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Elmer Leon CARROLL





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Rape - Convicted child molester
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: October 30, 1990
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: August 19, 1956
Victim profile: Christine McGowan (female, 10)
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife
Location: Orange County, Florida, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on April 16, 1992. Executed by lethal injection on May 29, 2013

photo gallery


Florida Supreme Court

opinion 79829 opinion SC94611;SC00-46

The United States Court of Appeals
For the Eleventh Circuit

Elmer Leon Carroll v. Secretary, DOC, FL Attorney General

Elmer Carroll executed for murder of 10-year-old Orange County girl

By Susan Jacobson - Orlando Sentinel

May 29, 2013

His last appeal rejected by the Florida Supreme Court, Elmer Carroll died by lethal injection Wednesday for the 1990 murder of Christine McGowen, a 10-year-old girl from northwest Orange County.

Carroll, 56, died at 6:12 p.m. at Florida State Prison in Starke, the Florida Department of Corrections said.

Carroll declined to make a final statement, but Christine's mother, Julie McGowen, issued one: "Thank you to all that have worked so hard, and justice for all, namely, Christine McGowen. Rest in peace."

Carroll raped and strangled Christine in her bed Oct. 30, 1990 while her stepfather slept in another room and her mother was at work. The family lived next door to the halfway house where Carroll was staying after his release from prison.

He was convicted of lewd conduct with two other children before he met Christine.

At 10 a.m. Wednesday, Carroll ate a last meal of sunny-side-up eggs with bacon and sliced tomatoes, biscuits, avocados, a fruit salad of strawberries, papaya, peaches and pineapple and canned milk.

He had two visitors — death-penalty opponents Susan Cary, a lawyer, and Dale Recinella, a Catholic lay chaplain, author and lawyer.

Orange-Osceola State Attorney Jeff Ashton, who prosecuted the case, attended the execution.

"For me, it's completion," Ashton said.

At 5 p.m., the Catholic Diocese of Orlando held a service at St. James Cathedral to pray for the death penalty to be abolished.

"It's a destructive tool rather than a preventive tool," Bishop John Noonan told about 30 people assembled for the service.

Carroll was written up 20 times in more than 20 years on death row for prison infractions including attempted arson, possession of contraband and, in December, for making threats.


Elmer Carroll executed for 1990 Apopka murder

May 29, 2013

The man convicted of brutally raping and murdering a 10-year-old Apopka girl was executed Wednesday.

Elmer Carroll’s execution went as scheduled for the death of Christine McGowan in 1990. He was pronounced dead at 6:12 p.m. following an injection at the state penitentiary at Starke, Gov. Rick Scott's office said.

Catherine Mohr taught 10-year-old Christine McGowan math more than two decades ago.

"She was spunky and full of life," said Mohr.

In October 1990, McGowan was raped and killed by Elmer Carroll, who lived in a halfway house next door to her parents’ home.

To this day, the tragedy still haunts the 10-year-old’s teacher.

"I still pray for her daily because she is a part of my life because I taught her in one of my first years teaching," said Mohr.

Back in 1990, McGowan was a third grader at Lockhart Elementary school.

The case stunned entire community, especially the students in her class.

"Heartbreaking. Very difficult to go through the days and the motions," Mohr described.

Robin Wilkinson was a prosecutor who helped put Carroll behind bars.

She said the case was one she'll never forget.

"Justice is served for Christine. The death penalty is something that’s only for the worst of the worst but this is the type of case that deserves it," said Wilkinson.

More than two decades later, people close to McGowan and the case remember what happened.

"Even though this man is going to be executed, it does not erase that that child's life was taken from her," said Mohr.

In November 1990, Carroll was indicted on a count of first-degree murder and sexual battery for the rape and murder of 10-year-old Christine McGowan. The girl lived with her family next door to a halfway house for homeless men, where Carroll was staying in Apopka.

Carroll, who had been imprisoned twice for indecent assault on a child, had told one of his housemates that the girl was "cute, sweet and liked to watch him make boats," according to witness testimony at his trial.

Christine's stepfather found the girl dead in her bedroom, and his truck was missing. The truck was found a short time later and an officer came upon Carroll, who had blood on his sweatshirt and genitals, while traces of his semen, saliva and pubic hair were found on Christine, according to court records.

Carroll's lawyers employed the insanity defense at his trial, during which they and prosecutors presented conflicting testimony from psychiatrists about Carroll's mental competency. During his two decades on death row, Carroll's lawyers argued that he's too mentally ill to stand trial or be subjected to the death penalty.

Hours before Elmer Carroll was scheduled by die by lethal injection, the U.S. Supreme Court has denied a stay of execution for the man convicted of raping and strangling a young girl 22 years ago in Orange County.

The petition was the final attempt to stop Carroll's execution at Florida State Prison in Starke. The 56-year-old death row inmate's lawyers argued he should have been considered mentally ill at the time of the murder.

Carroll was served bacon and eggs for his last meal at 10 a.m., which included a whole sliced tomato, a fruit salad with strawberries, papaya, peaches, pineapple and tropical fruit, an avocado and a can of Carnation milk.

Carroll had two visitors Wednesday morning, a mitigation specialist and a Catholic priest. No family visited.


Execution looms for felon who raped, killed girl, 10

By Susan Jacobson - Orlando Sentinel

May 28, 2013

Nearly 23 years ago, 10-year-old Christine McGowen was raped and murdered in her bed by a sex offender who sneaked into her northwest Orange County home.

On Wednesday, 56-year-old Elmer Carroll, who killed the fifth-grader who loved hide-and-seek, Nintendo and writing stories, is scheduled to die by lethal injection.

It's a day that Christine's grandfather Richard Rank has been waiting for since the Oct. 30, 1990, killing.

"It's been 20-some years that our granddaughter could have enjoyed her life but didn't, so it's long overdue," Rank, 73, said from his home in northwest Georgia.

After the murder, Christine's mother, Julie Rank, and her husband, Robert Rank, moved to rural Alabama. They divorced after more than two decades of marriage, and Robert Rank now lives in North Dakota, where he drives a truck for an oil company.

Both plan to attend the execution.

So does Orange-Osceola State Attorney Jeff Ashton. He was one of two prosecutors on the case, and it remains vivid in his memory.

Hanging on the wall behind Ashton's desk is a framed photo of a bearded, handcuffed Carroll on April 16, 1992, the day Circuit Judge Belvin Perry sentenced him to death. Perry, now chief judge, then called the killing "savage and barbaric."

Carroll promised to "rise from the grave" to take vengeance on Ashton and co-counsel Robin Wilkinson after a jury took just an hour to unanimously vote for the death penalty.

"Elmer Carroll's a monster, and he always will be," Ashton said last week. "To feel no compassion or pity of any kind for this child, that is the very definition of a monster in my mind."

Carroll had a history of molesting children long before he met Christine.

In 1976 in Pasco County, he performed a lewd and lascivious act in the presence of a child younger than 14. He was sentenced Jan. 8, 1980, to six years and one day in prison for that felony and for aggravated assault.

But Carroll served only about 16 months. At the time, criminals were being released after serving about one-third of their sentences.

Carroll was arrested again in Pasco in November 1982 and sentenced Feb. 1, 1983, to 15 years for fondling a child younger than 15.

He was freed April 16, 1990 — 61/2 months before Christine's murder — after serving about half of his sentence.

"A little 10-year-old girl should not have to die in her bed by the hands of an animal," said Richard Rank, formerly of Sanford. "He was in prison twice before; they let him out early both times, and there was a warrant out for him when this happened."

Since Oct. 1, 1995, Florida inmates have been required to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences.

After his 1990 release, Carroll found a place to live at Lighthouse Mission, a halfway house for homeless people and convicts. Carroll's travel trailer sat about 50 feet from Christine's family's backyard, where she was playing with a friend the evening before she was killed.

Carroll had been laid off from his job as a laborer for a stucco company three weeks earlier. He started making and selling ships from twine and polished wood from discarded pallets.

At his trial, a mission resident testified that Carroll told him Christine was "cute, sweet and liked to watch him make boats," court documents show.

While Christine's stepfather slept and her mother was at work, Carroll broke into their house near Apopka Boulevard and Orange Blossom Trail and attacked the Lockhart Elementary School student. He placed his hand over her nose and mouth to quiet her, raped her and strangled her, Ashton told the jury, calling him a "boogeyman."

DNA, hair and blood tied Carroll to the crime.

Robert Rank found his stepdaughter dead at about 6 a.m. when he went to wake her for school.

Carroll stole Rank's work pickup and stopped for coffee at a 7-Eleven before ditching the truck and getting caught while walking in Bithlo. The keys to the truck and a box cutter were in his pocket.

He was sentenced to death for the murder, life for the rape and 15 years for breaking into the home of an ex-girlfriend four months earlier and beating her new boyfriend with a beer bottle.

A jury in November 1995 awarded Christine's estate $1.5 million in a lawsuit against Lighthouse Mission and its founder, but the Fifth District Court of Appeal overturned the verdict a year later. The court ruled that the mission had no control over Carroll, whom the judges said was merely a tenant.

Though no one will pay monetarily for the crime, Richard Rank said he hopes the execution will bring some sense of peace.

For Ashton, it's the rightful punishment for a heinous act.

"It's justice being carried out," he said.


Elmer Leon Carroll

DC #835908
DOB: 08/19/56

Ninth Judicial Circuit, Orange County, Case #90-12464
Sentencing Judge: The Honorable Belvin Perry
Trial Attorney: James E. Taylor, Esq. – Private
Attorneys, Direct Appeal: J. Wulchak & C. Quarles – Assistant Public Defenders
Attorney, Collateral Appeals: Michael P. Reiter, Esq. – Registry

Date of Offense: 10/30/90

Date of Sentence: 04/16/92

Circumstances of Offense:

Elmer Carroll was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of 10-year-old Christine McGowan on 10/30/90.

Robert Rank attempted to wake his stepdaughter, Christine McGowan, on the morning of 10/30/90 and, when she did not answer his calls, Rank went to McGowan’s room.  He noticed her door, which was open the night before, was closed.  Upon entering the room, Rank discovered McGowan face down on the bed. 

She had blood between her legs and her body was cold to the touch.  Rank then noticed that the front door was slightly open and his construction truck was missing.  Police investigators at the scene determined that McGowan had been raped and strangled to death, and issued a bulletin regarding the stolen construction truck.

Upon hearing a radio bulletin regarding the stolen construction truck, Debbie Hyatt notified police that she remembered seeing the abandoned truck and a man, later identified as Elmer Carroll, walking easterly away from the truck.  As a result of Hyatt’s tip, Carroll was arrested.  When law enforcement officers searched Carroll for weapons, they found a box cutter and the keys to the stolen construction truck.

Information presented at trial revealed that Carroll was a resident of the halfway house located next door to the victim’s home and that Carroll had remarked to other residents about the “cute” girl next door.  DNA evidence recovered from the scene matched Carroll’s saliva, semen and pubic hair, and after his arrest, blood was found on Carroll’s sweatshirt and penis.

Trial Summary:

10/30/90          Defendant arrested.

11/26/90          Defendant indicted on:

Count I:           First-Degree Murder

Count II:          Sexual Battery W/ Victim Under 12

04/13/92          The jury found the defendant guilty on both counts.

04/13/92          Upon advisory sentencing, the jury, by a 12 to 0 majority, voted for the death penalty.

04/16/92          The defendant was sentenced as followed:

Count I:           First-Degree Murder – Death

Count II:          Sexual Battery W/ Victim Under 12 – Life

Appeal Summary:

Florida Supreme Court – Direct Appeal

FSC #79,829

636 So. 2d 1316

05/07/92          Appeal filed.

04/14/94          FSC affirmed the convictions and sentence of death.

06/09/94          Rehearing denied.

07/11/94          Mandate issued.

United States Supreme Court – Petition for Writ of Certiorari

USSC #94-6014

513 U.S. 973

09/07/94          Petition filed.

10/31/94          Petition denied.

State Circuit Court – 3.850 Motion

CC #90-12464

02/01/96          Motion filed.

10/20/98          Motion denied.

Florida Supreme Court – 3.850 Appeal

FSC #94,611

815 So.2d 601

12/31/98          Appeal filed.

03/07/02          Decision affirmed.

04/19/02          Rehearing denied.

05/20/02          Mandate issued.

Florida Supreme Court – Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus

FSC #SC00-46

815 So.2d 601

01/10/00          Petition filed.

03/07/02          Petition denied.

04/19/02          Rehearing denied.

05/20/02          Mandate issued.

State Circuit Court – 3.850 Motion

CC #90-12464

04/22/03          Motion filed.

01/12/04          Motion denied.

Florida Supreme Court – 3.850 Appeal

FSC #SC04-192

904 So. 2d 430

02/09/04          Appeal filed.

05/12/05          FSC affirmed the denial of the Motion.

United States District Court, Middle District – Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus

USDC# 05-857

06/08/05          Petition filed.

06/20/08          Petition denied.

United States Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit – Habeas Appeal

USDC# 08-14317

12/04/08          Appeal filed.

07/17/09          USCA affirmed the denial of the Petition.

United States Supreme Court – Petition for Writ of Certiorari

USSC# 09-6134

130 S.Ct. 500

08/24/09          Petition filed.

11/02/09          Petition denied.

Factors Contributing to the Delay in the Imposition of the Sentence:

In December 1994, Carroll was granted a time extension in filing a Motion to Vacate Judgment and Sentence (3.850) until February 1, 1996.  Statutorily, a defendant has one year from the rehearing denial date in which to file a 3.850 Motion.  With his motion for rehearing denied on 06/09/94, the time lapse between filing was approximately one year and seven months.  Other than the filing extension, there have been no unreasonable delays at this time.

Case Information:

Carroll filed a Direct Appeal in the Florida Supreme Court on 05/07/92.  In that appeal, Carroll alleged that the keys that linked him to Rank’s construction truck should have been suppressed as evidence because they were found as a result of an illegal arrest.  Next, Carroll contended that testimony of one of the deputies unfairly and prejudicially commented on his refusal to testify, and he also argued several improper questions asked of a psychiatrist on cross-examination by the prosecutor.  In reference to the penalty phase of the trial, Carroll argued the application of the heinous, atrocious, and cruel (HAC) aggravating factor and that the trial court erred in failing to consider certain statutory mitigating evidence.  The Florida Supreme Court affirmed the convictions and sentence of death on 04/14/94.

Subsequently, Carroll filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari in the United States Supreme Court, which was denied on 10/31/94.

On 02/01/96, Carroll filed a Motion to Vacate Judgment and Sentence (3.850) in the State Circuit Court.  That motion was denied on 10/20/98, after which Carroll filed an appeal in the Florida Supreme Court on 12/31/98, which was denied on 03/07/02.

Carroll also filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus in the Florida Supreme Court on 01/10/00, which was denied on 03/07/02.

On 4/22/03, Carroll filed another 3.850 Motion in the State Circuit Court that was denied on 01/12/04.  Carroll filed an appeal of that decision in the Florida Supreme Court on 02/09/04.  On 05/12/05, the FSC affirmed the denial of the Motion.

Carroll filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus with the U.S. District Court, Middle District, on 06/08/05 that was denied on 06/20/08.

On 12/04/08, Carroll filed a Habeas Appeal with the United States Court of Appeals. The United States Court of Appeals affirmed the lower courts disposition and denied the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus.

On 08/24/09, Carroll filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari with the United States Supreme Court that was denied on 11/02/09.


Elmer Leon Carroll



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