The father of a 9-year-old boy who was abducted, raped and murdered in Miami-Dade County in 1995 said the execution of his son's killer is about seeking justice.
"It's not about revenge," Don Ryce told reporters at his Vero Beach home Friday.
Ryce held the news conference Friday, a day after Gov. Rick Scott signed a death warrant for Juan Carlos Chavez, who was convicted of killing young Jimmy Ryce.
Chavez, 46, is scheduled to be executed on Wednesday, Feb. 12 at 6 p.m.
"You don't feel happy. We aren't going to go out and celebrate when Chavez is executed, it's not a matter of being happy," Don Ryce said. "But there is a sense of relief, there is a sense that the world is not quite right so long as that man still lives."
Chavez kidnapped Jimmy one block from his home in Redland on Sept. 11, 1995, ordering him at gunpoint into his truck. He drove him to his trailer, where he sexually battered him and held him captive for more than three and a half hours before he shot and killed the boy when he tried to escape.
Two days after the murder, Chavez dismembered the boy's body, filled three planters with his remains and sealed the planters with concrete. Jimmy's remains were found three months later near the home of Chavez, who confessed to the killing.
"Why did he have to kill him?" Don Ryce asked Friday.
That is the question that has haunted him all these years. Jimmy Ryce would be 28 now had he lived.
"The thought that he ended his life, those few hours that he had left, he went through such hell and it killed Claudine and me that we weren't there for him," his father said.
As a Miami-Dade Police homicide detective for 24 years, Pat Diaz saw it all, but there was one case he never shook – the murder of Jimmy Ryce.
“I handled some major investigations in my career and this is the number one case, this stayed with me the entire time,” said Diaz, who took Chavez’s confession.
Don Ryce's wife Claudine, Jimmy's mother, died in 2009. Claudine and Don Ryce were fixtures on television in the weeks after Jimmy disappeared, and for years, the couple worked tirelessly to raise awareness about sexual predators and to pass laws to make children safer.
The case horrified the state and led to the passage of the Jimmy Ryce Act, which allows authorities to commit dangerous sexual predators to mental institutions once they have completed their prison terms. The law would not have stopped Chavez, however, as he had no previous record for sex crimes.
"I feel pride that we have honored Jimmy to the extent we have, that we have, I think, made him a symbol of hope, rather than just some meaningless victim and another sad story," Don Ryce said.
Flanked by his son, Ted Ryce, and by portraits of Jimmy on Friday, Don Ryce said he's grateful that the man who so heinously took his son's life will pay the ultimate price for his actions.
"If there was ever anyone in the world who deserved to die it's the man who did that," he said.