Thursday, October 17, 2013

Florida executes William Frederick Happ for 1986 murder

The 31st Execution of 2013

"For 27 years, the horrible murder of Angela Crowley has been clouded by circumstantial evidence and uncertainty," William Frederick Happ said moments before his Florida execution, reported The South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "For the sake of her family, loved ones and all concerned, it is to my agonizing shame that I must confess to this terrible crime."

In a jaw-dropping moment before his execution the condemned man confessed, apologized and asked for forgiveness.

Happ had spent 24 years on death row for abducting, beating, raping and strangling Crowley and dumping her body in a Citrus County canal.

Angie Crowley, a former honors student and high school cheerleader originally from Illinois, had moved to South Florida to work at a travel agency just five months before her May 1986 disappearance.

"We're here because Angie was taken from us in the most brutal way," her brother, Chris Crowley, said after the execution. "We will not experience any closure but will now be able to move on to remembering just the good times."

Happ was the 80th person executed in Florida since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

He was the first to die by a new lethal-injection cocktail that death-penalty opponents had warned could result in an inhumanely painful death if it failed to work properly.

The drug, administered in three stages, first knocked Happ into unconsciousness, then induced paralysis and finally, put him into cardiac arrest.

The curtain to the death chamber rose promptly at 6 p.m. on October 15, 2013 to reveal Happ supine, his arms outstretched at angles, IV needles taped into position, his wrists buckled into place by brown straps.

A rectangular mirror above his head reflected the solemn faces of Crowley's loved ones seated in the first two rows of the viewing galley.

After a prison official hung up the phone to Gov. Rick Scott's office and gave the go-ahead, Happ made his confession.

To Crowley's loved ones and those he had deceived into believing his innocence, Happ offered "my most sincere and heartfelt apologies."

"I pray the good Lord forgives me for my sins," he said. "But I can certainly understand why those concerned here cannot."

He ended with: "I pray the Lord grants peace to all those burdened with the solemn task here today. Amen."

At 6:03 p.m., the executioner, paid $150 for his duties and whose anonymity is protected by state law, began the flow of lethal chemicals.

Covered from the neck down with a crisp, heavy white sheet, Happ spasmed, his head twitched, eventually his mouth hung slack.

Happ, a thin, balding man with bushy eyebrows, succumbed in what seemed like a labored process as he lay strapped to a gurney in the fluorescent-lit death chamber.

At times his eyes fluttered, he swallowed hard, his head twitched, his chest heaved.

Five minutes into the process, a prison official touched Happ's eyelids and tapped his shoulders to confirm that he was unconscious.

At 6:15 a white-jacketed and gloved man appeared from behind a brown curtain and looked into Happ's pupils with a penlight, closed his eyelids and with a stethoscope checked for a heartbeat.
Happ was pronounced dead at 6:16 p.m.

After Gov. Scott signed Happ's death warrant Sept. 10, Happ was moved from a 6-foot by 9-foot death row cell to a 12-foot by 7-foot death-watch cell. Neither is air-conditioned.

In his last week, Happ received a telephone call from a sister. His only visitors Tuesday were two Catholic spiritual advisers. One, a priest, administered Happ's last rites.

For his final meal, Happ chose dessert. At 10 a.m., he had a 12-ounce box of assorted chocolates and 1 1/2 quarts of German chocolate ice cream.

Around noon he showered and then waited out his final hours in an execution holding cell.

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