In March of 1977, Amos King was an inmate at Tarpon Springs Community Correctional Center, a minimum security work-release facility, where he was serving a sentence for larceny of a firearm. On March 17 he worked at a Clearwater restaurant from 5:00 p.m. until 1:00 a.m. the following morning. An inmate van picked him up at around 1:30 a.m., and he checked back into the facility at approximately 2:35 a.m. At about 3:40 a.m., the prison counselor, James McDonough, discovered King missing during a routine bed check. McDonough found King outside the building with blood on his pants.
After McDonough escorted King back into the facility, a fight broke out between the two in which King repeatedly stabbed McDonough with a knife. King then fled the facility. A few minutes later, police and fire units arrived at Tillie's house, which was ablaze, and found her body. She had received two stab wounds, bruises over the chin, and burns on the leg. An autopsy revealed other injuries, which included bruises on the back of the head, hemorrhaging of the brain, hemorrhaging of the neck, and broken cartilage in the neck. There was a ragged tear of the vagina which apparently had been caused by blood-stained wooden knitting needles found at the scene. There was evidence of forced sexual intercourse.
Arson investigators concluded the fire had been set intentionally sometime between 3:00 and 3:30 a.m. Tillie's home was just 1,500 feet away from the work release facility. The government presented strong circumstantial evidence of King's guilt on the murder charge. Joan Wood, the medical examiner who performed an autopsy on the deceased, for example, testified that King's blood type was present in the victim's vaginal washings. Woods stated that if Tillie's assailant had raped her with his pants on after causing the tear to the wall of her vagina, blood would have been present on the clothing, as McDonough had found on the crotch area of King's pants. She testified the paring knife used by King to assault McDonough was "consistent" with the wounds found on Tillie, but she admitted she could not say this knife caused the wound. A knife salesman testified that the paring knife was manufactured by the same company and was similar in design to other kitchen knives found in Tillie's house. An old friend of the deceased testified that the paring knife resembled one Tillie kept in her house.
The relatives of Tillie Brady say they would rather not hear King's name ever again. Eva Lysek, one of Tillie's sisters, doesn't care whether King lives or dies. "I just do not want them to let him out," said Ms. Lysek, who lives in Pinellas County and still regularly puts flowers on her sister's grave on holidays. "All I can say is, I do not have a sister. I have not had a sister for 25 years.
King had been scheduled for execution in January 2002, but received a stay. At the time, a victim's advocate said the family was disappointed and discouraged. "Their opinion is it's just a joke now," said Wendy Hallowell, who spoke with Tillie's niece. King had previous execution dates in 1981 and 1988. When Marie Williams heard that the death warrant for her sister's killer had been reactivated in June of 2002, she knew what was coming: a new round of frustrations. "It's just bringing back old memories all the time. It's been 25 years," said Mrs. Williams, who lives in St. Petersburg. "It's just another one of those things that he'll get another appeal. That's what happened the last three times." "It's about time," said Abe Tarapani, summing up the feeling of many Tarpon Springs residents who are outraged at the delay.
Despite the passage of time, for many family and friends of Mrs. Brady, the pain is still fresh, the venom still strong. "This man needs to burn to a crisp for what he did to her," said former Tarpon Springs Mayor Anita Protos. "It's been too long in coming. He should not have been shown any mercy to last this long." Blaine LeCouris, who was the Tarpon Springs police chief in 1977, said the murder made for a very trying chapter in Tarpon Springs history. LeCouris, a proponent of the work release program, said many residents opposed the location of the minimum security corrections facility, where inmates work during the day outside the facility and return at night. "We need these facilities, but no one wants them near them," LeCouris said. "In counties as close as Pinellas County, there's nowhere you can put them where they aren't around someone.
Tillie's murder reignited the debate. LeCouris, father of current police chief Mark LeCouris, said that Mrs. Brady was well-known in the Tarpon community. "She was a good friend of mine," LeCouris said. "She was like a mother to a bunch of us. A better woman never lived. She was just a kind woman." Tempers ran high after King's arrest, he said. "We almost would've killed him ourselves if we could've got ahold of him," LeCouris said. "He took the life of a sweet, innocent lady.
Elizabeth Palmer of Tarpon Springs, a friend of Tillie's, said the length of the appeals angers her. "This was a cut-and-dry case," Palmer said. "This should have been done two days after they caught him. It's hideous what he did to that lady. And (the execution) is way past due. It doesn't seem fair sometimes. I will never understand it." The scars in Tarpon Springs may never heal, she said. "It was an absolute shock that something like this could happen," Palmer said. "I go back to the day before this happened and think how peaceful it was," LeCouris said. "Here was a hardworking woman who lived alone, and he killed her.
*UPDATE: Amos King, who escaped 2 other dates with death this year, escaped a 3rd time Monday when Gov. Jeb Bush granted a 30-day stay so DNA tests can be run. King was due to be executed at 6 p.m. by lethal injection when he won the stay after lawyer Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project met with the governor's death penalty attorney earlier Monday. King, 48, was condemned for raping and murdering Natalie Brady, 68, in her Tarpon Springs home in 1977 and setting the place ablaze after slipping away from a work-release prison. He was caught, in bloody clothing, trying to slip back in. Bush issued the stay due to new DNA techniques that were not available at the time of King's conviction in 1977. In a statement, Bush said Scheck "informed my legal office of the existence of previously untested evidence and further DNA testing that could possibly exonerate Amos King. It is wholly appropriate that we delay the execution until we can determine that all potentially useful DNA testing has been completed," Bush said. Scheck said he was "gratified and very pleased" - but not surprised after his meeting with Wendy Berger, the governor's death penalty lawyer. "I had confidence that Gov. Bush would do this," Scheck said, adding that the test results are "just the kind of thing you don't want to leave any chance to." King's lawyers called The Innocence Project for help about 10 days ago. They want to test 3 pubic hairs and scrapings from under Brady's fingernails. The execution was rescheduled for Jan 8. King had spent his final day with his religious adviser, Casey Walpole, a Gainesville Buddhist. King's jury had voted unanimously to recommend that he receive the death penalty. An autopsy determined that his victim had two stab wounds, bruises on the back of her head, bleeding of the brain and neck, a broken cartilage in her neck and a tear in her vagina. King had received stays of execution in February and July from the U.S. and Florida supreme courts. They had debated whether Florida's death penalty law is similar to Arizona's, which was declared unconstitutional by the nation's high court.