Juan Carlos Chavez executed for Jimmy Ryce's rape, murder

Man executed for rape, killing of Jimmy Ryce; parents sought stronger predator confinement laws

RAIFORD, Fla. - Juan Carlos Chavez, the man who kidnapped, raped and murdered 9-year-old Jimmy Ryce, was executed by lethal injection at 8:17 p.m. Wednesday.

Last-minute appeals temporarily delayed the planned execution.

A 6 p.m. execution time passed while officials awaited a final ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. Chavez has raised legal challenges to Florida's method of lethal injection, among other claims.

Around 7:30 pm., the US Supreme Court denied the appeal.

According to the Department of Corrections, Chavez's last meal consisted of ribeye steak, French fries, mangos, bananas, papaya and mango juice. He had no visitors, except for his spiritual adviser. His demeanor was said to be calm.

Chavez abducted Jimmy Ryce at gunpoint after the boy got off a school bus on Sept. 11, 1995, in rural southwestern Miami-Dade County. Trial testimony showed Chavez raped the boy and then shot him when he tried to escape, dismembering his body and putting the parts in concrete-covered planters.

--Juan Carlos Chavez's handwritten statement
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Despite an intensive search by police and volunteers, regular appeals for help through the media and distribution of flyers about Jimmy, it wasn't until three months later that Chavez's landlady discovered the boy's book bag and the murder weapon — a revolver Chavez had stolen from her house — in the trailer where Chavez lived. Chavez later confessed to police and led them to Jimmy's remains.

He was found guilty of murder, sexual battery and kidnapping.

Chavez's only visitor Wednesday was his spiritual adviser. For a last meal, he had a rib eye steak, french fries, fruit cup and ice cream, prison officials said.

Chavez's most recent round of state and federal court appeals have focused on claims that Florida's lethal injection procedure is unconstitutional, that he didn't get due process during clemency hearings and that he should have an execution stay to pursue additional appeals in the federal courts.

The Florida Supreme Court, however, refused Wednesday morning to stay the execution to allow Chavez time to pursue those challenges. As the execution drew near, Chavez still had an appeal pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ryce's death led to changes in the legal system, and the way police respond to missing child cases.

Don Ryce, Jimmy's father said recently that he and his wife became determined to turn their son's horrific slaying into something positive, in part because they felt they owed something to all the people who tried to help find him. They also refused to wallow in misery.

"You've got to do something or you do nothing. That was just not the way we wanted to live the rest of our lives," he said.

WATCH: Jimmy Ryce's father gives statement after Chavez's execution

RELATED: Remarks made by Ted Ryce, Jimmy Ryce's brother

The Ryces created the Jimmy Ryce Center for Victims of Predatory Abduction, a nonprofit organization based in Vero Beach that works to increase public awareness and education about sexual predators, provides counseling for parents of victims and helps train law enforcement agencies in ways to respond to missing children cases.

The organization has also provided, free of charge, more than 400 bloodhounds to police departments around the country and abroad. Ryce said if police searching for Jimmy had bloodhounds they might have found him in time.

Another accomplishment was 1998 passage in Florida of the Jimmy Ryce Act, versions of which have also been adopted in other states. Under the law, sexual predators found to be still highly dangerous can be detained through civil commitment even after they have served their prison sentences. Such people must prove they have been rehabilitated before they can be released. Chavez had no criminal record, so the law would not have affected him.

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