Convicted toddler murderer will remain in prison
Published: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 at 9:33 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 at 3:48 p.m.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The man convicted in the 1989 murder of a 2-year-old who was repeatedly dunked head-first into a toilet won't be eligible for parole for another 71 years, the Florida Parole Commission decided on Wednesday — essentially guaranteeing he will die in prison.
The commission set a "presumptive release date" for 46-year-old Thomas Coe in July 2084. He will be 117.
"We'll be calling him Methuselah by then," said State Attorney Jerry Hill, whose office prosecuted Coe. But Hill also warned that the commission can next revisit the case in 2019 and theoretically could make the release date earlier.
Coe has been in prison since August 1990 and must serve a mandatory minimum of 25 years. He received a life sentence in the first-degree murder of stepson Bradley McGee in Polk County. Coe was not present at the hearing and had no representative present.
Samantha Campbell, Bradley's now 37-year-old foster sister, handed out blue teddy bears to parole commissioners while family friend Dorine Parsons showed a framed portrait of the tow-headed toddler.
Coe "should never see daylight outside of razor wire," Parsons said, crying. "That baby had no one to help him, no one to protect him. (Coe) has never said he was sorry. He's shown no remorse."
Florida abolished parole in 1983 and requires inmates to serve a minimum of 85 percent of their sentences. But Coe is eligible for parole because he was convicted of a capital felony before Oct. 1, 1995, according to Parole Commission spokeswoman Jane Tillman.
Hill, the top prosecutor for central Florida's 10th Judicial Circuit, called it his "saddest case." He explained that earlier on the day of Bradley's death, Coe had been angry over not having a clean shirt to wear to a job interview.
After Bradley had soiled himself, Coe hosed him off in the backyard and dragged him to the bathroom, Hill said. Coe repeatedly dunked the child's head into the toilet, flushing several times to further frighten him.
Coe then threw the baby into the bathtub. Coe's then-wife and Bradley's mother, later known as Sheryl Hardy, claimed she heard his head thud against the inside of the tub. Bradley eventually collapsed and began convulsing when they panicked and called 911.
Coe then made up a story to explain the child's injuries and told the woman to back him up, Hill said. He also shared previous stories of abuse that Coe and Hardy had visited upon Bradley, including rubbing the child's face with his own feces.
"All of this inflicted by the very people who should have protected this child," Hill said.
Sheryl Hardy, who testified she smoked a cigarette nearby while Coe attacked her son, was convicted of second-degree murder.
She was sentenced to 30 years in prison and was released after serving nine years. Hardy reportedly now lives in Illinois with her current husband and other child.
Bradley McGee would be 26 today.