Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

State executes child killer

Family members of murder victim Junny Rios-Martinez comfort each other after the execution of Schwab on Tuesday. “Seventeen years is way too long to wait for justice,’’ said the boy’s mother.

Associated Press

Family members of murder victim Junny Rios-Martinez comfort each other after the execution of Schwab on Tuesday. “Seventeen years is way too long to wait for justice,’’ said the boy’s mother.

STARKE — Florida reinstituted the death penalty Tuesday with the execution of a child killer.

Unlike a botched execution in 2006 that halted the state's death penalty for more than a year, the execution of Mark Dean Schwab appeared seamless and peaceful. Schwab, 39, made no final statement and stopped moving only two or three minutes after chemicals began flowing into his veins.

He was pronounced dead 13 minutes after the death chamber's curtain rolled open.

"That was the most peaceful passing I've ever been to, and I wish I could know that my son passed as peacefully," said Vickie Rios-Martinez, the mother of Schwab's victim, Junny Rios-Martinez.

Schwab abducted, raped and murdered 11-year-old Junny in 1991 after seeing his picture in a newspaper. Schwab posed as his father and lured him to a ball field.

Florida halted executions after the Dec. 13, 2006, death of Angel Diaz. Corrections officials mistakenly poked needles through Diaz's veins, causing the chemicals to splash into his flesh. Diaz took 34 minutes to die, and some observers said he appeared in pain. An autopsy found footlong chemical burns on his arms.

Then-Gov. Jeb Bush convened a panel to study lethal injection procedures. The Florida Department of Corrections adopted 37 changes in protocol recommended by the panel.

One of the most significant was that a warden shook Schwab, grazed his eyebrows and said his name to ensure he was unconscious after he was given a sedative. Only when Schwab didn't answer or move did the warden signal to the executioner to release the two final chemicals in the state's three-drug cocktail — a paralytic and a drug that causes cardiac arrest.

Capital defense lawyers say those two drugs can cause excruciating pain if the sedative wears off too fast. The panel that studied lethal injection made many of the recommendations so that the state could avoid claims that the procedure was unconstitutionally cruel or painful.

The death chamber also had several changes, including a better sound system, more centrally displayed clock and mirrors and a videocamera that gave medical staffers a better view of Schwab. He faced the witness room, whereas in the past witnesses saw the inmate from the side. Only a warden and agent from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement were in the death chamber, which is different from past executions in which several corrections officials were present.

Schwab ate a last meal of eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, toast and chocolate milk before meeting with family members and a spiritual adviser during the day. Corrections officials described him as calm, quiet and polite.

Schwab closed his eyes as the sedative flowed into his veins. He swallowed hard a few times, then appeared to take a few deep breaths. His chin quivered and then he was still.

About 10 minutes later, a physician emerged from behind a curtain, put a stethoscope to Schwab's chest, looked at the clock and pronounced him dead. In previous lethal injection executions, the physician wore what appeared to be a welder's mask over his head to shield his identity. In this case, he did not. His name, however, is not public record.

Thirty-seven witnesses saw the execution, including about a dozen of Junny's relatives.

"We had no problems and the protocol was followed," DOC spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said after the execution. "It was humane and dignified."

Schwab had a history of sexually abusing boys when he murdered Junny. He had been sentenced to prison for raping a teenage boy at knifepoint but was released early in 1991. Only about a month later, he saw Junny's photo in a newspaper. The boy, who lived in the east coast city of Cocoa, had won a kite-flying contest.

Schwab called the family posing as a newspaper reporter and said he wanted to help Junny with his surfing career. He gained the trust and confidence of Junny and his family, then called the boy's school one day pretending to be his father. Schwab told school officials to have Junny meet him at a ball field.

Schwab abducted, raped and strangled Junny, then stuffed his body in a foot locker, which he dumped in a remote patch of palmettos. He fled to Ohio but was caught a few days later and led authorities to Junny's body.

He was executed 16 years to the day after he was sentenced to death.

Junny's mother said she was pleased Schwab died peacefully, but she was displeased that the period from sentence to execution was so long. She said Florida should revise its death penalty system so that all executions must be carried out within five years of sentence.

"Seventeen years is way too long to wait for justice. And without justice there is no closure," said Rios-Martinez, who, along with other family members, wore a T-shirt with Junny's picture on the front and "Justice delayed is Justice denied" printed on the back.

Gov. Charlie Crist said earlier this week that he hoped to increase the frequency of executions. His predecessor, Jeb Bush, made the same pledge but didn't make much headway. A slow appeals process and continual problems with execution procedures contribute to the slow speed.

Florida's death row currently holds 387 people but has averaged only about two executions a year since the state's death penalty was reinstated in 1979. At that rate, most of the condemned will die in prison of old age.

About 50 protesters gathered outside the prison in opposition to the death penalty. Mark Elliott, executive director of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, said he has seen the number of people against the death penalty surge since the Diaz execution. He said the death penalty's sluggishness harms victim's loved ones and should result in its abolishment.

Rios-Martinez said she opposed the death penalty, too, before her son was murdered. Now she believes it's necessary.

"Now his drama is finished, his reign of evil has come to an end," she said of Schwab. "The universe has brought about balance, justice and the law of consequence. I have closure."

State executes child killer 07/01/08 [Last modified: Friday, July 4, 2008 1:42pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Manchester bombing victims include at least 7 parents


    LONDON — The world has been horrified by how young many of the victims in the Manchester bombing were, but on Wednesday, attention shifted to parents of concertgoers who were also killed. Seven have been identified, among them a couple who left behind two orphaned daughters.

  2. Richard Corcoran has a new committee to help him become governor


    Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran has opened a new political committee, Watchdog PAC, that may or may not bankroll his campaign for governor in 2018. The Land O'Lakes Republica

    CBO analysis: 23 million would lose health coverage under House-passed bill


    WASHINGTON — The Republican health care bill that passed the House earlier this month would nearly double the number of Americans without health insurance over the next decade, according to a new analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

    Demonstrators protests the passage of a House Republican health care bill, outside the the Capitol in Washington, on May 4. The House took the unusual step of voting on the American Health Care Act before the Congressional Budget Office could assess it. That analysis was released Thursday and it showed the bill would cause 23 million fewer people to have health insurance by 2026. Many additional consumers would see skimpier health coverage and higher deductibles, the budget office projected.
  3. Florida Specialty Insurance acquires Pinellas Park's Mount Beacon Insurance


    Tens of thousands of homeowners who were pushed out of Citizens Property Insurance for a private carrier since 2014 are finding themselves changing insurance companies yet again.

  4. Pope Francis presents Trump with a 'politically loaded gift': His encyclical on climate change

    Global Warming

    VATICAN CITY — On Wednesday, Pope Francis appeared to make his point with a gift.

    Ivanka Trump, first lady Melania Trump and President Donald Trump meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican, Wednesday.  [Evan Vucci/Pool via The New York Times]