The South Miami-Dade farmhand who raped, murdered and dismembered 9-year-old Jimmy Ryce nearly two decades ago will be executed on Feb. 12 at 6 p.m., the governor’s office said.
Juan Carlos Chavez was convicted of the 1995 murder that shocked Florida and led to the passage of a law that allows the state to indefinitely detain sexual predators. Chavez, 46, will be executed by lethal injection at the Florida State Prison in Starke, Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced Thursday.
“I just received the news that justice will finally be done in the murder of my son, Jimmy, on September 11, 1995,” Don Ryce, the boy’s father, said in a statement on Thursday. “I feel a combination of sadness and relief. I hope this sends a message to predators that this behavior will not go unpunished.”
The Ryce family was living in the Redland when Jimmy disappeared Sept. 11, 1995, near his school-bus stop. The Ryces and volunteers spent three months frantically searching before Miami-Dade police found his dismembered remains in a nearby avocado grove.
Chavez, then 28, raped and fatally shot him before dismembering his body and burying it in concrete. He confessed during more than 50 hours in Miami-Dade police custody.
After the murder, Ryce’s parents became vocal crusaders for the child victims. Claudine Ryce and her husband, labor lawyer Don Ryce, created a foundation in her son’s name, helping schools develop “stranger-danger” programs, donating tracking bloodhounds to police departments, supporting the parents of abducted children, and pushing for anti-predator legislation. They also pushed for the 1998 Jimmy Ryce Act, which allows the state to indefinitely detain violent sexual predators who have finished their sentences under civil law until they can prove they are rehabilitated.
Claudine Ryce died of an apparent heart attack in 2009.