Florida executed one of the longest-serving inmates on its death row Wednesday evening, 32 years after he kidnapped and murdered a 10-year-old girl who was riding her bike to school after a dental appointment.
Larry Eugene Mann was put to death by lethal injection for kidnapping and murdering Elisa Vera Nelson on Nov. 4, 1980. Melissa Sellers, a spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Scott's office, said Mann was pronounced dead at 7:19 p.m. at the Florida State Prison in Starke.
The death sentence was carried out more than an hour after the U.S. Supreme Court denied Mann's latest appeal. The condemned man answered "Uh, uh, no sir," when asked if he had any last words before the procedure began. There were 28 witnesses to the execution, including media and corrections personnel, and a group of Elisa's relatives sat in the front row wearing buttons with her photo on them.
Outside the prison, there were 43 people gathered in favor of the execution and, in a separate area, 38 people were protesting the death penalty.
In 1980, Mann tried killing himself immediately after the girl's slaying, slashing his wrists and telling responding police officers he had "done something stupid." They thought he was talking about the suicide attempt until a couple of days later when Mann's wife found a bloodied note written by Elisa's mother explaining why she was late for school.
While Mann sought to die the day he killed Elisa, his lawyers had succeeded in keeping him alive for decades through scores of appeals. His lawyers didn't contest his guilt during appeals, but rather whether he had been properly sentenced to death.
Elisa was riding her bike to school on the day she was killed. Mann kidnapped her, took her to an orange grove, cut her throat and then beat her head with a pole with a concrete base.
"Larry Mann is the poster child for what is wrong with the system," said Wendy Nelson, the girl's mother. "His guilt has never been an issue."
That was in 1996.
"It's been 32 years, and people say, 'Oh you know, closure.' There's never closure," her aunt, Wanda Vekasi, said recently as the scheduled execution date loomed. "But at least my tax dollars will no longer be supporting that creep."
Of the 406 inmates on death row in Florida, only 28 had been there longer than Mann.
Mann woke up at 6 a.m. and had his final meal at 10 a.m, including fried shrimp, fish and scallops, stuffed crabs, ice cream and a soda. His only visitors were his two lawyers and a spiritual adviser. His mood was calm and somber in the hours leading up to the execution time, said Department of Corrections spokeswoman Ann Howard.