32 years later, Elisa's killer put to death
Published: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 at 10:06 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 at 10:06 p.m.
STARKE -- The man convicted of killing 10-year-old Elisa Vera Nelson in Palm Harbor 32 years ago was executed at Florida State Prison in Raiford Wednesday evening.
Larry Eugene Mann, 59, was pronounced dead at 7:19 p.m. — 15 minutes after his execution by lethal injection began. The execution was originally scheduled for 6 p.m. but was temporarily delayed due to a last-minute appeal by Mann's attorneys to the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay of execution, which was denied.
Mann was convicted of killing Elisa in 1981 and was sentenced to death that same year. He was resentenced again in 1983 and 1990. Gov. Rick Scott signed Mann's death warrant on March 1.
Mann killed Elisa on Nov. 4, 1980. She was riding her bike to school mid-morning, and about 100 yards from her school, Mann kidnapped her and attempted to molest her.
Elisa's body was found the next day in an orange grove near her school. She had lacerations on her neck, and died from a blow to her head from a cement-encased steel pipe that was lying by her dead body, authorities said at the time.
“How terrified must this little girl have been? Could she see this monster was about to crush her child-sized skull because she wouldn't die? Those are the images that come to mind whenever we think about Elisa,” said Jeff Nelson, Elisa's brother, who addressed members of the media outside Florida State Prison following Wednesday's execution.
“Somebody told me today is National Siblings Day. Certainly I never expected to spend it like this,” Nelson continued. Nelson was 12 when his sister was killed and had told his parents that she never made it to school the day of the murder.
Elisa was carrying a note from her mother that day, excusing her tardiness because she had had braces put on that morning. Mann's wife found that note — blood-stained — in her husband's truck, and told a friend about it, who in turn told police. A brief investigation followed, and Mann was arrested less than a week after the crime, on Nov. 10, 1980.
Mann had attempted suicide later the day of the murder, and had told intervening police that he had “done something stupid.” Mann had a history of child molestation and psychotic depression.
For his final meal on Wednesday, Mann had mostly seafood: fried shrimp, fish and scallops, stuffed crabs, along with coleslaw, hot buttered rolls, a pint of pistachio ice cream and a soda, according to Ann Howard, the communications director for the Florida Department of Corrections.
“We were told he did eat all of it,” Howard said, adding that not everyone executed does eat his or her final meal. They can request up to $40 worth of food, which is prepared by the Florida State Prison in Raiford.
Mann ate his last meal at 10 a.m. He got up at 6 a.m. Wednesday morning and was reportedly in a somber, serious mood, Howard said.
Mann's two attorneys and his spiritual adviser — of Baptist faith — visited him on Wednesday.
Twenty-eight people, including members of the media and Department of Corrections staff, witnessed Mann's execution. Elisa's parents, David and Wendy, her brother Jeff, and his wife, Debbie, sat in the front row. They wore big buttons with Elisa's smiling face.
“Elisa Vera Nelson was a bright, funny, caring and beautiful girl,” Jeff Nelson told members of the media. “She was a Girl Scout, and played Little League baseball — she was one of the best on the team. She took in any stray pet she found and dreamed of saving enough money to buy a horse. She loved cheerleading, singing, dancing.”
The curtain in the execution room lifted at 7:03, for witnesses to see Mann lying down, his hands strapped to the bed with leather cuffs. His eyes were open. The team leader asked Mann if he had a final statement, and Mann said, “No sir,” and closed his eyes.
Mann did leave a final written statement — 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.”
The execution began at 7:04, and the execution team's leader stepped forward several times, monitoring Mann, as Mann's face turned a pasty-white and his lips bluish-violet.
A doctor came in at 7:19 and first shone a light in each of Mann's eyes, and then with his stethoscope, felt for a heartbeat.
At 7:20, the team leader announced to witnesses that “the state of Florida vs. Larry Mann has been carried out.”
Outside, several members of the Nelson family and other supporters and death penalty advocates held signs saying “Justice for Elisa” and “32 and a half years for Justice?”
Nelson, in his statement to media, also said that it was tragic that it took so long to execute Mann.
Citing the “horrific crime,” Nelson said, “To then be dragged through 32 years of legal quagmire makes it even worse.”
“The state of Florida and the U.S. need judicial reforms.”
Nelson added that his sister lived 3,800 days — compared to the over 12,000 that Mann had lived during 32 years of legal proceedings that took place after he was found guilty of the crime.
Death penalty protesters had come before the execution, and some said they were there until afterward.
A white hearse was parked outside the execution chamber. In keeping with standard practice of people who are executed, an autopsy will be carried out on Mann, Howard said.
Contact Kristine Crane at 338-3119, or email@example.com.