Victim’s Hometown Residents Frustrated After Latest Stay
LAKE CITY, Fla. (AP) _ Residents of this small North Florida town expressed frustration Tuesday after a court granted Theodore R. Bundy a reprieve less than seven hours before his scheduled execution for the murder of a 12-year-old Lake City girl.
″The (Bundy case) has become a farce in the eyes of the public,″ said City Councilman Mike Collins.
″I feel like he should be punished. If it was my child, I’d certainly want him punished,″ said Pearl Walker, clerk at the Holiday Inn where Bundy stayed the night before the slaying.
Kimberly Diane Leach was abducted Feb. 9, 1978, from Lake City Junior High School and was assaulted before her body was left in an abandoned hog shed. Her mother, Freda Leach, refused comment on the stay granted Bundy by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.
The stay was indefinite, to allow Bundy’s attorneys to present briefs and oral arguments.
″It could be weeks or months,″ said Joyce Larkin, case manager at the court.
The Florida Attorney General’s office asked the U.S. Supreme Court to dissolve the stay. Justice Lewis Powell received the state’s application to vacate the stay about 5 p.m. Tuesday but did not act on it immediately, said Kathy Arberg, a spokeswoman for the Supreme Court in Washington. Bundy’s death warrant expires at noon Wednesday.
It was the second time in five months that the suspected serial killer, who turns 40 on Nov. 24, came within 24 hours of dying in the electric chair at Florida State Prison near Starke.
The 11th Circuit on July 2 indefinitely blocked Bundy’s execution for the Jan. 15, 1978, strangulation-bludgeonings of two Florida State University sorority sisters in Tallahassee. The Atlanta court later heard oral arguments, but hasn’t ruled on whether to send Bundy’s appeal back to Florida in that case.
Gov. Bob Graham, who signed the death warrants for Bundy, said he was disappointed, but not surprised at the stay.
″The surprising thing was that it took so close to the execution for the court to do what it has done so many times in the past - which is to grant a stay of execution on the question of competency of counsel - in a trial that took place in 1980,″ Graham said.
″That’s the kind of procrastination and delay in our criminal justice system as it relates to capital cases that is extremely frustrating to anyone who is interested in the cause of justice.″
In the crossroads town of Lake City, ″before Ted Bundy, people didn’t even lock their doors,″ said Brad Rogers, executive editor of the Lake City Reporter. ″There has been a lot of social upheaval in this town because of Bundy, and people resent it. I guarantee you he sat over there and snickered when the decision came down.″
Bundy showed little reaction to the 11th Circuit decision, said Vernon Bradford, spokesman for the Florida Department of Corrections at Florida State Prison near Starke.
Bundy’s case moved through three courts - Circuit Court, the Florida Supreme Court and U.S. District Court - on Monday before the 11th Circuit action. The Atlanta court said more time was needed to consider Bundy’s claim that he was mentally incompetent to stand trial and act as his own attorney in the Lake City case.
Bundy has survived two death warrants in the Chi Omega sorority slayings. This was his first warrant in the Leach case. Of 16 people executed in Florida since the state reinstated the death penalty in 1979, none was on his first warrant.
Col. Eldridge Beach, the Florida Highway Patrol official who directed the search that found Miss Leach’s body nearly two months after her slaying, said he thinks Bundy is running out of time.
″The chances of his being electrocuted are getting better, and I will be there (as a state witness) when it happens,″ he said.