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William Bryan CRUSE Jr.

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Spree killer
Characteristics: Shooting rampage at two shopping centers
Number of victims: 6
Date of murders: April 23, 1987
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: November 21, 1927
Victims profile: Emad Mohamiad Al-Tawakuly, 18 / Nabil Abdul Al-Hameli, 25 / Officer Gerald Douglas Johnson, 28 / Officer Ronald Midgely Grogan, 27 / Ruth Greene, 67 / Lester Watson, 51
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Palm Bay, Florida, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on July 28, 1989
 
 

 

Florida Supreme Court

 
opinion 74656
 
 

 
 

When he felt the taunting of two kids outside his door was too much. Cruse grabbed three guns and went after them.

In court Cruse claimed not to remember the rampage. Currently on Death Row.


William Cruse

Retired librarian and delusional paranoiac William Cruse always thought his Palm Bay, Florida, neighbors thought that he was gay. He felt that the clerks at the local supermarket gossiped about him everytime he went shopping. He also felt that the neighborhood kids enjoyed taunting him and tresspassing into his property.

Not the easiest going person in the world, 60-year-old Billy would scream obcenities and shoot his rifle in the air to warn of any tresspassers. Things turned from bad to worse on April, 1987, when two young boys accused him of making obcene remarks and sexually provocative gestures.

When he was taken in by the police for questioning, Cruse told them that a man had stuck his tongue at him in the store. That, he reasoned, "was his way of saying I was queer." Obviously uncomfortable with his sexuality, Cruse was a timebomb ready to explode.

For Cruse the shit hit the proverbial fan at around 6 p.m. on April 23, 1987, when he felt the taunting of two kids outside his door was too much. Cruse grabbed three guns and went after them. He shot an innocent bystander -- a 14-year-old kid who was playing basketball in his drivewave accross the street -- jumped into his white Toyota and headed for the nearest Publix supermarket.

He killed three people in the parking lot, two Kuwaiti students and a woman, but was unable to get into the store to kill more. Cruse got back into his car and headed for the nearby Winn-Dixie supermarket. As he started firing at the store, a cop arrived at the scene. Cruse sprayed the patrol car with seven rounds mortally wounding the officer.

A second officer unloaded his weapon on Cruse without hitting him. Cruse, on the other hand, first hit him on the leg before finishing him off as the frantic officer desperately tried to reload his weapon.

On a roll, Cruse proceeded into the supermarket shooting at anyone he saw. By the time he was done, Cruse had killed six people and wounded ten others.

As police surrounded the store he took a 21-year-old woman hostage who he found hiding in the women's restroom. After six-hour siege, he let her go. A little later police swarmed into the store and arrested him.


'Shooting at anything in sight,' gunman kills 6 in Florida spree

The Phoenix Gazette

April 24, 1987

A gunman ''shooting at anything in sight'' killed six people in a rampage at two shopping centers before police fired tear gas into the store where he held three hostages early today and wrestled him to the ground, authorities said.

At least 14 people were injured, two critically, and the hostages were freed unharmed, police said. Police initially said three people were found huddled unhurt in a refrigerated storeroom, but later it was not certain of their number or location.


Gunman kills 6 and injures 14 in 7 1/2-hour rampage at stores

San Jose Mercury News

April 24, 1987

A gunman "shooting at anything in sight" killed six people in a rampage at two shopping centers before police fired tear gas into the store where he had held three hostages early today and wrestled him to the ground, authorities said.

At least 14 other people were injured, two critically, but the hostages were freed unharmed, police said. The dead included two police officers.


Suspect in Florida shootings tormented and tormenting

Palm Bay, Fla., April 24, 1997

Everybody on William B. Cruse’s block knew he had a rifle.

He fired it in the air when children tiptoed across his lawn. He aimed it at neighbors when they drove home from work and the police say the 60-year-old unemployed loner used it Thursday night on a shooting rampage that killed six people, including two police officers, and wounded 10 others. Mr. Cruse was charged today with six counts of murder as witnesses described the violent outburst that punctured the evening bustle at two local shopping centers.

As residents struggled to make sense of the shootings they described Mr. Cruse both as a tormentor in the neighborhood and as a man tormented. They said he yelled at youngsters, but added that the children often provoked him with taunts or pranks that seemed designed to trip his hair-trigger temper.

Gray Ammunition Bag

They said he did his best to seem menacing, and some neighbors said they had signed a petition stating he was dangerous. Others said that until Thursday, when he walked out of his house with a gray ammunition bag slung over his shoulder and opened fire, they had not understood how menacing he really was. His aloof and gruff nature fit their image of a neighborhood curmudgeon, someone to be avoided, not hated.

"I make sure my kid doesn’t go on his lawn," said Trish Hebert, who lives across the street from Mr. Cruse’s bungalow. "Nobody is friends with him. We are acquaintances by virtue of location."

According to witnesses, the rampage Thursday night began when Mr. Cruse came out of his house and fired shots at teen-agers in a driveway across the street and at an old blue Chrysler that was parked there. Mr. Cruse then drove less than a mile away and began shooting wildly while circling two shopping centers in his Toyota. After killing six people, the police said, Mr. Cruse took hostages and barricaded himself in a store. He was captured after the police moved in behind tear gas and a stun grenade.

Although his neighbors had became acquainted with Mr. Cruse’s temper and his solitary ways, no one knew a great deal about him.

Mr. Cruse moved to this fast-growing town on Florida’s central Atlantic Coast, south of Cape Canaveral, about two years ago. If he ever said whether he was retired or unemployed, no one remembered the occasion today.

A Farm in Kentucky

While Mr. Cruse and his wife, Millie, were unpacking and settling into their redwood-trimmed bungalow, neighbors saw the license plates on the couple’s car and speculated that they had come from Kentucky. When a neighbor with relatives in Kentucky asked him about the license plates, Mr. Cruse said his grandfather had owned a farm in Kentucky. But he offered no details.

Except for Mr. Cruse’s skirmishes with children who tried to use his lawn as a shortcut, the couple kept to themselves. At some point – no one is sure when or how – neighbors learned that Mrs. Cruse was seriously ill. Today. Neighbors disagreed on whether she had Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease.

Petition Had Sought Help

Although children often taunted Mr. Cruse, Ron Stearn, who filed a complaint with the police about Mr. Cruse on April 17, said the white-haired man always uttered the first insult. "It was always him saying something and them responding," Mr. Stearn said.

Last fall, some neighbors signed a petition that said he was dangerous and asked the authorities to help him. Others called the police when he drove after their children in his car.

More recently, neighbors said he had brought out the rifle at least twice. The police say they do not know where he obtained the gun, a .223-caliber semiautomatic weapon that fires the same kind of ammunition as the Army’s M-16 rifle. Each time he appeared at the door with the weapon, neighbors said, he yelled, "Get off my land."

Near the house today neighbors stood on the sidewalk, trading stories about Mr. Cruse. "Me and a couple of friends were just walking home from another guy’s house when he shot," said Derek Suarez, 16 years old. "We used to just sit on our porch and he would run over and yell at us."

Adults said he was not much friendlier to them than he was with the children. Ray Carter, a 39-year-old construction worker, said Mr. Cruse had aimed the rifle in his direction one evening when a co-worker dropped him off across the street from the Cruses’ house.

"He pointed it right at us." Mr. Carter said, adding that Mr. Cruse had yelled, "You made me lose my job. I’ll get you for this."

Mr. Cruse did not shot, and Mr. Carter did not call the police. "I figured somebody else would," he said. "I was going to go back down there, but when I told my girlfriend, she said to just leave him alone, and I did."

Mr. Stearn said he called the police after Mr. Cruse chased his 6-year-old son Michael up the street on April 17. Mr. Cruse made lewd remarks to the boy, Mr. Stearn said. He said the officer who investigated his complaint left to interview Mr. Cruse and returned later, warning Mr. Stearn to keep his son away.

Mr. Stearn complained that no officer followed up on the case. The Palm Bay Police Chief, Chuck Simmons, said it was a "minor matter" and that no follow-up had been warranted.


Neighbors knew of simmering rage

Philadelphia Inquirer

April 25, 1987

Just before William Bryan Cruse set out on a deadly shooting spree at the local shopping mall, he had a quiet dinner with his wife, washed the dishes and put them away.

The tranquil domestic scene ended abruptly soon after the dishes were done, however, as Cruse exploded in anger at a neighborhood child who had cut across his lawn. Grabbing for a shotgun, he charged out the door in pursuit.


Like father, like son?

Alleged Fla. cunman's dad served time for shooting rapage

Philadelphia Daily News

April 25, 1987

The gunman accused of slaughtering six people in this coastal city was a college-educated former librarian from Kentucky whose alcoholic father was jailed for a shooting into a prosecutor's house, it was reported today.

William Bryan Cruse, who was charged yesterday with six counts of murder in a shooting rampage at two shopping centers, had been convicted of assault in 1978, said police in Lexington, Ky.


Typical evening turned into a night of terror

Lexington Herald-Leader

April 25, 1987

PALM BAY, Fla. -- It was an ordinary evening at an ordinary intersection, and they were all doing such ordinary things: meeting a girlfriend, grabbing a slice of pizza, pushing a shopping cart through the Publix or the Winn Dixie.

And then, the madness: Screams and shots, chaos and panic, blood and death. When it was over, six people were dead, 14 wounded, and scores forever branded by more than seven hours of terror.


Mass murderer has violent past considered 'crazy' by neighbors

The Phoenix Gazette

April 25, 1987

A man accused of murdering six people in a shooting rampage at two shopping centers is a sullen loner with a hair-trigger temper who fired shots in the air when youngsters walked in his yard, neighbors say.

''The kids were all afraid of him,'' said Eucal Grant, 68, who lived three doors from William Bryan Cruse. ''I considered him off his head -- crazy. He just acted crazy. No one talked to him, not even his next-door neighbors.''


Shooting suspect says he doesn't recall shopping center rapage

San Jose Mercury News

April 25, 1987

A retired librarian with thinning gray hair and stooped shoulders told police Friday he has no memory of shooting to death six people and wounding 14 during a rampage through two Palm Bay shopping centers, investigators said.

''I don't remember hurting anybody," William Cruse, 59, told detectives questioning him about the bloody seven-hour siege that ended at 2 a.m. Friday with his capture, sources said.


Hostahe tells of aid to gunman

Philadelphia Inquirer

April 25, 1987

A 21-year-old woman held hostage for six hours during a massacre in Florida says she wiped blood from the gunman's hands, helped him smash store lights and fed him potato chips in an effort to stay alive.

"I tried to get him to surrender. I stopped him from killing himself and from killing me," Robin Brown, a survivor of the shooting spree in Palm Bay, Fla., said in an interview published yesterday in the New York Post.


Homosexuality fears blamed in massacre

The Arizona Republic

May 2, 1987

William Bryan Cruse, the retired Kentucky librarian accused of killing six people and wounding 12 others in a supermarket massacre, appeared obsessed with perceived accusations of homosexuality, it was reported Friday.

''He believed everybody thought he was homosexual,'' an anonymous source described as close to the investigation was quoted in the Orlando Sentinel as saying.


Police widows sue

San Jose Mercury News

May 9, 1987

The widows of two police officers killed in the Palm Bay, Fla., shooting spree have filed the first civil suits against William Cruse, accused of killing six people in a 7 1/2-hour siege at two shopping centers. Ella Story Johnson, 23, and Laura Lorenzo Grogan, 25, seek awards of more than $10,000 in the suits. Officers Gerald Johnson, 28, and Ronald Grogan, 27, and four other people were killed in the April 23 shoot-out.


Two years later, trial begins for 6 shopping mall killings

The Miami Herald

March 5, 1989

The second phase of the twisted legal journey of accused Palm Bay shopping center gunman William B. Cruse starts Monday in a Bartow, Fla., courtroom.

It has been almost two years since the former Kentucky librarian is accused of a shooting spree April 23, 1987 in a crowded shopping center parking lot, killing six people, including two Palm Bay police officers.


Killer gets death -- and 103 years

San Jose Mercury News

July 28, 1989

Retired librarian William Bryan Cruse received two death sentences today for his shooting rampage at two shopping plazas that left six people dead and 10 wounded.

Circuit Judge John Antoon sentenced the 61-year-old Cruse to the electric chair in the shooting deaths of two police officers who tried to halt the 1987 massacre in nearby Palm Bay, a central Florida coastal city.


Shopping mall killer who shot

30 people in '87 renews appeal

The Miami Herald

August 23, 1996

Lawyers are again trying to prove that William Cruse, who killed six people and wounded 24 in a prolonged shooting spree at a Palm Bay shopping mall, is mentally unstable.


CRUSE, William Jr. (W/M)

DC# 117051
DOB: 11/21/27

Eighteenth Judicial Circuit, Brevard County, Case #87-1763
Sentencing Judge: The Honorable John Antoon II 
Trial Attorneys: Marlene Alva & Paul Arlt - Assistant Public Defenders   
Attorney, Direct Appeal: James Wulchak - Assistant Public Defender 
Attorney, Collateral Appeals: Linda McDermott, Registry

Date of Offense:           04/23/87     

Date of Sentence:         07/28/89

Circumstances of Offense:

William Cruse was convicted of six murders, resulting in two death sentences for a killing spree he ignited on 04/23/87.

Prior to the day of the killings, Cruse obtained a semiautomatic assault rifle and approximately 200 rounds of ammunition.  On 04/23/87, he loaded the assault rifle, a shotgun, and a pistol into his car and headed in the direction of Palm Bay Shopping Center.  Cruse stopped at his neighbor’s house, the Rich residence, and opened fire, striking 14 year-old John Rich, IV, who was playing basketball outside his home.  John’s family rushed outside when they heard the gunshots, and Cruse fired at them as well. 

Cruse continued to the Publix grocery store in the Palm Bay Shopping Center, where he gathered his firearms and ammunition, and approached the entrance to the store.  Cruse shot and killed Nabil Al-Hameli and Emad Al-Tawakuly as they exited the Publix, and wounded their friend Faisel Al-Mutairi.  Cruse wounded Eric Messerbauer and Douglas Pollack in a spray of bullets, and he killed Ruth Green, who was shot as she pulled her car into the parking lot of the shopping center.  Cruse then walked over to the bodies of Al-Hameli and Al-Tawakuly, who were lying on the ground, and shot them again. 

As authorities approached the scene, Cruse drove over to the Sabal Palm Shopping Center, where he again opened fire on the customers of the Winn Dixie grocery store.  Cruse reloaded the rifle and fired numerous shots into Officer Ronald Grogan’s police car as he approached, killing him.

Officer Gerald Johnson was the next officer on the scene.  Cruse targeted him, wounding him in the leg.  As Johnson scrambled for cover, Cruse followed him into the parking lot.  Cruse stalked the wounded officer and shot him several more times, killing him.  Cruse also fired at the rescue team who were attempting to help the fallen officers.

Cruse then went into the Winn Dixie, and hunted down a stream of people who were attempting to escape through the back door of the grocery store.  He began firing, wounding many people, and killing Lester Watson with a shot to the back.

Cruse re-entered the Winn Dixie and found Judy Larson and Robin Brown hiding in the women’s restroom.  Cruse released Larson with orders to tell the police to turn off the lights, while he held Brown hostage in the store.  Cruse tried to negotiate with police to bring his car around and let him to leave Brevard County.  If they agreed, he would then allow police to kill him.  Cruse released Brown several hours later, at which time police fired tear gas and stun grenades into the store.  Cruse was arrested when he was forced to leave the store.

Additional Information: 

At trial, Cruse pled not guilty by reason of insanity.  He claimed to suffer from delusions that people were talking about him, trying to test his sexuality and attempting to turn him into a homosexual.

On 03/20/02, Cruse was found mentally incompetent to proceed in his postconviction relief.

Cruse had no prior incarceration history in the state of Florida.

*****

Trial Summary:

04/24/87          Defendant arrested.

05/03/87          The defendant was indicted as followed:

Count I: First-Degree Murder – Al-Hameli
Count II: First-Degree Murder – Al-Tawakuly
Count III: First-Degree Murder – Green
Count IV: First-Degree Murder – Grogan
Count V: First-Degree Murder – Johnson
Count VI: First-Degree Murder – Watson
Count VII: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count VIII: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count IX: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count X: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XI: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XII: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XIII:Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XIV: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XV: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XVI: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XVII: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XVIII: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XIX: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XX: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XXI: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XXII: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XXIII:Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XXIV: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XXV: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XXVI: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XXVII: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XXVIII: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XXIX: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XXX: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XXXI: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XXXII: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XXXIII: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XXXIV: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XXXV: Kidnapping
Count XXXVI: Kidnapping

01/11/88          Notice of intent to rely on the insanity defense.

12/19/88          Motion for change of venue granted and the case was transferred to Polk County.

04/05/89          The jury found the defendant guilty on the following counts:

Count I: First-Degree Murder – Al-Hameli
Count II: First-Degree Murder – Al-Tawakuly
Count III: First-Degree Murder – Green
Count IV: First-Degree Murder – Grogan
Count V: First-Degree Murder – Johnson
Count VI: First-Degree Murder – Watson
Count VII: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count VIII: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count IX: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count X: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XI: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XII: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XIII: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XIV: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XV: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XVI: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XVII: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XVIII: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XIX: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XX: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XXI: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XXII: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XXIII: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XXV: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XXVII: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XXIX: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XXX: Attempted Second-Degree Murde
Count XXXI: Attempted Second-Degree Murder
Count XXXIII: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XXXIV: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count XXXV: False Imprisonment
Count XXXVI: Kidnapping

04/25/89          Upon advisory sentencing, the jury voted by the following counts:

Count I:    Murder – Al-Hameli                 11 to 1 - Death
Count II:   Murder – Al-Tawakuly             11 to 1 - Death
Count III: Murder – Green                      10 to 2 - Death
Count IV:  Murder – Grogan                    11 to 1 - Death
Count V:   Murder – Johnson                   12 to 0 - Death
Count VI:  Murder – Watson                    11 to 1 – Death

07/28/89          The defendant was sentenced as followed:

Count I: First-Degree Murder – Al-Hameli - Life
Count II: First-Degree Murder – Al-Tawakuly - Life
Count III: First-Degree Murder – Green - Life
Count IV: First-Degree Murder – Grogan - Death
Count V: First-Degree Murder – Johnson - Death
Count VI: First-Degree Murder – Watson - Life
Count VII: Attempted First-Degree Murder - Life
Count VIII: Attempted First-Degree Murder - Life
Count IX: Attempted First-Degree Murder - Life
Count X: Attempted First-Degree Murder - Life
Count XI: Attempted First-Degree Murder - Life
Count XII: Attempted First-Degree Murder - Life
Count XIII: Attempted First-Degree Murder - Life
Count XIV: Attempted First-Degree Murder - Life
Count XV: Attempted First-Degree Murder - Life
Count XVI: Attempted First-Degree Murder - Life
Count XVII: Attempted First-Degree Murder - Life
Count XVIII: Attempted First-Degree Murder - Life
Count XIX: Attempted First-Degree Murder - Life
Count XX: Attempted First-Degree Murder - Life
Count XXI: Attempted First-Degree Murder - Life
Count XXII: Attempted First-Degree Murder - Life
Count XXIII: Attempted First-Degree Murder - Life
Count XXV: Attempted First-Degree Murder - Life
Count XXVII: Attempted First-Degree Murder - Life
Count XXIX: Attempted First-Degree Murder - Life
Count XXX: Attempted Second-Degree Murder – 30 year
Count XXXI: Attempted Second-Degree Murder – 30 years
Count XXXIII: Attempted First-Degree Murder - Life
Count XXXIV: Attempted First-Degree Murder - Life
Count XXXV: False Imprisonment – 15 years
Count XXXVI: Kidnapping - Life

*****

Case Information:

Cruse filed a Direct Appeal in the Florida Supreme Court on 09/01/89.  In that appeal, he argued that the State committed a Bradyviolation when it withheld psychiatric information and that the trial court erred in failing to allow the cross-examination of a State’s expert.  Cruse also claimed the trial judge gave an improper insanity instruction and that the trial court erred in failing to allow him to present surrebuttal evidence.  In regard to the penalty phase, Cruse argued the application of certain aggravating factors.  The Florida Supreme Court rejected Cruse’s arguments and affirmed the convictions and death sentences on 10/24/91.

Next Cruse filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari in the United States Supreme Court, which was denied on 06/08/92.

He filed a 3.850 Motion on 08/25/93, which is currently pending in the State Circuit Court.  On 03/20/02, Cruse was found incompetent to proceed in his postconviction relief efforts.  No disposition was ever reached on his 3.850 Motion.

FloridaCapitalCases.state.fl.us


Anger Remains 20 Years After Cruse's Rampage

William Cruse, 80, Not Likely To Be Executed

Local6.com

April 23, 2007

PALM BAY, Fla. Twenty years ago Monday, William Byran Cruse killed six people and wounded 14 others during a shooting spree in Palm Bay. Two years later, he was sentenced to death.

But as Cruse, the oldest person on Florida's death row, turns 80 this year, officials say it's unlikely he'll be executed before his natural life ends, Local 6 News partner Florida Today reported.

Despite an insanity defense at trial, it wasn't until five years ago that the courts declared him incompetent, which stalled his execution.

"You can see he's a madman," said State Attorney Norman Wolfinger, who prosecuted Cruse in 1989. "Whether or not he will ever be competent to be executed is questionable. Certainly I have my doubts that we will ever get to that point."

That likelihood angers some, who think Cruse has lived too long since his murderous rampage on April 23, 1987.

"Don't have a death penalty if you're not going to use it," said Satellite Beach resident Ronald Grogan Sr., whose son was one of two Palm Bay police officers killed by Cruse.

"The system is not doing what it's supposed to do," he said. "When he was sent to prison, he wasn't like he is now. But if you leave somebody in there for 20 years, anyone is going to go bats."

But others, including the woman the killer took as a hostage, believe Cruse was insane from the start.

"If he's not going to be executed, then it's a crying shame that he wasn't found insane and hospitalized for the last 20 years," said Robin Mucha, who still lives in Brevard.

Also adding to the possibility that Cruse's execution won't go forward: a moratorium imposed on the Florida death penalty late last year because of complications with an execution. The governor's office is reviewing a report issued in March, and a decision is expected soon.

Nightmare Begins

Late that Thursday afternoon 20 years ago, Cruse, a 59-year-old retired librarian, stormed out of his home on Palm Bay's Creel Road to confront teens bouncing a basketball in a neighbor's driveway. He was holding a shotgun.

Police said he had run-ins with them before, and he fired and wounded a 14-year-old boy. Then Cruse went back inside and retrieved an assault rifle. He continued to fire shots at his neighbors' homes as he drove away.

Cruse took his white Toyota Tercel to the corner of Palm Bay Road and Babcock Street, where he opened fire on two Florida Tech students, killing both. Two other men were shot and injured as well.

Cruse then drove his car farther south. There he shot and killed 67-year-old Ruth Greene, who was leaving the Publix Supermarket. Cruse drove across Babcock and stopped at Winn-Dixie.

Officer Gerry Johnson arrived at the store and was shot in the leg. He emptied his revolver at Cruse, but missed.

Johnson scrambled from his car and tried to reload. Cruse stalked after him and shot him in the head.

In the weeks before he snapped, police would learn that Cruse was taunted by neighborhood children and often argued with them. There was an indecency report filed, and Cruse, who hated homosexuals, later would tell investigators that Publix employees thought he was gay.

'A Little Shootout'

Just before he killed the officer, Cruse took aim at Ruben Torres, a 39-year-old mailman at the time, who had stopped at Winn-Dixie to buy shrimp for dinner. When Torres went to the front of the store to pay, he saw employees and other customers on the floor and Cruse in the parking lot.

"I looked toward the glass doors, and I guess William Cruse saw me because he shot at me right through the doors and everything I had in my hand went flying," Torres recalled. "After that I crawled up to the window and saw him walking across the parking lot. I don't know where I got the strength from, but I took the doors off the track and got out of the store."

As Cruse killed Johnson, Torres ran to his car and ducked.

"I got my gun out of my glove compartment and we started a little shootout," he said. "I was shooting at him and he was shooting at me."

When Torres' went back to his car for more ammunition, a police officer stopped him, thinking he was a second gunman.

Originally criticized, Torres since has been credited with distracting Cruse, which allowed people to escape from Winn-Dixie. He still has the nickel-plated, silver-handled pistol he used that night.

"Nobody ever called me a hero, they called me a vigilante," he said.

Tear Gas Ends Siege

When Officer Ron Grogan arrived at the scene, Cruse shot eight times through the windshield, killing him. The officer had been married only two months.

Cruse then ran into Winn-Dixie, firing at people fleeing through a back exit. He shot 52-year-old Lester Watson in the back.

Forty-five minutes after firing shots at his neighbors, Cruse found two women hiding in the restroom. One he let go; the other, Robin Mucha, would become his hostage.

The siege ended six hours later when Cruse released Mucha and came out soon after, as tear-gas canisters were shot into the store.

Cruse's defense from Day One was insanity -- something that Wolfinger, in the last case he prosecuted himself before a jury, and his staff worked hard to dispel.

"It was obvious that there's something wrong and that he wasn't operating on all cylinders, but that's not insanity," Wolfinger said.

Cruse's next competency hearing is scheduled for July.

No Visitors In Years

During his 18 years on death row, Cruse has spent 23 hours a day in his cell, said Gretl Plessinger, Florida Department of Corrections spokeswoman. He is allowed a shower every other day.

She said Cruse has had no visitors in years. His parents are listed as dead, and his wife returned to her native Turkey after the killings. She suffered from Parkinson's disease.

Cruse's sister in Kentucky, where he grew up and spent most of his adult life, has not visited. He moved to Brevard in 1985.

Cruse has well surpassed the average length of stay for death row inmates of nearly 13 years and he was older than the average age of a death row inmate -- 44 -- when he was convicted in 1989.

Carolyn Snurkowski, spokeswoman for the state attorney general, said execution is still a possibility.

"We have had individuals before who need help and get hospitalized and then go back to being on death row," she said.

Police Frustrated

Uniformed police officers in Palm Bay wear a blue ribbon with the names of the two fallen officers, credited with saving dozens of lives that night.

"It's a sad state for our society that you have a person seen by over 100 people commit this crime," said Palm Bay Deputy Chief Doug Muldoon, who was an officer at the crime scene. "Here we are 20 years later, you have family members that have been deceased that never saw justice done."

Capt. Doug Dechenne, the lead negotiator for Palm Bay's SWAT Team that night, takes his frustration a step further.

"I think we'd all agree that there are persons who have committed such heinous crimes that they no longer deserve to live amongst us," he said. "Cruse is one of those that justice will be served if and when he is put to death. I would put my name up to be the one that pushes the button."



William B. Cruse Jr. at his trial.

 

William B. Cruse Jr. death row

 

 

 
 
 
 
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