January 20, 2014

 

Juan Carlos Chavez is scheduled to be executed at 6 pm EST, on February 12, 2014, at the Florida State Penitentiary near Raiford, Florida.  Forty-six-year-old Juan is convicted of kidnapping, sexually assaulting, and murdering 9-year-old Samuel James “Jimmy” Ryce on September 11, 1995, in Redlands, Florida.  Juan has spent the past 18 years of his life on Florida’s death row.

 

Juan was originally from Cuba, where he was allegedly drafted into military service for approximately one year.  Juan arrived in Florida, from Cuba, on a raft in 1991, along with two others.  Juan knew no one in the United States and never made any close friends.  He first tried to come to the United States in 1986 by stealing a boat.  He was caught and served nearly two years in three different Cuban prisons before being released.  After arriving in the United States, Juan stayed with the family of the two other individuals on the raft.  He worked odd jobs and eventually moved out on his own.  After one year, Juan was given his green card under the Cuban Adjustment Act.

 

On September 11, 1995, Jimmy Ryce stepped off the school bus to walk the remaining block to his home.  Juan Chavez blocked his path, and forced Jimmy into his pickup at gunpoint.  For three months, police and volunteers searched for the missing child.

 

Chavez worked as a farmhand for a woman who had several items stolen from her house.  She suspected Chavez had stolen the items but was unable to prove it.  On December 5, 1995, she, with the help of a locksmith, entered Chavez’s trailer.  Lying in sight was at least one item he had stolen from her.  Also discovered was a backpack containing several papers with Jimmy Ryce’s name on them. The FBI was contacted and Chavez was taken into police custody the following day.

 

Chavez was informed of his rights, and interrogated by police for 55 hours.  Chavez voluntarily confessed to abducting, sexually assaulting, and killing Jimmy.  He gave a detailed account of what happened, from the kidnapping, to the rape, to shooting Jimmy when he tried to escape after hearing a helicopter overhead.  Chavez held the boy until he died.  After the boy’s death, Chavez dismembered Jimmy’s body, placing the various pieces in planters that were cemented over.  Inside his trailer, the murder weapon was found, along with the tool used for dismembering.

 

Chavez attempted to recant his confession during his trial, saying he was coerced into giving it during the 50 plus hours interrogation.  Chavez also attempted to blame his employer’s son for the crime, saying he was afraid to come forward.  Chavez was afraid he was going to be sent back to Cuba, where his life would be in danger as a counterrevolutionary.

 

In memory of their son, Jimmy’s parents created a foundation to help schools create “stranger-danger” programs, donate tracking bloodhounds to police departments, support parents of abducted children, and push for anti-predator legislation.  They also met with then-President Bill Clinton as he signed an order to allow the posting of missing children in federal buildings.  Finally, they also spearheaded the controversial 1998 Jimmy Ryce Act, which also violent sexual predators, who have completed their sentences, to be detained until they can prove they are rehabilitated.

 

Please pray for peace for the family members of Jimmy Ryce.  Please pray for strength for the family of Juan Chavez.  Please pray that Juan may come to find peace through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, if he has not already found one.

 

 

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