STARKE, Fla. (AP) - Florida is scheduled Wednesday to execute one of the longest-serving inmates on its death row, 32 years after he kidnapped and murdered a 10-year-old girl who was riding her bike to school after a dentist appointment.
Larry Eugene Mann was set to die by lethal injection for kidnapping and murdering Elisa Vera Nelson on Nov. 4, 1980. Mann tried killing himself immediately after the killing, 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 have succeeded in keeping him alive through scores of appeals since then. His lawyers haven't contested his guilt, but rather whether he was properly sentenced to death.
His death sentence has been thrown out twice since his conviction only to have juries resentence him to the same fate. His first death warrant was signed by then Gov. Bob Graham in 1986.
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. Another 17 years later and Elisa's family is hoping this is really the end of the case.
"It's been 32 years, and people say, oh you know, closure. There's never closure," her aunt, Wanda Vekasi, said recently. "But at least my tax dollars will no longer be supporting that creep."
Of the 406 inmates on death row in Florida, only 28 have been there longer than Mann.
Mann has appeals pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. His lawyers argue that his death sentence should be overturned because the jury that recommended it wasn't unanimous. They also argue Mann's constitutional rights were violated because Gov. Rick Scott used a secret and standardless process before signing Mann's death warrant.
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