Broward News

Death Penalty Case: Man Will Die August 19 for Dania Beach Murder

On August 19, 48-year-old John Marek will be put to death by the State of Florida unless there is a major last-minute intervention by the governor or the courts.

In 1983, Marek and a friend, Raymond Wigley, drove to Florida from Texas. On June 16 of that year, the two men encountered two women whose car had broken down on the Turnpike. They offered Adella Simmons, a 40-something administrator at Barry University, a ride to a service station. Her friend stayed behind.

The next morning around 7 a.m., a lifeguard found Simmons' body inside a lifeguard station on Dania Beach, about 60 miles from where she'd broken down. According to the Florida Commission on Capital Cases, "Fingerprints found at the lifeguard tower matched both Wigley and Marek. Only Marek's prints were found inside the observation deck where Simmons' body was found." The two men were pulled over that night because they were driving a stolen truck. They had Simmons' jewelry and a gun.

Marek and Wigley accused each other of killing Simmons. Each man was separately convicted of first-degree murder -- but Wigley received only a life sentence. Marek was sentenced to death. Marek's appeals have wound through the courts for 26 years. He was scheduled to die in May, but at the last minute, several of Wigley's jailmates came forward and testified that before his death in 2000, Wigley had confessed to the killing.

Judges, however, didn't give that testimony much weight. Marek lost the appeal, and the Florida Supreme Court has ruled it will not hold any more hearings on this case. Gov. Crist re-set the execution date for August 19. Marek's lawyer, Marty McClain, tells the Juice that he filed a new motion to vacate the sentence this morning with Broward Judge Jeffrey Levenson.

The American Civil Liberties Union has used the case to bring attention to capital punishment. In an action alert, the ACLU urged people to tell Gov. Crist to stop signing death warrants. "If the execution proceeds as planned," the email message reads, "Marek will be the 68th person killed by the state of Florida since executions were reinstated in 1979."

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Deirdra Funcheon