Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Gerard Schaefer

Case Closed

Things went from bad to worse for Schaefer after the November 1994 attack. Danny Rolling wrote to Sondra London that Schaefer had encountered "big time problems" from inmates who pegged Schaefer as "a rat and pain freak ...[and] a manipulating snitch." Over the next year, he was harassed by convicts who splashed him with urine and pelted him with feces. Twice his cell was set afire, any surviving papers ruined by the prison's sprinkler system.

Trouble also surfaced on the legal front, unrelated to Schaefer's frivolous lawsuits. In fall 1995, Fort Lauderdale homicide investigator Tim Bronson reopened the Hallock, Hutchins and Bonadies cases, reviewing the files with an eye toward prosecuting Schaefer for one or more slayings. Bronson hoped one indictment might persuade Schaefer to cut a plea bargain and close all three cases. Cautiously optimistic, he telephoned Starke on Friday, December 1, 1995, and made arrangements to interview Schaefer on Monday.

But he never got the chance.

On Sunday, December 3, prison guards found Schaefer slaughtered in his cell. His throat was slashed and he had been stabbed 42 times around his head and neck. A bloody handprint on the wall of Schaefer's cell appeared to be the only clue.

Two months later, on February 1, 1996, prison officials filed a murder charge against 33-year-old Vincent Faustino Rivera, confessed slayer of two Hillsborough County victims, who had begun serving a sentence of life plus 20 years in January 1991. According to the state's scenario, Rivera and Schaefer had quarreled after Schaefer took the last cup of hot water from a dispenser on their cell block. Rivera had brooded a while, then settled the argument with a homemade shank.

Or had he?

In November 1996 Rivera wrote to Sondra London, pleading innocence and claiming that the bloody print from Schaefer's cell matched neither Schaefer nor himself. Schaefer's mother and sister accused Ottis Toole of the murder, alleging that Toole had felt threatened by Schaefer's ongoing efforts to help the Walsh family recover young Adam's remains. The National Enquirer reported that Schaefer had arranged to speak with detectives concerning the case, angling for a transfer back to Avon Park if he could produce Adam's bones. Toole denied any role in Schaefer's slaying, and the Walsh case remained officially unsolved at Toole's death, from cirrhosis, in September 1996.

Justice moved slowly for Vincent Rivera. On June 8, 1999, three and a half years after Schaefer's death, Rivera was convicted of second-degree murder, sentenced to an additional 53 years and ten months. With life plus 20 on his plate beforehand, it was what lifers call a "freebie." As for Schaefer's "major" book and film deals, they were merely so much smoke. Six years and counting since his death, neither have seen the light of day.

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