STARKE – It’s been more than 27 years since William Happ strangled Angie Crowley and 24 years since he was sentenced to die. His sentence was carried out Tuesday evening: death by chemical injection at Florida State Prison.
In a final statement, Happ expressed remorse for his actions.
“To my agonizing shame, I must confess to the crime,” he said in a slow, deliberate voice. “I wish to offer my most sincere, heartfelt apology. I have prayed for the good Lord to forgive me for my sins. But I understand why those here cannot.”
The words didn’t mean much to Crowley’s brother Chris.
“The apology, for what it’s worth, I personally think that’s more for himself than anything,” Crowley said, adding that he doesn’t forgive Happ. “He needs to ask someone a lot more important than me for forgiveness.”
The execution began at 6:02 p.m. Happ’s eyes opened and he blinked several times. He closed them and opened them again two minutes later. He then yawned and his jaw dropped open.
At 6:08 p.m., the official overseeing the execution tugged at Happ’s eyelids and grasped his shoulder to check for a response. There was none.
A minute later, Happ’s head began moving back and forth and shortly thereafter his breathing stopped. He was pronounced dead at 6:16 p.m.
Happ was the first person to be executed under a new mix of drugs Florida is using for lethal injections. It appeared Happ remained conscious longer and made more body movements after losing consciousness than other people executed recently by lethal injection under the old formula.
Angie Crowley’s family gave a statement afterward.
“We have lost a vibrant young lady with dark blue eyes and an infectious smile. With this loss we will no longer experience her great sense of humor, her laughter and her loving and caring personality,” Chris Crowley said while surrounded by family and friends. “Our loss is also your loss. You have lost the possibility of meeting such a special person.”
Angie Crowley’s mother and two siblings died before they could see the sentence carried out, but Crowley’s surviving sisters and brothers were in Starke to watch as Happ was executed. Chris Crowley made the trip from Missouri.
Angie Crowley had moved to Florida from Oregon, Ill., just five months before her 1986 murder. The 21-year-old was working as a travel agent in the Fort Lauderdale area and planned to make the 300-mile drive to visit a college friend in Yankeetown. Crowley was prone to getting lost, so her friend told her to drive to a convenience store in Crystal River and call her from a pay phone in the parking lot and she’d met her and guide her the last few miles.
Crowley found the store, but she never made it to the phone. Happ just happened to be there, too. He smashed the window to the car and kidnapped Crowley and took her to a canal where he gave her 10 to 20 severe blows to the head. He raped her, then strangled her with her stretch pants and threw her body in the water.
Happ left for California, where he was arrested on unrelated charges. A detective flew from Florida to get one of his sneakers and later matched it to a shoe print at the scene of the killing.
At the time, Happ was a high school dropout living with his aunt. He did odd jobs, laid bricks and did some landscaping. He was also abusing alcohol and drugs.
Crowley was a beautiful, smart, popular woman who was pursuing her dream to travel the world. Her murder shocked Oregon, a town of about 3,500 about 25 miles southwest of Rockford, Ill. She was an honor student, cheerleader and musician.
She just happened to pull into the parking lot at the wrong time.
“They just intersected – and the odds,” Chris Crowley said. “Those are lottery odds.”
The randomness of the crime has left questions in Crowley’s mind.
“The only thing I would like to know is why, and I don’t expect to find out,” Crowley said. “I have a lot of hatred for the man. A lot of hatred.”
After Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed Happ’s death warrant, Happ told a judge he did not want any lawyers filing appeals for him.
Happ was calm Tuesday when he met with two spiritual advisers, including a Roman Catholic priest who administered last rites, according to Department of Corrections spokeswoman Jessica Cary.
For his last meal, Happ had a 12-ounce box of assorted chocolates and 1 1/2 quarts of German chocolate ice cream.