Sixteenth Judicial Circuit,
Monroe County Case# 96-30167-CF
Sentencing Judge: The Honorable
Mark H. Jones
Trial Attorney: Jason Smith –
Attorney, Direct Appeal: Maria
E. Lauredo – Assistant Public Defender
Attorneys, Collateral Appeals:
Terri Backhus, Christina Spudeas &
Linda Mroz – CCRC-S
Date of Offense: 08/22/91
Date of Sentence: 03/18/99
Circumstances of the Offense:
On 08/22/91, the bodies of Susan
and Michael MacIvor were found in their home in Tavernier Key by
concerned neighbors and coworkers. Ms. MacIvor was eight months
When law enforcement searched
their house, they found Mr. MacIvor’s body in the living room. The room
appeared as if a struggle had taken place. Mr. MacIvor was dressed in a
T-shirt and his underwear. His head was covered with masking tape so
that only part of his nose was exposed. There was a blood spot on the
shoulder of the T-shirt. The body displayed slight bleeding from the
nostrils, and there was evidence of bruising on the neck.
Ms. MacIvor’s body was found in
the master bedroom. Her body was on the bed on top of the comforter. She
was completely naked. Her ankles were bound with a belt, masking tape
and a piece of clothesline rope. Her wrists were bound with a belt, and
there was a belt linking her ankles to her wrists.
A garrote made of a
necktie and a black sash had been tied around her neck. A dresser drawer
was open in the bedroom that led to the officers to conclude that the
articles that were used to secure Ms. MacIvor belonged to the victims.
Ms. MacIvor’s eyes were covered with masking tape.
Several items were
found under the comforter: items that appeared to have come from Ms.
MacIvor’s purse as well as her nightshirt and panties. Ms. MacIvor’s
nightshirt had been ripped off with great force and her panties had been
cut by a sharp instrument at each side.
A luma light revealed semen
stains on Ms. MacIvor’s pubic area, buttocks, and the inside of her
thighs. The luma light also exposed semen stains on the sheets. The
sheets and the mattress pad were placed into evidence. A .22-caliber
shell casing was found in the bedroom along with a bullet hole in the
In addition, an address book with pages torn out was
also found. The sliding glass doors in the bedroom were open and a box
fan was running. There had been a heavy rain storm the night before,
which, combined with the heat, had left a layer of moisture on Ms.
In the guest room, the sliding
glass doors were also open. A ladder had been propped up against the
house near the guest bedroom balcony. The clothesline from the balcony
had been cut. A piece of clothesline rope had been found outside of the
master bedroom door. Outside the house, the phone wires had been cut
with a sharp instrument.
The medical examiner testified
to findings from the autopsy. Mr. MacIvor suffered a severe blow to the
back of the head. There was bruising around the larynx. The larynx,
hyoid bone, and epiglottis had been fractured. There was bruising and an
internal contusion which reflected a heavy blow to the back of the head.
There were ligature marks on his neck indicating the device was wrapped
around his neck several times.
Internally, the neck was unstable and
dislocated at the fifth cervical vertebrate. There was internal bleeding
in his left shoulder, signifying a severe blow. He also had bruising in
the abdominal area that could have been caused by a strong kick to the
stomach. The cause of death was reported as asphyxiation by ligature
The medical examiner estimated that Mr. MacIvor was
conscious for 10 to 15 seconds after the ligature was placed around his
neck, although he limited his opinion by stating that it would have
depended upon the amount of pressure that was used.
Ms. MacIvor’s body had several
abrasions on her face, genitals and legs in addition to ligature marks
around her neck and wrists. The medical examiner stated that it appeared
that she had moved against the ligature causing friction. Her face was
discolored due to the partial application of the ligature. This caused
the blood to enter the head at the normal rate, but it was unable to
exit as quickly, in addition to increasing the time that it took to
render Ms. MacIvor unconscious.
Ms. MacIvor was eight months pregnant.
The medical examiner testified that the male child would have been
viable if Ms. MacIvor had given birth. The child lived approximately 30
minutes after Ms. MacIvor passed away. Evidence indicated that the child
tried to breathe while still in the womb.
During the initial stage of the
investigation, tests were run on the stains found on the mattress pads
and the sheets, which tested positive for sperm. The swabs of Ms.
MacIvor’s body did not reveal any spermatozoa. The medical examiner
attributed this contradiction to the moist climate in which Ms.
MacIvor’s body was found. This climate provided the environment for the
seminal fluid to decompose leaving no sperm.
It was at this time that law
enforcement initially considered Thomas Overton as a possible suspect.
He was suspected in another murder, which he was never arrested for. He
was a known cat burglar, plus he worked at the Amoco gas station that
was located only minutes away from the MacIvor’s residence.
In June 1993, the bedding
samples were sent to Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) for
DNA testing. No match was found at that time.
In 1996, Overton was
arrested during the course of a burglary. While he was in custody, FDLE
asked Overton for a blood sample. Overton refused. After his refusal and
while still in custody, Overton attempted to commit suicide by cutting
his throat. A blood sample was taken from the towels that had been used
during the incident. Preliminary testing of the sample gave law
enforcement enough evidence to obtain a court order forcing Overton to
relinquish a sample of his blood.
In November 1996, Overton’s DNA was
compared to the DNA found on the bedding sample from the MacIvor
murders. The comparison produced a match with the probability in excess
of one in six billion. In 1998, the samples were submitted to another
lab for a different DNA test. Again, the comparison produced a match
with the probability of one in four trillion.
This DNA evidence was presented
at Overtons’ trial in addition to the testimony of two witnesses. The
first witness was William Guy Green. Green testified that Overton
admitted to him that he had committed a burglary in a wealthy
neighborhood in the Florida Keys.
Overton related the events that
occurred to Green stating that he entered the house and fought with the
woman, who had jumped on his back. He also stated that he had fought
with another individual in the house. Overton told Green that he to
“waste somebody in the Keys.”
Overton discussed the safety measures that
he would utilize when he committed burglaries, such as cutting the phone
wires to the house, wearing gloves, and bringing along equipment such as
a gun, knife, gloves and disguises. Overton also told Green that the
best time to burglarize a house is during a power outage or a storm.
The second witness was James
Zientek. Overton had met Zientek in the Monroe County jail in May of
1997. Overton related all of the details of the two murders to Zientek
so that Zientek could relate to law enforcement that he had heard the
story from another inmate thereby creating reasonable doubt for Overton.
The following events are what Overton told Zientek:
Overton had met Ms. MacIvor at
the Amoco station by the victim’s house where he had worked. He
described Ms. MacIvor as being “hot and cold” due to the fact that on
some days she was nice and other days she was “bitchy.” Overton had
gotten Ms. MacIvor’s address from one of her checks. He had observed the
house prior to the night of the murder on several occasions.
night of 08/21/91, Overton went to the MacIvor’s home. He was dressed in
all black with a mask and gloves. He cut the phone wires and then leaned
a ladder against the balcony. This movement made some noise and
subsequently a light came on in the house.
Overton waited 20 minutes
before entering the house. He climbed up the ladder, and when he reached
the balcony, he cut the clothesline, “popped” the sliding glass doors in
the guest bedroom and entered the house. He walked through the house and
viewed the MacIvors sleeping.
Overton continued to walk around
the house and, at one point, he heard a noise and he looked to see Mr.
MacIvor walking to the kitchen and then opening the refrigerator.
According to Overton, Mr. MacIvor must have sensed that something was
wrong because he began to look around and Overton panicked.
at Mr. MacIvor from behind and hit him in the head with a pipe from the
house. Mr. MacIvor was not rendered unconscious immediately, so Overton
hit him with his fists to knock him out. At this point, Ms. MacIvor ran
out of the bedroom, and Overton then chased her back into the bedroom.
Overton tied her up with items that he found in the bedroom and tried to
talk to Ms. MacIvor telling her that if everyone cooperated no one would
get hurt. Ms. MacIvor told Overton that she knew who he was. Overton
became concerned about Mr. MacIvor coming to. He went back to the living
room and placed a sock over Mr. MacIvor’s eyes and put masking tape
around his entire head.
Overton’s rationale for this behavior was that
he did not want Mr. MacIvor’s eyes to pop out of his head, and he knew
that his nose would bleed. Overton went back to the bedroom and raped
Ms. MacIvor and then strangled her because he didn’t “want to leave any
Overton stated that, at some point, he saw movement in Ms. MacIvor’s stomach and placed his hand on her belly to feel the fetus
move. Overton returned to the living room and saw that Mr. MacIvor was
“just becoming conscious.” Overton proceeded to kick Mr. MacIvor in the
stomach and then strangle him.
Overton also told Zientek that
he did not know about the bullet hole and that he tore pages out of the
address book to make the scene appear as if the assailant wanted to
remove their name from the book. Overton admitted that his intent when
he entered the house was to rape Ms. MacIvor
At the trial, the defense rested
solely on the notion that the stains on the bedding had been planted by
law enforcement officials; specifically, that a detective had collected
some of Overton’s sperm from Overton’s girlfriend and then brought the
sample to the crime scene in a condom.
Nonoxymol-9 had been found in the
samples, but it could not be ascertained whether the substance, used
both as a spermicide and as a cleaning agent, originally came from a
condom or the detergent used to wash the sheets.
In October 1996, Overton was
convicted of Armed Burglary, Possession of Burglary tools, and Carrying
a Concealed Firearm. He was sentenced to life for Armed Burglary and 10
years for each of the other two charges.
12/09/91 Indicted as
Count I: First-Degree
Count II: First-Degree
Count III: Killing an Unborn
Count IV: Burglary of a
Count V: Sexual Battery
Involving Serious Physical Force
Defendant entered a written plea of not guilty.
Public Defender’s office filed a motion to withdraw
due to conflict of interests.
Motion for Public Defender’s Withdraw as Counsel was
04/25/97 Motion to
Withdraw as Attorney.
Order granting the Motion to Withdraw as Attorney.
Charles L. Everett
withdrew as counsel due to irreconcilable differences, and Jason Smith
was appointed as counsel.
02/10/99 Jury returned
guilty verdicts on all counts of the indictment.
recommended death by a vote of 8-4 (Michael MacIvor).
Jury recommended death by a vote of 9-3 (Susan
03/18/99 Sentenced as
Count I: First-Degree
Murder – Death
Count II: First-Degree
Murder – Death
Count III: Killing an Unborn
Child – 15 years
Count IV: Burglary of a
Dwelling – Life
Count V: Sexual Battery
Involving Serious Physical Force – Life
Overton filed a direct appeal to
the Florida Supreme Court on 04/22/99. The main issues raised in the
appeal were that the trial court erred in denying the defense challenges
for cause of two prospective jurors. In reference to this issue,
reversible error is constituted if there was error in the denial of
challenges for both jurors. The Court ruled that one of the jurors
should have been excused for cause but that the trial could did not
abuse its discretion by not granting the challenge for cause in the case
of the second juror; therefore, reversible error was not established. In
regard to the sentencing phase of the trial, Overton asserted that the
trial court erred in not considering certain available mitigation, even
though Overton refused to present any mitigation at the sentencing
hearing. The Court stated that the trial court did not commit any error
in its consideration and evaluation of the available mitigating
The Court affirmed the conviction and sentence on 09/13/01.
The rehearing was denied and the mandate was issued on 12/03/01.
Overton filed a petition for a
Writ of Certiorari to the United States Supreme Court on 03/13/02. The
petition was denied on 05/13/02.
On 04/30/03, Overton filed a
3.851 Motion to the Circuit Court. The motion was amended on 10/31/03.
The motion was denied on 02/14/05.
Overton filed a 3.853 Motion
(DNA) to the Circuit Court on 04/03/03, which was denied on 08/19/04.
On 10/27/04, Overton filed a
3.853 Appeal (DNA) to the Florida Supreme Court. On 06/01/05, Overton
filed a 3.850 Appeal to the Florida Supreme Court. Overton filed a
motion to consolidate the appeals (3.853 Appeal (DNA) and 3.850 Appeal)
on 06/02/05, which was granted on 07/21/05. The Appeal is currently
On 06/01/05, Overton filed a
3.850 Appeal to the Florida Supreme Court. On 07/21/05, the Court
issued an order to consolidate with the 3.853 (DNA) Appeal. The Appeal
is currently pending.
On 02/08/06, Overton filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas
Corpus to the Florida Supreme Court, which is also pending.
My Life in the
Murder Mystery House
By Michael Rodgers - Salon.com
January 23, 2009
The mysterious noises continued in different
areas of the house. Now that I knew the house that I lived in is
the one that the young couple were killed in, I was more curious
than ever about the noises and the case. I’m not so much a
believer in ghosts and spirits as I am a believer that just
because something can’t be explained by science, doesn’t mean that
it isn’t possible.
The noise wasn’t a spooky noise. It was also not a
noise that could be explained away by the normal happenings that go on
in a house. It was not the water pipes. The sound would come from areas
with no plumbing. It wasn’t electrical. The noise didn’t come from any
of the walls. It was not the house “settling”. I’m familiar with those
When I lived in the downstairs flat, it sounded like
someone was dropping something on the floor upstairs. When I moved
upstairs it sounded like someone was dropping something on the floor
upstairs. The best way I can describe the noise is if you took a solid
object like a ball bearing and dropped it on a ceramic tile floor from
maybe eight or ten inches, the object would bounce several times before
settling. The intervals would get closer together as it bounced lower to
the floor. Tic………tic…….tic….tic..tic. tic tictit.
It had been almost two years since Missy and Michael
had been killed. Rumors around town had many an armchair detective
weaving fantastic scenarios of the event. The sheriff’s office had no
solid leads. Then one day it seemed they may have gotten a break in the
Michael MacIvor was an aviation mechanic and a
private pilot. He’d recently flown to Central America to purchase a
plane that was seized in a drug smuggling operation. He was also
arrested four years before his death at a remote airfield in central
Florida by U.S. Customs officials. Drug residue had been found in the
plane. The charges were eventually dropped.
A background check had shown that he was in
considerable debt and was in dire need of money. One day the Sheriff’s
office got a call from an FAA official in Miami. They had an informant
in their custody that claimed that he new two Columbian drug smugglers
that were responsible for the murders.
Agents were sent to Columbia to investigate. After
two months the investigation had reached a dead end. The informant
finally admitted that he made the story up to get leniency in the case
against him. The investigation returned to square one.
Other crime detectives in the area were suspicious of
a local cat burglar and made mention of him to the murder investigators.
A canvass of the area had exhausted all leads and the few persons of
interest all had alibis that had checked out.
An FBI profiler had been called in to aid in the
investigation. A high profile case worker by the name of Dayle Hinman
arrived and went over the crime evidence. She quickly came to the
conclusion that it was not a drug oriented killing and that Missy had
been the target. She also believed it was not a burglary that had gone
awry. It was a premeditated case.
The items used to kill and bind the victims had been
household items found at the scene. There was the ladder used to get to
the second story. The tape used was the same type used in the remodel of
what was to be the new nursery.
Michael had been attacked with a pipe commonly used
to secure a sliding glass door. He was then strangled in the living room.
His eyes and mouth had been bound with tape.
Missy’s hands and feet were bound with a belt from a
dresser drawer. She was sexually assaulted then strangled with the belt
from a bath rob.
Hinman deducted that a professional would have been
more prepared and would have brought their own “tools of the trade.”
If they were trying to recover money or drugs,
Michael would not have been killed first. He would have been forced to
watch his wife get tortured in hopes of recovering some unknown bounty.
Michael was just “in the way.” The time spent with
Missy during her assault and killing showed that she was the target.
A close eye had been kept on the cat burglar. He was
a suspect in many Upper Keys burglaries. Thomas Mitchell Overton was a
drifting criminal with a long rap sheet. He had worked maintenance at
the local theatre for a while and had been working at the gas and
convenience store on the corner at the time of the killings. Missy
frequently shopped and bought her gas there.
Watching Overton finally paid off when he was
apprehended breaking into a local residence. He was asked at the time of
his arrest to submit to a DNA test. He refused.
Although authorities had nothing to connect Overton
to the killings, his close proximity and criminal record made him the
prime suspect. The only evidence that could connect him to the murders
was the DNA collected from the semen sample left on the bedding. During
the year or so Overton spent in jail on the burglary charges he’d
repeatedly refused to give a DNA sample.
Overton became depressed and was also thought to have
become suicidal while doing time in county lock up. Lead Detective Jerry
Powell devised a plan to recover a blood sample.
Thomas Overton was given a razor in his cell to shave
with. A close but loose watch was kept on the prisoner. As suspected,
Overton dismantled the razor and cut his neck with the blade. The guards
rushed in to save his life. The bloody towels would be sent to the
Florida crime lab for analysis.
Six weeks later Sergeant Powell received a phone call
from the Crime Lab. There was a one in six billion chance that someone
other than Overton had committed the crime. The notorious killings at
the Tavernier Airstrip had been solved. In a strange, yet poetic irony,
Thomas Overton had literally cut his own throat in the case
First degree murder charges were filed against Thomas
Mitchell Overton. A ten day trial, complete with local media circus
began later that year. The jury deliberated less than two hours before
coming back with a verdict of guilty on all charges. One month later he
was sentenced to death. Almost five years after the murders the case was
Thomas Overton waits on death row to this day. He has
filed papers for a new trial claiming his defense was inadequate. It's
been almost eighteen years since the murders.
Although he never admitted to the crime, it was felt
that he had developed some sort of fatal attraction to Missy MacIvor
while working at the convenience store. Maybe he will come clean before
he dies. Maybe not.
There will never be closure for the families of Missy
and Michael MacIvor. They will carry their grief to their graves.
I lived in the house for another three and a half
years. I never discovered the source of the strange noises. They
continued until the day I left.
Thomas Mitchell Overton arrest.
Missy and Michael MacIvor wedding photo.