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Robert L. HENRY

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robbery
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: November 2, 1987
Date of arrest: Next day
Date of birth: May 1, 1958
Victims profile: Phyllis Harris, 53, and Janet Thermidor, 35 (store employees)
Method of murder: Hitting with a hammer - Threw a liquid on her and set her on fire
Location: Broward County, Florida, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on November 9, 1988. Executed by lethal injection in Florida on March 20, 2014
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Florida Supreme Court

 

opinion 73433

opinion SC03-1312

 
 
 
 
 
 

Killer who set 2 co-workers afire executed in Fla.

Robert Henry, 55, was pronounced dead Thursday evening at Florida State Prison.

USAtoday.com

March 20, 2014

STARKE, Fla. (AP) — A Florida man has been executed for killing two female co-workers by beating them with a hammer and setting them on fire during a robbery at a fabric store where they worked. One witness to the lethal injection Thursday blurted out "Die!" as the inmate read his last statement.

Robert L. Henry, 55, was pronounced dead at 6:16 p.m. Thursday after the chemical injection at the Florida State Prison. He was convicted of first-degree murder in the November 1987 deaths of Phyllis Harris, 53, and Janet Thermidor, 35, at the Deerfield Beach store. Authorities say about $1,200 was taken in the robbery.

Before the execution, Henry read a three-minute statement in which he apologized for his crimes and said he hoped his death would comfort the families of the victims. But he also criticized the death penalty, saying thieves don't get their hands amputated as punishment.

"Why would we continue to be murderers to those who have murdered?" he said.

Then, as he continued, an unidentified victim family member who was witnessing the execution said in a loud voice: "Die!" The comment wasn't audible through the thick glass partition separating witnesses from the chamber.

After the execution, Thermidor's sister, Deborah Knights, read a family statement.

"We will always cherish the memory of her life that was taken too soon by a demon from hell," she said. "Today should be closure, but how can you forget the brutal way in which two lives were taken without remorse?"

In the 1987 attack, Thermidor was still alive when authorities found her beaten and burned. She identified Henry as the attacker in a recorded statement before she died hours later.

Court records show Henry initially claimed the robbery was committed by three masked intruders who also abducted him, but later he confessed to acting alone. That confession was recorded.

"You talk about atrocious, heinous, cruel, vile or wicked," Broward County prosecutor Michael Satz told the jury that convicted Henry in 1988. "This is a case that nightmares are made of."

In addition to two counts of first-degree murder, Henry was convicted of armed robbery and arson.

According to trial testimony and Henry's own statements to police, Henry first approached Harris after the store had closed on Nov. 2, 1987, telling her unknown robbers had ordered him to tie her up and blindfold her. Henry led Harris to a restroom, bound her there, then went to the store's office where he hit Thermidor repeatedly on the head with hammer, doused her with a flammable liquid and set her on fire.

Henry then went back to the restroom and attacked Harris with the hammer, setting her ablaze, according to trial testimony.

Authorities responding to the fire found Harris dead but Thermidor still alive. Following her statement to investigators, Henry was arrested the next day.

 
 

Robert L. Henry

DC#   607497
DOB:   05/01/58

Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, Broward County Case # 87-18628 CF10A
Sentencing Judge: The Honorable Mark E. Polen
Trial Attorney: Bruce Raticoff
Attorney, Direct Appeal: Gary Caldwell – Assistant Public Defender
Attorney, Collateral Appeals: Rachel Day – CCRC-S

Date of Offense: 11/02/87

Date of Sentence: 11/09/88

Circumstances of the Offense:

On November 1, 1987, police and firefighters responded to a 9:30 p.m. call about a fire at a Deerfield Beach fabric store.  Once inside, they discovered Phyllis Harris and Janet Thermidor, two of the store’s employees. 

Harris was tied up in the men’s restroom and was found dead.  Thermidor was found on the floor of the women’s restroom and conscious even though she had a head wound and was burned on over 90 percent of her body. 

Thermidor told a police officer that the store’s maintenance man, Robert Henry, hit her on the head with a hammer after entering the office and then stole the store’s money. 

Henry momentarily left the office, but Thermidor recalls him returning to throw a liquid on her and then setting her on fire.  Thermidor stated that she fled to the restroom to try and extinguish the fire.  The following morning, Thermidor died.

Following Thermidor’s lead, the police located and arrested Henry on the morning of November 3rd.  Henry’s initial statement was that he was abducted by three strangers who subsequently robbed the store; however, Henry later made self-incriminating statements.

Trial Summary:

11/18/87          Defendant was indicted with the following:

Count I: First-Degree Murder                  
Count II: First-Degree Murder 
Count III: Robbery with a Deadly Weapon
Count IV: Arson with a Deadly Weapon 

09/29/88          Defendant was found guilty by the trial jury on all counts

10/06/88          The jury recommended Death for Count I by a vote of 8-4 and Count II by a vote of 9-3

11/09/88          Defendant was sentenced as follows:

Count I: First-Degree Murder - Death                           
Count II: First-Degree Murder - Death
Count III: Robbery with a Deadly Weapon – life sentence
Count IV: Arson with a Deadly Weapon – life sentence

Factors Contributing to the Delay in Imposition of Sentence:

The Direct Appeal took three years for a decision to be rendered.  During the Petition for Writ of Certiorari, the United States Supreme Court vacated the sentence and remanded the case to the Florida Supreme Court. The Circuit Court 3.850 took eight years prior to a decision being rendered.  The 3.850 motion was amended three times over the course of three years.  There were several changes in CCRC counsel and several evidentiary hearings.

Case Information:

A direct appeal was filed on 12/09/88. Issues that were raised included whether the trial court erred in not granting his motion to suppress all of Henry’s statements, and whether the trial court erred in not granting his motion to suppress Thermidor’s statement claiming that it did not qualify as a dying declaration. 

The Florida Supreme Court found all of the claims either without merit or harmless and affirmed the conviction and sentence of Death on 08/29/91.

A Petition for Writ of Certiorari was filed with the United States Supreme Court on 01/28/92 and granted on 06/29/92. The petition was granted based on Espinosa v. Florida (jury rendered advisory verdict in sentencing hearing after being instructed on invalid aggravating circumstances) and Sochor v. Florida (judge’s improper weighing in capital sentencing hearing of aggravating factor not supported by evidence). 

The rehearing was denied on 09/04/92 and remanded to the Florida Supreme Court. 

The Florida Supreme Court affirmed the conviction and sentence on 12/24/92.

A second Petition for Writ of Certiorari was filed on 08/09/93 and denied on 01/10/94.

A 3.850 motion was filed with the circuit court on 06/01/95 and was denied on 01/17/03. 

A 3.850 Appeal was filed with the Florida Supreme Court on 07/29/03, citing ineffective assistance of counsel.  On 05/25/06, the FSC affirmed the denial of the motion.    

A 3.853 Motion was filed in the Circuit Court on 09/30/03 and was dismissed on 01/05/04. 

A 3.853 Motion Appeal was filed with the Florida Supreme Court on 05/05/04 and was voluntarily dismissed on 04/10/06. 

A Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus was filed with the Florida Supreme Court on 06/28/04, citing ineffective assistance of counsel.  On 05/25/06, the FSC denied the petition.  

On 04/04/07, Henry filed a 3.853 motion, which was amended on 08/06/07.

Henry filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus on 09/10/07 in the United States District Court, Southern District.  This petition was amended on 10/04/07.

FloridaCapitalCases.state.fl.us

 

 

 
 
 
 
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