Florida Execution: Larry Eugene Mann Dies By Lethal Injection, Uses Romans 6:23 As Last Words
The Florida execution of Larry Eugene Mann was finally carried out on Wednesday night at Florida State Prison in Starke, outside of Tampa Bay, after a judge overturned a last-minute, final appeal, according to reports.
One of the longest serving inmates on death row, the 59-year-old Mann, who abducted 10-year-old Elisa Vera Nelson one morning on Nov. 4, 1980 as she rode her bicycle to school in Palm Harbor, took her to an orange grove, slit her throat and beat her to death, was executed last night by lethal injection. He was pronounced dead at 7:19 p.m.
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Jeff Nelson described his sister, a Girl Scout and cheerleader, as a "bright, funny, caring, beautiful little girl" who loved to play baseball and pretend to be a school teacher. He also said that she would take in stray pets and donate money she earned to charity.
Nelson then described in gruesome detail how his sister died, saying Mann abducted her less than 100 yards from her school in Pinellas County.
He said Elisa fought hard to get away, but Mann beat her, sending blood and hair flying throughout his pickup truck as well as the note her mother wrote excusing Elisa from being late to school. Mann then pulled over into an abandoned orange grove, slit her throat twice, and then bludgeoned her head with a pipe, which had a concrete block at one end of it.
Elisa's body was found days after the murder lying under an avocado tree.
After the murder, Mann reportedly tried to commit suicide by slitting his wrists, telling police he had "done something stupid."
An autopsy later showed that Elisa died from the blunt force trauma from the pole.
Days later, Mann's wife found the bloodied excuse note that Elisa's mother had written.
As the Tampa Bay Times notes, prosecutors theorized that Mann abducted Elisa intending to molest her, but chose not to go through with it. When she tried to escape, he killed her.
A jury convicted Mann of first-degree murder in April 1981 and recommended death by a 7-5 vote. But, legal errors led him to be resentenced twice - in 1983 and 1990 and appeals since 1986 kept him alive on death row for more than three decades.
Since 1981, lawyers argued that Mann changed especially because he corresponded with Sister Loretta Pastva, a nun and professor at Notre Dame College in Ohio, writing her more than 400 letters.
"He realizes the seriousness of the thing he did," Pastva testified in a 1998 appellate hearing. "He is very sorry about it. He does not expect anything, any special treatment, but he would wish for some mercy."
Jeff Nelson said the family learned that Mann would study the Bible while in prison. But he has doubts about just how much compassion Mann had in expressing his last words before his Florida execution.
"He just had his chance to say something and he didn't say anything," Nelson said. "We question whether he was really remorseful."
According to the Tampa Bay Tribune, Mann had a history of violent crimes, particularly involving children.
In 1973, he forced his way into a Mississippi apartment where a woman was babysitting a one-year-old boy. He made the woman commit a sex act, threatening to harm the child if she didn't. Mann was later arrested and served time in prison.
Before that, when he was a teenager, he kidnapped a seven-year-old girl from a church parking lot and molested her.
"We just watched that man slip into a very peaceful sleep," said Elisa's brother Jeff Nelson. "That's a far cry from how my sister passed."
Mann, who was an oil well driller before Elisa's death, was 27 when he abducted the little girl, who had ironically been carrying a note in her pocket saying that she would be late to school because she was getting dental braces fit. When he was asked if he had any last words to say, he simply just told a prison officer, "Uh, no sir," according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Mann did, however, ask that "last words" be handed out after his Florida execution in the form of a Bible verse -- Romans 6:23.
"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord," Mann wrote out by hand.
Mann had his final meal at 10 a.m. before his Florida execution, which included fried shrimp, fish and scallops, stuffed crabs, ice cream and a soda.
There are a total of 405 inmates on Death Row in Florida, according to the state's department of corrections.
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