Crime & Courts
Pinellas murderer appeals execution to Supreme Court
Lawyers for a man scheduled to be executed Wednesday for kidnapping and murdering a Palm Harbor girl 33 years ago filed an appeal today with the U.S. Supreme Court.
The appeal comes less than a week after the state Supreme Court unanimously rejected the argument that Larry Eugene Mann shouldn’t be executed because the jury that recommended the death sentence wasn’t unanimous.
Mann’s lawyers also argue that his constitutional rights were violated because Gov. Rick Scott signed his death warrant through a standardless and secret process.
Mann was convicted and sentenced to death in 1982 for kidnapping and murdering 10-year-old Elisa Nelson as she rode her bicycle to school two years earlier. The girl was beaten with a piece of pipe and stabbed to death in an abandoned orange grove.
Florida’s Catholic bishops wrote a letter to Scott today, asking him to spare Mann’s life.
“We must never forget his victim, Elisa Nelson, nor her family and loved ones, whose brutal death has caused unimaginable pain and agony,” they said in their letter. “We are moved, though, to reject the added violence this execution will bring on our society, knowing it will neither restore her life, nor take away the pain caused by this horrific crime.”
The bishops have called for prayer vigil Wednesday at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle in St. Petersburg.
Mann’s death sentence was overturned once because the trial court made a legal error. He was resentenced to death, and the Supreme Court then affirmed that sentence.
Former Gov. Bob Graham signed Mann’s first death warrant in 1986. Mann has appealed in state and federal court since then.
According to court records, Elisa Nelson was riding her bike to school on Nov. 4, 1980, but was late because of a dentist appointment. She carried a note from her mom.
She never made it to school, and her bicycle was found later that day. That same day, Mann tried to kill himself by slitting his wrist and was hospitalized. He later told police he had “done something stupid.”
The next day, Elisa’s body was found in an orange grove. She had died from a skull fracture.
On Nov. 8, Mann’s wife was getting his glasses out of his pickup and found the note Elisa’s mother had written. It had blood stains on it.
Mann’s wife called police, and he was arrested two days later.
His criminal record prior to the Elisa’s murder included convictions for molesting a 7-year-old girl in the 1960s and a 1973 rape in Mississippi. Mann was on parole for the Mississippi case when he murdered Elisa.
During the trial, the former well-driller from Dunedin was described as a chronic alcoholic and drug abuser who was so “ashamed and disgusted with himself” after the murder that he tried to kill himself within hours of the crime.