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Jonathan ARCE





Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: Juvenile (14) - Rage - Robbery
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: March 10, 1998
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: September 16, 1983
Victim profile: June Stillman, 68 (his neighbor)
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife - Chopping with garden tools
Location: Oviedo, Seminole County, Florida, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole on August 25, 2000

Jonathan Arce, 14 when he fatally stabbed a neighbor, retired University of Central Florida librarian June Stillman, 68, probably after she accused him of stealing jewelry, coins and blank checks, authorities say.


Life With No Parole For 16-year-old

Oviedo Boy Guilty Of Murder

Jonathan Arce Was Sentenced For Stabbing And Bludgeoning Retired Librarian June Stillman, His Neighbor

By Rene Stutzman -

August 26, 2000

SANFORD -- Jurors took only an hour Friday to find an Oviedo teenager guilty of first-degree murder in the stabbing and bludgeoning death of his 68-year-old neighbor.

Jonathan Arce, 16, was immediately sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for the slaying of retired librarian June Stillman.

Because he was 14 at the time of the slaying, that was the only sentence possible. The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that no one under the age of 17 should be given the death penalty.

Arce, who had spent much of the weeklong trial with his head bowed, showed no emotion.

He did not testify. In fact, defense attorney Landon Miller offered no evidence. He had listed a Maitland psychologist, Michael K. Johnson, as a witness but did not call him. Johnson would have testified that Arce had an IQ of 70, Miller said.

Although the trial is over, key questions remain: Why did Arce kill Stillman, his neighbor who lived two doors down, and why was the attack so brutal?

What made a slight boy who stood just 4 feet 9 inches tall so angry that he left Stillman with 115 wounds, more than 80 of them cuts and punctures?

Stillman bled to death on her garage floor March 10, 1998. Later that morning, Arce was discovered behind the wheel of her Toyota Corolla, trying futilely to back out of her driveway. Police found the victim's money, including a 1925 silver dollar, in his pockets. They found her jewelry and blank checks in his house.

Two knives and several garden tools, including an ax, a hoe, a shovel and shears, many with blood on them, were found scattered near the body. Medical Examiner Sara Irrgang said it was impossible to say which ones had been used in the killing.

The victim's blood proved to be an effective weapon for prosecutors, who used DNA analysis and bloody shoeprints to prove that Arce was the only possible killer.

A trail of blood indicated the attack started in the kitchen, then moved to the garage, where it appeared Stillman either touched or was pushed into three walls and may have twice tried to get outside. After she pressed unsuccessfully against the main garage door, she circled back to a side door near her washer and dryer, said Leroy Parker, a crime scene expert with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

That door was covered with blood from someone pressing against it, Parker said. There also was a bloody smear on the doorjamb.

That smear suggests Stillman may have gotten partway out the door but was dragged back inside, said Assistant State Attorney Charley Tabscott.

"I knew my mother was a courageous person," said daughter Beth McGreggor. "This just reinforces that."

Miller on Friday conceded that Arce was the killer. However, he argued that the boy went into a killing "frenzy" and was guilty only of second-degree murder or manslaughter. A second-degree murder conviction would have sent Arce, whose only previous crime was skipping school, to prison for as little as 22 years.

It is not clear now exactly what will happen to Arce, who has grown 4 inches since his arrest but is still a tiny 5 feet 3 and 110 pounds. He is being put on suicide watch at the Seminole County Jail. He will be transferred to a state prison in the next few weeks.

Arce's pastor, Hector Santiago of Mision Christiana Hispana, visited the defendant Thursday.

"Spiritually he is strong," Santiago said. "Sometimes he cries, but he's clear in terms of whatever decision comes, he knows God is with him."

Asked if the boy had expressed any remorse, Santiago said, "The only thing he continues to say is that God has forgiven him."


Teen's Story Of Ucf Librarian's Stabbing Changes Again

Jonathan Arce, Charged In The Slaying Of June Stillman, Contended That He Blacked Out

By Rene Stutzman -

August 22, 2000

SANFORD -- Jonathan Arce, the slight Oviedo teenager charged with killing a 68-year-old neighbor who trusted him to watch her cat, does not know how the retired librarian died, his attorney said Monday.

Arce, 16, went into shock and blacked out during a struggle between the two, Landon Miller told jurors on the opening day of Arce's trial. He is charged with first-degree murder.

Arce is accused of killing June Stillman, a retired University of Central Florida librarian, on March 10, 1998. She bled to death on her garage floor, suffering more than 80 stab and puncture wounds.

Miller's blackout theory is new and varies wildly from what Arce told police the day of the slaying.

Arce, who was 14 at the time, initially said he was ordered inside Stillman's house by a masked person armed with a gun and knife.

The hooded stranger held him hostage for about two hours, then let him go, he said.

Arce later changed his statement, telling police he stabbed Stillman to death after she came at him with a knife. That confession, however, has been thrown out, so jurors will not hear it.

What they will hear about is a wealth of physical evidence. Assistant State Attorney Charley Tabscott said blood stains prove that Arce and Stillman struggled in the kitchen and that Stillman was attacked at least three more times at various locations in the garage.

Her injuries suggest a monumental struggle. She had 36 defensive cuts to her hands, and one of her fingertips was amputated, Tabscott said.

The handyman who discovered her body peered through a garage window. "He sees blood all over. He sees debris, garden tools, trash cans -- various things -- broken pots all over," Tabscott said.

That witness, William Benton, 50, is to be the state's lead witness today.

A note left on Stillman's kitchen table suggests she discovered several blank checks and pieces of jewelry missing.

Police theorize that she confronted Arce.

Miller said Arce was walking to the school bus stop when Stillman invited him inside.

They argued, Miller said, and that escalated to "physical combat." Stillman grabbed a knife and attacked Arce several times, he said.

Arce suffered a cut to his hand then went into shock and blacked out, Miller said.

"The next thing Arce remembers, he is standing in the garage. Mrs. Stillman was on the ground. She was indeed dead," Miller said.

Miller did not say his client was innocent, but asked jurors to find the teenager guilty of "something less" than first-degree murder.


Expert Says Teen Panicked, Killed Woman

A Judge Must Decide Whether The Crime-scene Expert Will Be Allowed To Testify On Behalf Of Jonathan Arce

By Rene Stutzman -

June 26, 2000

SANFORD -- A crime-scene expert is prepared to testify that a retired Oviedo librarian grabbed the arm of a 14-year-old boy in a "claw-like grip" and threatened him with a knife, moments before he wrestled it away and stabbed her to death in a panic.

The defendant, Jonathan Arce, now 16, is charged with first-degree murder in the brutal March 10, 1998, slaying of his neighbor, 68-year-old June Stillman.

A medical examiner counted more than 80 stab and puncture wounds to Stillman's head and body. Authorities say she struggled with her attacker until he stabbed her in the jugular vein and she bled to death on her garage floor.

If convicted, Arce could be sentenced to life in prison. His trial is set for August.

Next week, a judge will hear arguments about whether the defense expert, a crime-scene reconstruction consultant from East Moline, Ill., will be allowed to testify.

Wayne N. Hill Sr., a firearms dealer and former police officer, stops just short of saying Arce killed Stillman in self-defense. He says Stillman confronted Arce that morning, frightened him, fought with him and sent him into such a panic and rage that he may have thought she was trying to kill him.

Hill and police agree on several things:

Stillman had discovered money, jewelry and blank checks missing and probably confronted the boy that morning.

Stillman had been away on a trip and had asked Arce to tend to her cat.

The struggle began in the kitchen and ended in the garage.

But what happened in between is unclear. Assistant State Attorney Charley Tabscott said Friday that no one is qualified to say what happened because no one but Arce and Stillman were there.

He is asking a judge to ban Hill's testimony, saying it is based on speculation.

Hill gave his account in a written report and a sworn statement to attorneys. According to Hill, bruises on Arce's shoulder and left arm indicate Stillman, who was 5 feet 3 inches tall and 110 pounds, grabbed him hard and possibly dragged him into her kitchen and began yelling at him about the missing items. At the time, Arce was 4 feet 9 inches tall and weighed 103 pounds.

According to Hill, Arce then, in fear, punched Stillman, bruising her eye and possibly breaking her nose. Stillman then grabbed a kitchen knife to defend herself, Hill said.

"He [Arce] may now have the wrong impression that she's going to try to kill him, so he reacts," Hill said in the deposition.

Arce grabbed the knife by the blade, suffering a deep cut to his right hand, but he got the knife away from Stillman and slashed her across the face, Hill said.

She then fled into the garage, where the two struggled, he said. She tried to ward him off by throwing gardening tools at him, but he kept coming and stabbed her repeatedly, Hill said.

Arce was discovered by a neighbor sitting in Stillman's car, trying unsuccessfully to back it out. He couldn't release the emergency brake because of the cut to his hand, according to the police report.


Oviedo Murder Suspect

Police: Woman Thought Boy Stole

By Will Wellons and Rene Stutzman -

March 12, 1998

OVIEDO Jewelry and other items had disappeared from June Stillman's tidy suburban home. She suspected her 14-year-old neighbor, Jonathan Arce, who had fed her cat while she was away for the weekend.

Police said Wednesday that Stillman invited him in Tuesday morning, probably to pay him but also to confront him. When she did, he snapped, furiously beating and chopping her to death with garden tools, authorities said.

An autopsy continued late Wednesday, but preliminary indications were that Stillman, 68, suffered more than a dozen blows to the head and numerous stab wounds, including a deep gash in her abdomen.

''He beat her and beat her and beat her, and then beat her some more,'' Oviedo police Lt. Dale Coleman said. ''This was an act of pure rage.''

Arce, described by his family as reserved, told police Tuesday that he killed Stillman, a librarian who retired in 1996 from the University of Central Florida.

Arce told authorities that Stillman was upset and wanted him to come inside to show him something he had done wrong. She began yelling at him, then came at him with a knife, Arce said.

However, the evidence, particularly in Stillman's bloody garage, suggested something different, police said.

''There was not a tool in the garage that's not covered in blood,'' Coleman said.

He theorized the boy first stabbed her in the kitchen, and when she fled into the garage, he picked up a variety of garden tools - an ax, shovel, rake and shears - and continued bludgeoning and stabbing.

The shears were beneath her body. The bloody ax was nearby, police said.

Authorities are not sure how long the two struggled. Arce had a deep cut on his right hand plus scratches on his arms consistent with fingernail marks, according to a search warrant affidavit.

Stillman was bigger than Arce: 5 feet 3 and 110 pounds vs. 4 feet 9 and 103 pounds. But because of her age, she was fragile, authorities said.

On Stillman's kitchen table, police found what they think was the reason behind the struggle: a list of missing items.

Gone, she wrote, were a string of pearls, 100 blank checks and a variety of silver coins, including a 1925 silver dollar.

That 1925 silver dollar was found in Arce's pocket Tuesday, police said. Arce told authorities Stillman gave it to him.

During a search of Arce's home Wednesday, two doors from Stillman's, police found the pearls, other jewelry and the owner's manual to her car.

They carted off his bedroom door frame, which had bloody handprints. Police also recovered bloody clothes and shoes from inside Stillman's Toyota Corolla.

Arce was captured Tuesday inside the car. He was trying to start it when he was stopped by handyman William Benton, 48, of Oviedo, who spotted Stillman's body in the garage. He held the boy until police arrived.

Because of the cut on his right hand, the boy had trouble releasing the emergency brake, said Oviedo Lt. Tony Velez.

Members of Arce's family told The Orlando Sentinel they were devastated by his arrest.

''What we're living is a nightmare,'' said a family member who did not want to be identified. "We were dumbfounded. His parents are shattered.''

The family, which has two other sons, moved from Miami in October, hoping to escape that city's crime.

Arce was picked up for skipping school but has no criminal record, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

"He never was an aggressive kid or a bad kid,'' his aunt said.

Stillman had hired the boy to mow her lawn and during the weekend asked him to care for her cat while she was out of town, a friend said. On Tuesday, the cat was picked up by Seminole County Animal Control.

Arce made his first court appearance Wednesday. He stood next to his mother fidgeting but saying nothing as Circuit Judge Gene Stephenson read the charges against him: first-degree murder, burglary, grand theft and battery of a person over the age of 65. He is being held in the custody of juvenile authorities.

Chris White, head of the State Attorney's Office in Seminole County, said there had been no formal decision but it was likely Arce would be prosecuted as an adult.

Coleman said that during several hours of interviews Tuesday, the boy showed no remorse.

"It's like you're accusing him of not taking out the garbage,'' Coleman said. ''He just didn't seem to care."


Jonathan Arce



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