida Supreme Court summarizes the events that happened 26 years ago:

“This tragic incident began on June 16, 1983, when the victim [Adella Simmons] and her female companion were returning home from a vacation. The victim's companion testified that when the car in which the two women were riding broke down on the Florida Turnpike near Jupiter, appellant [Marek], who was driving a pickup truck, pulled over; that appellant was talkative and friendly; that he unsuccessfully attempted to fix the car and then offered to take one of the women, but not both, to a service station; that at approximately 11:30 p.m. the victim left with appellant and Raymond Wigley, who was an occupant of the pickup truck; that Wigley had been present during a part of appellant's conversation with the two women but remained silent; and that, during the five days she and the victim were together on their vacation, the victim did not have sexual intercourse.

“At approximately 3:35 a.m. the following morning, a police officer patrolling Dania Beach noticed two men walking from the vicinity of a lifeguard shack towards a Ford pickup truck. He testified that he spoke to the men, who identified themselves as Marek and Wigley, for about forty minutes. He noted that appellant was the more dominant of the two; that appellant joked with the officer and interrupted Wigley every time Wigley attempted to speak; and that appellant drove the truck away from the beach when the conversation was completed. Later that morning, the nude body of the 47-year-old victim was discovered on the observation deck of the lifeguard shack. According to medical testimony, the victim had been strangled between approximately 3:00 and 3:30 a.m., and was probably conscious for one minute after the ligature was applied to her neck. Her body was extensively bruised and her finger and pubic hairs had been burned. The medical examiner testified that he found sperm in the victim's cervix and believed she had had sexual intercourse after 11:30 p.m. on June 16. Bruises indicated that the victim had been kicked with a great deal of force. According to the examiner, some of the victim's injuries indicated she had been dragged up to the roof of the lifeguard shack and into the observation tower.

“Police issued a ‘be-on-the-lookout’ bulletin to law enforcement agencies for appellant and Wigley. On the evening of June 17, a Daytona Beach police officer, as a result of that bulletin, stopped Wigley, who was driving a truck on Daytona Beach, and found a small automatic pistol in the truck's glove compartment. Approximately one-half hour later in the same vicinity, police took appellant into custody. The victim's jewelry was later found in the truck.

“A fingerprint expert testified that six prints lifted from the lifeguard shack matched appellant's fingerprints, and one matched Wigley's. Only appellant's print was found inside the observation deck, where the body was discovered.

"The appellant testified in his own behalf that he and Wigley had traveled together from Texas to Florida for a vacation; that he had attempted to fix the victim's disabled vehicle and had offered to take the women to a filling station; that he fell asleep after the victim got into the truck and that when he awoke, she was gone; that he went back to sleep and woke up at the beach, where he found Wigley on the observation deck of the lifeguard shack; and that it was dark in the shack and he did not see the victim's body...”

Marek was sentenced to death while Wigley received life. Wigley’s prison lover eventually killed him, but before his death, several inmates claim that he took credit for the actual murder of Adella Simmons. The prosecution contended during the recent hearing that it is not unusual for prisoners to brag about crimes they did not commit to gain credibility with other inmates.

John Marek probably has a short future. The court is unlikely to reverse the original decision.

Jean Trach, Simmons' traveling companion who was left behind in the broken-down car, still grieves for her friend. She believes they both would have been murdered had Simmons not accepted the offered ride. "[She's] given her life for me," Trach said. "Because when you think about it, what if she hadn't have gone?"

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