On this date, February 12, 2014, Juan Carlos Chavez was executed by lethal injection in Florida. He was convicted of the September 11, 1995 murder of 9-year-old Jimmy Ryce.
Juan Carlos Chavez
Victim: 9-year-old Jimmy Ryce
INTERNET SOURCE: http://www.clarkprosecutor.org/html/death/US/chavez1367.htm
Summary: Chavez abducted Jimmy Ryce at gunpoint after the boy got off a school bus on a weekday afternoon in rural Miami-Dade County. After an extensive and well publicized search, three months later Chavez's landlady discovered the boy's book bag and the murder weapon — a revolver Chavez had stolen from her house — in the trailer where Chavez lived. Chavez later confessed to police and led them to Jimmy's remains. Testimony showed Chavez raped the boy, shot him when he tried to escape, then dismembered his body and hid the parts in concrete-covered planters.
Chavez v. State, 832 So.2d 730 (Fla. 2002). (Direct Appeal)
Chavez v. State, 12 So.3d 199 (Fla. 2009). (PCR)
Chavez v. Secretary, 647 F.3d 1057 (11th Cir. 2011). (Habeas)
Final / Special Meal:
Steak, French fries, strawberry ice cream, mixed fruit and mango juice.
Florida Department of Corrections
DC Number: M18034Date of Offense: 9/11/1995
Name: CHAVEZ, JUAN CARLOS
Hair Color: BROWN
Eye Color: BROWN
ht: 170 lbs.
Birth Date: 03/16/1967
Aliases: JUAN CHAVEZ, JUAN C CHAVEZ, JUAN CARLOS CHAVEZ, JUAN CARLOS CHAVEZ-GARCIA
Name: CHAVEZ, JUAN CARLOS
Hair Color: BROWN
Eye Color: BROWN
ht: 170 lbs.
Birth Date: 03/16/1967
Aliases: JUAN CHAVEZ, JUAN C CHAVEZ, JUAN CARLOS CHAVEZ, JUAN CARLOS CHAVEZ-GARCIA
Date Sentenced: 11/23/1998
Date Received: 12/9/1998
Date of Execution: 2/12/2014
Current Prison Sentence History:
09/11/1995 1ST DG MUR/PREMED. OR ATT. 11/23/1998 ORANGE 9811700 DEATH SENTENCE
09/11/1995 SEX BAT BY ADULT/VCTM LT 12 11/23/1998 ORANGE 9811700 SENTENCED TO LIFE
09/11/1995 KIDNAP;COMM.OR FAC.FELONY 11/23/1998 ORANGE 9811700 SENTENCED TO LIFE
Incarceration History: 12/09/1998 to 02/12/2014
On the afternoon of September 11, 1995, nine-year-old Samuel James “Jimmy” Ryce disappeared after having been dropped off from his school bus at approximately 3:07 p.m. at a bus stop near his home in the Redlands, a rural area of south Miami Dade County. An extensive and well-publicized search of the area followed, but failed to locate the child.
At that time, the defendant, Juan Carlos Chavez, was living in a trailer on property owned by Susan Scheinhaus. Chavez worked as a handyman for the Scheinhaus family, and was permitted to use their Ford pickup truck to run errands or do other work for the family. As part of his duties, Chavez frequently cared for horses owned by the Scheinhaus family, but housed on property owned by David Santana, which contained an avocado grove. There was also a trailer on that property, referred to throughout Chavez's trial as the “avocado grove trailer” or the “horse-farm trailer.”
In August or September of 1995, Mrs. Scheinhaus reported to the police several times that items (including a handgun and some jewelry) were missing from her residence. Although she suspected Chavez, she lacked evidence of his culpability. She testified at trial that, in November, she had decided to obtain the evidence required to pursue her claim. With the help of a locksmith, on December 5, 1995, while Chavez was away for the day, Mrs. Scheinhaus and her son, Edward Scheinhaus (“Ed”), entered the trailer located on her property which Chavez occupied. She found the handgun-which she later identified in court as a gun she had purchased in April of 1989 - in plain view on a counter opposite the trailer door. As Mrs. Scheinhaus continued to look inside the trailer, she discovered, in the closet area, a book bag which was partially open. Looking inside the bag, she saw papers and books. The work appeared to be in a child's handwriting, and she noticed the name “Jimmy Ryce.” She also observed this name on one of the books. When Mrs. Scheinhaus asked her son to look at the items, he also recognized the child's name. As a result of this discovery, Mrs. Scheinhaus notified the FBI.
When Chavez returned to the Scheinhaus residence at about 7:15 on the evening of December 6, armed FBI agents quickly surrounded and secured him. After being patted down, he agreed to go with Metro Dade Police officers, who were also present, to the station for questioning. Chavez's detention included a questioning process that was punctuated by regular refreshment, food, bathroom breaks and a rest period, and interspersed with two outings returning to the Scheinhaus and Santana properties in southern Miami Dade County. Although Chavez was first brought to the police station on the night of December 6, he did not sleep until shortly after midnight on December 7. Detective Luis Estopinan, who was bilingual, conducted most of the questioning, although other officers also participated. Various police detectives, an FBI agent, Mrs. Scheinhaus and an independent interpreter all had opportunities to observe Chavez at various times throughout this period. Chavez was consistently described as alert and articulate during this time, and no one observed police detectives mistreating Chavez in any way throughout the period of questioning. He received repeated warnings and instructions in accordance with Miranda, and indicated that he fully understood them on four occasions during the period of interrogation.
Over the course of the interrogation, and after having been repeatedly advised of his Miranda rights and knowingly waiving them, Chavez provided several versions of his involvement in Jimmy's disappearance. As law enforcement officers engaged in a contemporaneous investigation of Chavez's changing narratives, he agreed to accompany officers on two occasions to visit the horse farm property and the Scheinhaus property, where he showed them the location of the events he had recounted had transpired. On those occasions, Chavez was asked to reveal where the boy's remains were located, to permit Jimmy's family to have closure. After the physical evidence resulting from this contemporaneous investigation totally discredited each version of events which Chavez had initially proposed, Chavez agreed to tell the truth. However, Chavez explained that, before he would disclose the location of Jimmy's remains, he wanted the officers to guarantee that he would receive the death penalty. Estopinan advised Chavez that he could not guarantee that the death penalty would be imposed. However, Chavez continued to talk, asserting that the events would not have happened had he not been sexually battered by a relative in Cuba.
Estopinan told Chavez that he “felt that it was time for him to be truthful and tell us what really happened to Jimmy, and went back and began to ask him about Jimmy and where Jimmy was located. We wanted to find Jimmy.” A break followed this inquiry and then Chavez reiterated to Sergeant Jimenez the most recent account which he had given Estopinan. Chavez then went to the restroom for another break and, upon returning to the interview room, informed the officers that they were now going to hear the truth: “What do you want to know? I'll tell you what happened to Jimmy Ryce.” Chavez proceeded to admit to Estopinan and Jimenez that he had abducted Jimmy at gunpoint, traveled to the horse ranch, and sexually assaulted Jimmy before finally shooting him. Estopinan explained that the officers would need details from Chavez, and requested permission to take a sworn statement. Chavez agreed to continue the questioning, and Estopinan and Jimenez “began to get details” about what had happened to Jimmy Ryce.
At trial, Estopinan testified regarding the final version of Chavez's statement. Chavez said that he had observed young children playing in water on his way home from Home Depot at approximately 3 p.m. Some of the boys were wearing just their underwear, and “as he saw the young boys wearing just their underwear, he took an interest in them.” After observing the children, Chavez drove off, but returned a short while later, because he “still had a mental picture of what happened, meaning that he saw the young boys in their underwear by the canal bank, and decided that he wanted to take another look.” Estopinan testified: "And while this is occurring, he was driving on the avenue, he sees a figure of a person, and then he realizes it was a young boy that he saw. At the same time he sees the young boy who later turns out to be Jimmy Ryce, again he's thinking about the young boys who are at the canal bank. He said at this point he's feeling something sexual and ... that he has a mental picture in his mind of the young boys in the canal with their underwear and he's also picturing Jimmy Ryce the young boy.
As he's driving the pickup truck in the opposite direction of Jimmy Ryce, he said at the time he had with him the Scheinhaus revolver, the Taurus, .38 caliber. And he said at this time Jimmy is walking on the left side of the road, and what he did is driving on the opposite side, he begins to drive on the opposite side of the traffic and drives and stops right in front of Jimmy Ryce causing him to stop. The minute that Jimmy stops, he stops the truck, he gets out of the truck with the gun in his hand and tells Jimmy at gunpoint, do you want to die? And Jimmy made a comment to him, no. And he told Jimmy in English to get inside the truck. And Jimmy responds by getting into the truck via the driver's side door. Once Jimmy is inside the pickup truck, Jimmy removes his backpack and puts it between his legs and he Chavez gets into the truck with Jimmy, still holding the handgun. It's at that point he takes the revolver and he places it underneath his lap and tells Jimmy to put his head down so Jimmy wouldn't be seen by anyone. And at that point he tells me that he drives back to the horse ranch where the trailer was located. He told me that Jimmy left his backpack inside the pickup truck.
Once they both exit the pickup truck, both him and Jimmy at his direction they go inside the trailer that's located inside the horse ranch. He goes on to explain that once inside the trailer he tells Jimmy to sit down on the bed. Jimmy complies. And that he sits on a black office chair close to Jimmy by the entrance and he begins to talk to Jimmy, he notices that Jimmy is, he's nervous and he's scared and Jimmy begins sobbing. And while this is occurring, Jimmy began to ask him, why did you take me? And Chavez explains to him, well, why do you think I took you, things to that effect. He wants Jimmy to answer his own questions. He goes on to explain that at this point he feels like doing something sexual and that he tells Jimmy to remove his clothing. He said Jimmy complied by removing his shirt, his shorts, his sneakers and he wasn't sure if Jimmy was wearing socks or not. And then Jimmy remains in his underwear only, his white underwear he believes. He goes on to tell me that at this point he gets up and he tells Jimmy to also go ahead and remove his underwear. Jimmy complies and removed his underwear. And then he tells Jimmy to lay on the bed in the trailer and Jimmy complies. Jimmy lays on his stomach on the bed. Chavez tells me that he went into the bathroom area of the trailer looking for something. And I asked him, what are you looking for. He told me I was looking for something like a lubricant. And then he goes into the bathroom and he finds a see through plastic container, he said, with some blue lettering on it. And then he took a sample of the contents of the container to see if it would burn, and when it didn't, he came back to where Jimmy was and he placed this, the substance or the lubricant on to Jimmy's rectum, he said, and as he was placing the lubricant on Jimmy's rectum, Jimmy is asking what are you doing. And he mentioned to Jimmy that what do you think is going to happen, things to that effect.
He unzipped his pants, he exposed his penis and he inserted his penis into Jimmy's rectum. He told me right after he inserted his penis in Jimmy's rectum, he again has a mental picture of the young boys in their underwear which he had seen at the canal and he said that he quickly ejaculated, and once he ejaculated inside Jimmy, he said he removed himself." Chavez said that he and Jimmy then dressed and left in the truck, indicating that he had intended to leave Jimmy in the area where he had picked him up. However, upon nearing the area where he had abducted Jimmy, Chavez noticed that police cars were present. Believing “that someone had reported Jimmy missing and they were looking for Jimmy,” Chavez kept Jimmy's head down in the truck and returned to the horse farm. Estopinan testified regarding what transpired when Chavez and Jimmy returned to the horse farm: "He said once inside the trailer, Jimmy is trembling and crying. And Jimmy asked, what's going to happen to me? Are you going to kill me? He noticed that Jimmy was very frightened. And he begins to speak to Jimmy in order to calm him down." Chavez told Estopinan that he tried to calm Jimmy down by asking him questions.
He then explained how he killed Jimmy: "Well, the next thing Chavez mentions happened is he heard a helicopter fly over the horse ranch. It was his opinion he believed the helicopter belonged to the police, that the police were searching for Jimmy. When he heard the helicopter flying over him, he went ahead and held Jimmy close by to him so Jimmy wouldn't go anywhere, and eventually he heard the chopper several times flying over him, and at one point he said he got up and began looking out the window to see if he could see the chopper, the helicopter that is. And while he was looking for the helicopter, Jimmy is still close to the front entrance of the trailer. He said that Jimmy made a dash for the door, Jimmy ran for the door trying to escape. He said that he tried to reach up to Jimmy, but he got tangled on the floor of the bathroom and at that point he said he took out the revolver belonging to Mrs. Scheinhaus, he pointed the handgun in the direction of Jimmy, fired one time hitting him. He said that Jimmy collapsed right by the door and collapsed to the right by the door inside the trailer. He said after he shot Jimmy, he came up to Jimmy, he turned Jimmy around and held Jimmy in his arms and Jimmy took one last breath, he expressed it, and he said that was the last thing Jimmy did."
Chavez described that, to dispose of Jimmy's body, he found a metal barrel inside the trailer at the horse farm, and placed Jimmy's body inside the barrel. He transported the barrel containing the body from the horse farm to the Scheinhaus residence, where he removed the barrel and placed it in Chavez's disabled van, which was parked in the stable area. Chavez removed Jimmy's book bag from the pickup and carried it with him to his own trailer. That night, Chavez looked at some of the note pads inside Jimmy's book bag. Chavez noticed blood on his own clothing and eventually destroyed the clothes. During the night and into the next morning, “all he could think about was what he was going to do with Jimmy's body.” Two or three days later, Chavez attempted to use a backhoe on the Scheinhaus property to dig a hole in which to bury Jimmy, but the machine did not operate properly. Chavez remained concerned, particularly when he noticed that the lid of the barrel which contained Jimmy's body had come off. Chavez pulled Jimmy's body from the barrel onto a piece of plywood, and, from there, his remains fell to the ground. “And he said at that point he went ahead and began to dismember Jimmy's body with the use of a tool.” Chavez described the tool he used to dismember Jimmy's body, and even drew a picture of the implement. He explained that it took him a while to dismember Jimmy's body, as he was becoming sick and vomiting. “But then he completes it and he places three of Jimmy's parts into these three planters. And once he fills these planters with Jimmy's remains, he goes ahead, goes into the stable area of the stable where the building is located and he locates some cement bags. With those cement bags he seals the tops of the planters with cement.”
The oral interview concluded at 10:50 pm on December 8. While an interpreter and a stenographer were being obtained to record a formal statement, Chavez remained in the interview room, and did not further converse with Estopinan until the interpreter arrived. Then, at 11:45 pm, Chavez began to provide a formal statement. Estopinan, Sergeant Jimenez, and the court reporter were present as the statement was obtained. After some preliminary questions, Chavez was again advised of his Miranda rights. At this time, Chavez confirmed that he had voluntarily agreed to waive his first court appearance and that he had given the officers consent to search his property. When the statement was completed, each page of the statement was reviewed, and Chavez made any corrections he desired. He acknowledged in the statement that he was making the transcribed statement voluntarily; that no one had threatened or coerced him into making the statement; and that he had been treated well. Estopinan testified that, at the time he made his sworn statement, Chavez was “polite, cooperative and he was alert.”
Marilu Balbis testified that she was the professional interpreter providing services during Chavez's sworn statement. Ms. Balbis was an independent contractor who had been an interpreter and translator for twelve years. The confession was unusually long, and Ms. Balbis had the opportunity to closely observe Chavez's demeanor. Chavez did not appear sleepy, and was alert. At no point did the detectives give Chavez any answers. Once the confession was finished, Ms. Balbis read each page, word by word, to Chavez to make sure that it was typed correctly. Chavez approved every page by initialing each page at the bottom. Ms. Balbis indicated that the police officers treated Chavez with courtesy, and that she did not observe them threaten or raise their voices toward Chavez.
Officer Michael Byrd recovered the loaded handgun from Chavez's trailer. Byrd also found a poster in Chavez's trailer bearing the likeness of Jimmy Ryce, which he processed as evidence. A box of bullets containing live ammunition, and one spent shell casing, were also found in the trailer. Crime scene technician Elvey Melgarejo testified that, on December 8, 1995, he helped search and process a trailer on a horse/avocado farm. He searched the trailer and found “a tube of JR water-based lubricant” on a shelf inside the trailer. Melgarejo collected a sofa cushion and part of the wood floor of the trailer just inside the front door. These items were packaged for transmittal to serology for processing. Melgarejo also traveled to the Scheinhaus property, where he noticed the three concrete-filled planters and became suspicious that they might contain a cadaver. Fingerprint technician William Miller identified Chavez's fingerprint on the handgun recovered from his trailer. To determine whether fingerprints were present on the handgun, he placed it in a laboratory chamber in which super glue fumes were released, surrounding the handgun and adhering to the residue and oils left by any fingerprints. As a result, a fingerprint matching that of Chavez was found on the firearm. Miller testified that there were “ten points of identification throughout this fingerprint, which is only common to Chavez. It's an absolute and positive identification that his left thumb print made on the weapon.”
On December 8, 1995, Miller also examined the books and notebooks found inside the book bag belonging to Jimmy Ryce. He found Chavez's fingerprint on the front of one notebook found in the book bag. The fingerprint located on the interior of the notebook cover was found to “have sixteen points of identification, a positive identification, based on the left thumb print of Mr. Juan Carlos Chavez against the print which was developed on the inside cover.” Another print of value was located on the textbook entitled Journeys in Science. He found “this particular print of value from this area to be made by the right middle fingerprint of Chavez. I had nine points of identification.” When compared to the prints of Mrs. Scheinhaus and Edward Scheinhaus, the prints on the book bag contents did not match.
Forensic serologist Theresa Merritt of the Metro Dade Police Department testified that she received items for examination on December 8, 1995. She was dispatched to the horse farm to assist crime scene personnel in attempting to determine whether blood was present. Merritt tested a twin-size mattress from the trailer, a cushion present on the bench in the trailer and a cut-out portion of the threshold area from the floor of the trailer. A scraping from the floor area produced a positive result for the presence of blood. Another sample, from a cushion in the trailer, yielded blood scrapings.
Anita Mathews, assistant director of the forensic identity testing laboratory for “LabCorp” of North Carolina, testified that she was “responsible for doing interpretation on the results of the testing that the technologists conduct.” Mathews testified that they were not able to obtain a sufficient quantity or quality of genetic material from samples collected from the body of Jimmy Ryce for testing. However, DNA from the oral swab samples taken from his parents, Don and Claudine Ryce, was compared to the blood found on the floor of the trailer. This comparison produced the conclusion that the blood on the floor was extremely likely to have come from a child of Don and Claudine Ryce. Two other blood samples taken from the floor of the trailer carried the same genetic characteristics. Another blood sample, taken from the cushion found in the trailer, also was consistent with having come from the biological child of the Ryces.
Dr. Roger Mittleman, Chief Medical Examiner for the Dade Medical Examiner's Department, testified that, on December 9, he conducted an examination of the contents of the three planters. The cement in each planter encased the remains of what appeared to be a young boy. The remnants of a cement bag were in at least one of the planters. Dr. Mittleman described the clothing found on Jimmy's body: “It was dressed in this T-shirt and had on jeans and underwear. There was one sneaker on; ?one sneaker was off. There were socks.” The doctor then corrected himself, and stated that only one sock was found on the body. The doctor testified that a body expands as it decomposes due to the breakdown of material and biological processes, causing gases to expand. This process could cause a body placed in a barrel to expand to the point that a lid would be forced off or open. The remains were significantly decomposed. Using dental records from Jimmy's family dentist, a forensic dentist testified that the comparison with the jaw and teeth of the body was so strong that the “skeletal remains” were “positively identified as that of Jimmy Ryce.” An X-Ray of the body cavity revealed a flattened projectile jacket that lodged in the area of the heart and “great vessels.” The bullet entered at the point where the right sixth rib is located, went upward in the body, through the lung and the heart, and exited from the upper left chest Based upon the trajectory of the bullet, the gun would have been pointing slightly upward and below the individual who was shot. However, there was no evidence on the body which would demonstrate how far away the gun was when it was fired.
On December 20, 1995, Detective McColman had transported a tool known as a “bush hook,” which had previously been impounded, to the medical examiner's office. Dr. Mittleman was asked to examine the bush hook to determine if its cutting characteristics were consistent with the injuries inflicted on Jimmy's body. The medical examiner noted that a number of the injuries inflicted on the body during dismemberment were consistent with having been made by the bush hook. However, he also testified that it was possible that more than one instrument had been used. Firearms examiner Thomas Quirk of the Metro-Dade Police Department Crime Laboratory testified that a .38 caliber Taurus model 85 revolver (State's Exhibit 23) was submitted for his examination after it had been processed by the fingerprint section. He also received one aluminum jacket from a projectile recovered from the body of the victim, and two .38 caliber casings-a projectile identified as having come from a red bullet box and a casing that had been fired from a firearm. The two empty .38 caliber shell casings found in Chavez's trailer were fired from the .38 recovered from Chavez's trailer. Quirk testified that the manufacture of the barrel and the rifling process provide microscopic differences which are transferred to the bullet during firing and which repeat, similar to a fingerprint. Also, the projectile jacket recovered by the medical examiner and the lead core (the fatal bullet) were positively identified as having been fired by the gun recovered from Chavez's trailer: “My conclusion is that this bullet was fired in this weapon to the exclusion of all other weapons in the world. This is the gun that fired this bullet.”
After the State rested, Chavez moved for judgment of acquittal, which was denied. Defense counsel specifically argued the State's failure to establish a corpus delicti for the crime of sexual battery. The defense then began the presentation of its case. During the examination of Ed Scheinhaus, Ed explained that he had been under house arrest at the time the kidnaping occurred. He worked from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., and was required to stay at home at all other times, unless he arranged in advance to be away from his house. He had an ankle device, and would be called each day at random times (as controlled by a computer) throughout the period he was confined to his home. When called, he would have to “report in” by placing the ankle bracelet next to a device installed in his home. Chavez also testified in his own defense, stating that he had belonged to a counter-revolutionary group in Cuba. He gave details of his imprisonment (for attempting to escape and for stealing military property) in Cuba, and his eventual escape from the island.
According to his trial testimony, Chavez encountered Ed Scheinhaus at the horse farm trailer after Jimmy had already been killed, and helped Ed to dispose of the boy's body. Chavez testified that, after he was brought to police headquarters in connection with Jimmy's disappearance, he was mistreated. He stated that, when he was placed in the police car, he was told, “Don't do anything stupid or we'll shoot you. We're going to kill you.” He complained that his watch and beeper were taken away from him, and returned only after he gave his final confession. Chavez stated that, when they were interrogating him, he did not know what date or time it was. He said that he was not permitted to sleep, and no one ever offered him a pillow or a blanket. Chavez also claimed that the officers brought the book bag into the interrogation room, and asked Chavez to handle it and look through its contents, which he did. According to Chavez, the police goaded him into making up lies. He stated that the officers suggested details of his confession, and, to avoid deportation, he did whatever they wanted. After the defense rested, the State presented rebuttal testimony. The officers refuted that they had ever threatened Chavez, coerced him, or suggested any part of the confession to him; they denied that they had taken Chavez's watch away or that anyone had hit him;and they testified that he had never mentioned Ed as the perpetrator during the questioning process. Ed Scheinhaus's parole officer testified that Ed (who is in the pest control business) had his permission to travel to take care of a client on the afternoon on which he had received a speeding ticket, and that Ed had shown the ticket to the parole officer himself, without being asked to do so.
He testified that Ed had lost his ankle bracelet once (prior to September 11), and that he had come in that same day to have it replaced with a new one. He said that the file would only reflect times when calls were made to the house and Ed did not respond. He said that he had nothing in the file for the month of September 1995, which indicated that Ed had remained home as required, and that no violations had occurred.
At the close of rebuttal, Chavez renewed all motions, including the motion to suppress his statements, the motion for judgment of acquittal (particularly reiterating that the State had failed to prove the corpus delicti of the charge of sexual battery), and the motion for mistrial, based upon alleged cumulative errors. These motions were denied. The jury was instructed, and, following deliberation, entered verdicts of “guilty” on all of the counts charged. Following the penalty phase of the trial, the jury recommended death by a vote of twelve to zero.
UPDATE: Juan Chazvez was executed for the rape and murder of 9 year old Jimmy Ryce in 1995. Chavez did not make a verbal final statement, but submitted a written statement that read in part: "I doubt there there is anything I can say that would satisfy everybody, even less those who see in me nothing more than someone deserving of punishment." Jimmy's father Don, who is now 70, witnessed the execution along with his son Ted. They told reporters outside the prison that the execution closes a long, painful chapter and hopefully sends a powerful message to other would-be child abductors. "Don't kill the child. Because if you do, people will not forget, they will not forgive. We will hunt you down and we will put you to death," Don Ryce said. Jimmy Ryce's death led to changes in the legal system, and the way police respond to missing child cases. Don Ryce said recently that he and his wife became determined to turn their son's horrific slaying into something positive, in part because they felt they owed something to all the people who tried to help find him. They also refused to wallow in misery. "You've got to do something or you do nothing. That was just not the way we wanted to live the rest of our lives," he said.
The Ryces created the Jimmy Ryce Center for Victims of Predatory Abduction, a nonprofit organization based in Vero Beach that works to increase public awareness and education about sexual predators, provides counseling for parents of victims and helps train law enforcement agencies in ways to respond to missing children cases. The organization has also provided, free of charge, more than 400 bloodhounds to police departments around the country and abroad. Ryce said if police searching for Jimmy had bloodhounds they might have found him in time. Another accomplishment was 1998 passage in Florida of the Jimmy Ryce Act, versions of which have also been adopted in other states. Under the law, sexual predators found to be still highly dangerous can be detained through civil commitment even after they have served their prison sentences. Such people must prove they have been rehabilitated before they can be released. Chavez had no criminal record, so the law would not have affected him.