Boy gets life, no parole, for strangling playmate
John Silva, 15, hid the body of the 12-year-old in a septic tank. A
judge will recommend a juvenile prison.
March 16, 2001
PALATKA -- A
15-year-old boy was sentenced Thursday to life in prison without parole
for strangling a younger playmate and dumping his body into a dry septic
John Silva, who showed no reaction to the sentence,
was tried as an adult and convicted of first-degree murder. The body of
his victim, 12-year-old Jerry Lee Alley Jr., was found hog-tied at the
bottom of the tank last May.
A note found with the body included the lines, "strip
to underware," "tie up hands," "gag" and "cover eyes." Investigators
said it was written by Silva, who was a neighbor and schoolmate of Alley
in a rural neighborhood of Interlachen, about 15 miles west of Palatka
in northeast Florida.
"Jerry was a special boy," said his grandmother, Anne
Alley. "Our lives have changed forever. If you kill somebody there is a
Jerry Alley, whose parents were divorced, lived with
his grandparents, who had adopted him.
Assistant State Attorney Garry Wood said he thought
Silva would kill again if he were freed from prison. "John Silva is
getting what he deserved," he said after sentence was passed.
Last week, a 14-year-old Miami boy, Lionel Tate, was
ordered to serve the rest of his life in prison without parole for
killing a 6-year-old girl his mother was babysitting. At his trial,
defense attorneys argued that Tate accidentally killed Tiffany Eunick in
July 1999 while imitating pro wrestling moves he had seen on television.
Public backlash over that life sentence led to Tate's
speedy transfer from an adult prison to a maximum-security juvenile
facility north of Lake Okeechobee, and to pressure for Gov. Jeb Bush to
consider commuting his sentence. Amnesty International voiced concern
about the case.
No such public campaign has come
together over Silva's sentencing.
Only Silva's mother, Cynthia Silva, has asked that
her son be sent to a juvenile facility, and Circuit Judge A.W. Nichols
agreed to ask the state to do that.
"I still do not feel he did this crime," Silva said.
"He is immature. He is book smart, but he is not street smart. He does
not understand most of the process and what is going on."
Nichols denied motions for a new trial and for a
judgment of acquittal. He also rejected Assistant Public Defender John
Stephenson's argument that sentencing juveniles to life in prison
without parole is unconstitutional.
Alley's grandfather, Marvin Alley, has been
hospitalized with post-traumatic stress syndrome and is still having
trouble dealing with the slaying.
"I've got such a hollow pit in my life," he said.
The Alley and Silva families, who embraced after the
verdict last month, were not as warm Thursday.
"I have no animosity toward the Silva family," Anne
Alley said. "Hatred and animosity are wasted emotions."
Jurors in the trials of both Tate and Silva had the
option of considering second-degree murder or manslaughter convictions.
by Judy Dixon
Jerry Lee was just a little boy,
a twelve-year-old who loved Pokemon cards, repairing bicycles, Nintendo,
playing his flute and, most of all, his grandparents. He was just a
little boy who loved life despite having been abandoned by his parents,
and despite taunts of "homo" and "faggot" by some of the infamous school
bullies in reference to his small stature and gentle nature.
Jerry Lee had a dimpled smile
that put everybody at ease. His teachers praised him for his hard work
and cooperation; the adults who knew him valued his manners and his easy-going
and friendly attitude. He had been given a special award in band for
practice over and above the call of duty. He wanted to be sure he would
perform his best in the concert scheduled for the following Tuesday.
He lived in Interlachen,
Florida, a tiny community just thirty miles from the sprawling, college
town of Gainesville. It is a town that houses ancient mansions on one
side and mobile homes on the other. A community so small that everybody
knows everybody, it is nestled among old oak trees and a vast supply of
lakes where tourists and retirees can feel at peace; a community that is
And, Jerry Lee Alley died there,
the victim of a senseless and brutal murder. But, even more shocking was
who had taken little Jerry Lee's life.
On Friday, May 26, 2000, Jerry
Lee did what most kids did in Interlachen after school. He kissed his
grandpa, slung his backpack over his shoulder, climbed aboard his
precious black and red bicycle and went out to ride around the sandy,
dirt roads near his house. When six o'clock and dinnertime rolled around,
his grandparents knew that something was terribly wrong - their
dependable, predictable baby didn't come home. He was afraid of the dark.
They knew he would never stay out late.
Marvin Alley searched for his
grandson; he went everywhere the boy could have gone. He made two trips
to the Silva house. John Anthony Silva, a fifteen-year-old who attended
the same middle school as Jerry Lee was one of his newest friends. Their
friendship had begun over a Nintendo game and was cemented at the
Pokeman Trading Card Club that met at C. H. Price Middle School.
John lived only a short distance
from the Alleys in a mobile home with his mother, his sister, and his
grandparents. John said he hadn't seen Jerry Lee at all. Then, he said a
very strange thing to a friend of his sister's who was at the house: "What
a terrible way to die." Nobody knew that Jerry Lee was dead.
Partly because of his age, and
partly due to the fact that everybody who knew Jerry Lee was sure that
he wouldn't voluntarily leave, the authorities launched an immediate
search. There was no 24-hour waiting period, just immediate action with
tracking dogs, helicopters, firemen, policemen and hundreds of civilian
volunteers. For three days, they diligently combed every inch of the
ubiquitous wooded areas that surrounded Interlachen; every one of the
many lakes and streams and every abandoned lot within the city. The same
three torturous days, Anne and Marvin Alley prayed each time their phone
rang. Prayed it would be Jerry, but knowing that after this long, it
wouldn't. It appeared that he would never be found. But for a discarded
automobile and a strange dream, Jerry Lee might have spent his eternity
in a cast off septic tank.
Police headquarters received a
call that a car had been sitting for a couple of days in a field that
was littered with discarded furniture, car parts, and all manner of
items that had outlived their usefulness. They immediately dispatched an
officer, hoping it may lead to some information in the disappearance of
The area had previously been
searched, but nothing had turned up. A policeman, checking out two sets
of bicycle tracks had even walked beside a commercial pallet on the
ground. There was an ominous, offensive odor permeating the area, but he
passed it off as the garbage strewn about. The pallet appeared to him to
be simply lying on the ground. He had no reason to believe it covered a
hole large enough to hold a body. The car turned out to be disabled from
broken tie rods with a note attached that it was to be hauled away. But,
Dawn Bachman, another Interlachen resident, arrived with a strange story
while the investigators were still there.
She knew that she would be
suspect. She feared that she would be ridiculed, but she was so
disturbed by her dream from the night before that she decided she would
take the risk. (In fact, during the trial, the defense attorney hinted
that her knowledge didn't come from a dream, but it was only a ploy to
cast reasonable doubt.) She knew little Jerry Lee and her dream had told
her where he was. On this same piece of land there existed an abandoned
septic tank that the kids used for a fort. It had steps leading down and
was a great place to hide. In her dream, she saw Jerry Lee's battered
The volunteer fireman she
garnered didn't want to believe her; he knew that the land had been
thoroughly scoured the day before. She was insistent. If necessary, she
would check it herself, but she was terrified at what she would find.
They walked through a forest of trees and passed a ragged, rain-soaked
orange couch; they passed the remains of a burned out mobile home; they
arrived at the industrial pallet the policeman had ignored. "Move it,"
When the volunteer fireman
pushed the pallet aside, he knew their search for Jerry Lee had come to
an end. He shined his light into the deep, dark hole beneath the pallet.
The small, crumpled body of Jerry Lee Alley lay beneath his treasured
red and black bicycle and it was apparent that he had been dead for
Jerry's body was found with his
hands tied behind his back and to his ankles with an Ace bandage, the
medical type used to support sprained limbs. He was, in fact, "hog-tied."
Another Ace bandage and an electrical cord were wound around his throat;
the bandage, tightly wrapped four times and the electrical cord tied in
a loose slipknot. Even though the cord was loosely tied, the knot
pressed hard enough against his skin to leave pressure marks and cause
an internal, linear hemorrhage. His pants and underwear were pulled
below his buttocks, and his pants pockets had been cut. The autopsy
revealed that little Jerry had died of strangulation only hours after
going off to ride around the unpaved, sandy, forest-lined streets that
he called home. And, despite the appearance of his clothing, there was
no evidence that Jerry had been raped.
Inside the septic tank along
with Jerry's remains and his bicycle, the investigators uncovered his
empty, green backpack, three Pokemon cards, and an odd note, penned in
blue ink on lined, notebook paper. The words on the note were badly
spelled. It said:
No one was able to determine
what the phrase "rap in tower" meant unless it was intended to read "wrap
in towel." The other lines were ominously clear.
Investigators, acting on the
appearance of Jerry's clothing, obtained alibis and cleared all known
sex offenders in the area, in spite of the lack of rape evidence. The
possibility existed that someone had been interrupted. However, no
matter which they way they went, the trail kept leading in only one
direction: too many people believed that the Silva house was the last
place Jerry Lee had been seen alive.
Stephanie Taylor finally
confided to the police that John Silva had been acting strangely on the
afternoon of Jerry Lee's disappearance. He had left the house
immediately behind Jerry Lee with a brown paper bag on the handlebars of
his bike, was gone only about half an hour, and returned dirty and
sweaty without the paper bag. He had been unusually quiet until the off
hand remark, "What a terrible way to die." This information gave the
police the break they needed; the day after finding Jerry Lee's body,
John Anthony Silva was arrested. As unbelievable as it was to all
concerned, it appeared that 15-year-old John Silva had murdered his
Under the friendly, gentle tone
of the interrogators, John Silva's story kept changing. "I didn't see
him at all;" "We left together to look for another friend and he rode
off with them;" "It was probably some pervert with a car." That raised a
red flag to the investigators -- the condition of Jerry Lee's clothing
hadn't been released. Finally, at the end of the second hour of
questioning, John Silva said he had a message for Jerry Lee's
grandparents. "Tell them I didn't mean for this to happen. Tell them I'm
However, his confession produced
a scenario of events that could not have been. He said that he and Jerry
were riding their bikes looking for a friend when they stopped at the
septic tank, known to the local kids as "The Fort," to wrestle and Jerry
had been hurt in the rough play. John took Jerry down into the tank to "cool
down," something Jerry frequently did when he was angry. On the way down
the steps into the tank, Jerry fell and hit his head. Amid tears and
sniffles, John continued. "I tried to stop Jerry's head from bleeding so
much with an Ace bandage. I had the bandage with me because I injured my
leg a few weeks ago. I tried to keep Jerry awake. I tied his hands in
front of him to keep him from getting hurt. Then, I got scared. I left
him there after I threw his book bag and bicycle in after him."
John also stated that he had
attempted to stanch the blood flow from Jerry's head with another Ace
bandage, which he threw away at the site. He was sure Jerry was dying
because of the great amount of blood that was coming from the head
injury. No bloodied Ace bandage was located anywhere near the death
scene. John said he spent at least twenty minutes with Jerry inside the
tank. He covered the tank with the wooden pallet and partial septic tank
cover before he left him there. When asked why he hadn't called for help,
he said he panicked.
The detectives didn't tell John
at that time that his story didn't gel. They didn't remind him that
Jerry's hands were tied behind his back and joined to his ankles and
that the medical examiner found no head wounds during the autopsy. They
didn't tell him that his fingerprints, along with Jerry Lee's, were the
only ones found on the bizarre note. They didn't tell him that the
handwriting and writing style matched his from papers they had obtained
John's mother said she had seen
the note two or three days prior to the incident and that he had told
her it was a practical joke. Why didn't this raise red flags for her? No
mother wants to believe her young child is a murderer; she accepted his
explanation at face value. She said that John was an excellent speller,
so it had to be a joke. But, the school papers proved that he
consistently crossed out misspelled words, rewrote them correctly, then
misspelled them again in the same paper. Just like the words on the
note; towel had been crossed out and rewritten as tower. Her information,
which was intended to help, actually gave the investigators the
information they needed to prove premeditation.
John Anthony Silva, although
only fifteen, would be tried as an adult. The heinous nature of his
crime and the premeditation removed any hope he had of a juvenile
facility. The jury would not be called upon to determine guilt; there
was no question that John was Jerry's killer. It would only be up to
them to decide if it had been premeditated murder, manslaughter, or an
accident, as John had claimed in his taped confession. The best that the
defense could hope to do was to create reasonable doubt or negate John's
responsibility in Jerry's gruesome death and convince the jury that fate
had been in the hands of rough play.
The grand jury handed down a
decision: the evidence was sufficient to support the state's charge of
first-degree murder. There were numerous postponements and it wasn't
until February 2001, a full eight and a half months after Jerry Lee's
death that a trial finally began.
In his first court appearance,
John had displayed no emotion or remorse when he entered his plea of "Not
Guilty." He didn't appear to appreciate the seriousness of his crime. He
expected to be treated as a child. He was sure they would accept his
explanation of an accident. His demeanor, however, changed considerably
during the trial. He began to realize that being fifteen would only save
him from the death penalty, not from spending the rest of his life in
prison. He covered his face and sobbed when poster-sized crime scene
photos were shown. He was "the thief that wasn't sorry he had stolen,
only that he had been caught." It took the jury just two hours to reach
a verdict. He nearly collapsed and had to be supported by his defense
team when "Guilty of First-Degree Murder" was read. He would spend the
rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole, being
incarcerated in a secure juvenile facility until he reached the age of
After the verdict was read and
John had been led away to begin his sentence, Marvin Alley embraced
Cynthia Silva, John's sobbing mother. He held neither bitterness nor
grudge toward this woman. As the Alleys left the courtroom that day,
clutching the sixth grade picture of their grandson, Anne told a
reporter "This was a bittersweet victory. Two boys were lost."
Band instruments have been
purchased in Jerry Lee's name. A tree has been planted bearing a plaque
in his memory. The residents of Interlachen have lost some of the trust
they have always had in their safe community. No one is sure in whom
they can now place their confidence. They tend to keep their children a
little more tightly reined in. No one, not even John, knows what caused
him to snap that day. There were speculations that the Pokemon trading
cards had caused trouble; there was the hint of a girl they both liked;
neither motive had any basis. The appearance of Jerry Lee's clothing
could bring about a sexual motive, but that was never addressed. John
had no malice toward his friend that anyone could ascertain. There
appeared to be no jealousy between them. They hadn't even had an
argument. They were just two boys going out to play with only one coming
Fla. v. Silva: Teen charged with murder of 12-year-old
When a 12-year-old boy disappeared from his
Interlachen, Fla., neighborhood, so did his Pokemon cards.
And when Jerry Alley's dead body was discovered in a
septic tank, strangled with an Ace bandage, a teen-aged Pokemon card
collector became the prime suspect.
John Anthony Silva, a 15-year-old friend of the
victim, was soon charged as an adult with first-degree murder. He found
himself in Judge A.W. Nichols' courtroom in Palatka, Fla., fighting for
his own life, since a first-degree murder conviction in Florida carries
a mandatory life prison sentence without the possibility of parole.
After returning home from school on May 26, 2000,
Jerry Alley grabbed his backpack and his red and black bicycle and went
out at around 3:30 p.m.
Though he was supposed to be home by 6 p.m., Jerry
never returned. His grandfather and legal guardian, Marvin Alley, grew
concerned and went out to look for the boy at around 6:30 — including
two stops to the home of one of Jerry's friends, John Silva. Silva and
Alley had a common interest in collecting and trading Pokemon cards. On
both occasions, Silva said he had not seen Alley since he got off the
Local police began searching for Jerry later that
night, and search dogs, state police and the FBI joined in the search
the following day with no success of finding the preteen.
DREAM LEADS TO THE BODY
Three days after Jerry Alley disappeared, Dawn Marie
Bachman reported she had a dream in which she saw Jerry — whose face she
had seen over the previous few days on missing person's flyers — sitting
in an abandoned septic tank in a vacant lot.
Bachman recognized the location as a litter-strewn
lot she knew was in a wooded area approximately two miles from the Alley
home. Kids from the area regularly played in the empty septic tank,
using it as a fort.
At first, Ms. Bachman apparently ignored her dream.
But when she saw Jerry's face on a flier for a second time, she became
disturbed and decided to drive to the vacant lot in question. Arriving
at the scene, she noticed Thomas Pellicer, a volunteer fireman who was
investigating a car that had been abandoned in the area. Bachman asked
Pellicer if search teams had looked inside the septic tank. They hadn't
— and when Pellicer pulled back some plywood sheets covering the tank,
he made a grisly discovery.
Inside the septic tank was the body of Jerry Alley,
partially covered with the victim's bicycle and some wooden pallets.
Alley's body was discovered with an Ace elastic bandage around his neck.
The same bandage was used to bound his hands behind his back. An autopsy
later confirmed that Jerry had indeed died as a result of strangulation.
INVESTIGATION ZEROES IN
John Silva and Jerry Alley were both students at the
same middle school and rode the same school bus every day. They shared
an interest in Pokemon cards, and had traded such cards in the past.
Marvin Alley reportedly told authorities that, despite the three-year
difference in their ages, his grandson considered John Silva his best
From the time of Jerry Alley's disappearance,
authorities suspected John Silva knew more than he was telling Alley's
grandfather about the boy's whereabouts.
Though John told Jerry's grandfather twice on May 26
that he had not seen the youth since he got off the bus hours earlier,
Stephanie Taylor, a friend of John's sister, told a different story.
According to Taylor, Jerry Alley had shown up at the
Silva house on the day in question, asking for John. She said she told
John that Jerry had arrived; the next time she looked out the window,
Jerry was gone. A few minutes later, she said, Silva himself left the
house and rode off a his bicycle carrying a plastic shopping bag.
He returned approximately 30 to 35 minutes later
without the plastic bag, Taylor claims. She didn't ask John where he had
been, and Silva did not volunteer that information. But Taylor did
notice that John was visibly sweating when he returned home.
The before Alley's body was discovered, Silva
voluntarily submitted to questioning by authorities in the case. Despite
the fact that he had denied seeing Jerry to the boy's grandfather, Silva
admitted that Jerry had been at his house the afternoon he was last seen.
According to John Silva, Jerry Alley asked him if he
knew where a sixth-grader named "Justin" lived; John claimed he told
Jerry he didn't know the boy in question. He denied, however, that he
had gone anywhere with Jerry that day.
The day after Alley's body was found, Silva again
agreed to speak with authorities. In a three-and-a-half hour taped
interview, Silva was again asked about what he might know about the
disappearance and death of Jerry Alley.
At first, John Silva stuck to his story that Jerry
Alley had come over to his home on Friday afternoon looking for Justin.
He said he had originally planned to go riding with Jerry to try and
help the younger boy find Justin, but had to turn back at the end of his
driveway because one of the tires on his own bicycle was flat. He denied,
however, ever carrying a plastic bag that afternoon.
For the next hour or so, John Silva continued to deny
that he knew anything about Jerry Alley's death. But after incessant and
careful questioning by authorities, his story began to change.
Silva soon conceded that he had indeed accompanied
Alley to the vacant lot in question, a lot he admitted he often played.
In fact, said John Silva, he sometimes climbed down into and hung out in
the abandoned septic tank whenever he needed to "cool off."
According to John Silva, he and Jerry Alley were "fooling
around" or play-wrestling near the septic tank when the younger boy fell
and hit his head. Silva claimed that he encouraged Alley to climb down
into the septic tank to rest — but as Jerry climbed down some makeshift
stairs into the tank, he fell again, hitting his head once more.
Silva said that Jerry began to bleed profusely from
his forehead and claimed that he used an Ace bandage he had with him to
try to soak up the victim's blood. But when Jerry's breathing slowed
down, John said he panicked and left his friend down in the hole.
He placed Jerry's bicycle and book bag on top of him,
covered the tank's entrance with plywood, and went home.
For a long time, John Silva insisted that he had no
memory whatsoever of binding Jerry Alley in any way. But when confronted
with the fact that Alley's hands had been bound, Silva admitted to tying
the victim's hands after he struck his head the second time "so he
wouldn't hurt himself." But John claimed that he tied Jerry's hands in
front -- not behind his back, as they were found.
And that admission is as far as John Silva would go.
For the remainder of his interview, he insisted that he couldn't
remember strangling or killing Jerry Alley, or even of purposely hurting
him in any way.
Following the interrogation, John Anthony Silva was
placed under arrest and charged with the murder of Jerry Alley.
THE PROSECUTION'S CASE
The prosecution, headed by Garry Wood, contended
Silva's statement didn't match the physical evidence. When Jerry Alley's
body was discovered on May 29, 2000, there was no blood at the scene and
no injury to the victim's forehead. An Ace bandage had been wrapped
around his neck and knotted four times; immediately on top of this
bandage was an electric extension cord that was tight, but not
constrictive. The same bandage around the neck had also been used to tie
hands behind his back, then trailed down and around the boy's ankles.
In addition, Jerry's jeans and underwear had been
pulled down to his upper thighs, exposing his buttocks. The pockets of
his jeans had been cut out.
But the most damning piece of evidence found inside
the septic tank was a piece of notebook paper in John Silva's own
handwriting, and with Silva's fingerprints on it. The note — full of
spelling errors — reads as follows:
List to prepair Jarey
Strip to underware & rap in tower
Tie up hands
Prosecutors even lined up John's eighth grade
language arts teacher to testify, who said she required her students to
draw up similar plans called "mapping" for essays they were going to
Because it is was necessary for the prosecution to
prove intent in order to get a first-degree murder conviction, the state
didn't have to prove motive. They did, however, suspect the reason may
have been because John wanted Jerry's Pokemon cards.
The victim's bookbag, found with his body, was empty
— and his considerable Pokemon card collection, missing from his room,
was never located. A large number of Pokemon cards were later discovered
at the Silva home.
It is undisputed that John, too, had a Pokemon
collection, but nobody else knows how many cards he owned prior to the
killing, so there's no way to confirm or deny that any of the cards
later located had originally belonged to Jerry.
According to John Silva's defense attorney, Douglas
Withee, the biggest problem with the prosecution's case was the timeline.
Stephanie Taylor claimed John was away from the Silva
home for only 30 to 35 minutes on May 26 — and that it could take up to
ten minutes to ride a bicycle to the vacant lot a half-mile away where
Jerry was later discovered. The roads between the Silva house and the
lot in question are not paved, but made up of extremely sandy red clay.
It's difficult to ride a bike or even drive a car on such a surface,
which would have made the time it took John to ride to and from the
vacant lot even longer, the defense argued.
Assuming it took Silva a total of 20 minutes to ride
to the lot and then return home, he would have been left with only 10 to
15 minutes to lure or force Jerry Alley into the septic tank, bound him
thoroughly, laboriously strangled the boy and then covered the body. The
defense contended there simply wasn't enough time.
The defense also said Silva's insistence to
authorities that he cannot remember any other details about what
happened could possibly mean the teen is covering up for the real killer
out of fear. Withee said three brothers who reportedly live in the same
area were known as bullies, and that police told Silva during his
interrogation they had information he was seen with other boys around
the time of the crime.
The problem with this theory, according to the
prosecution, was the reference during Silva's interview to one or more
other boys was simply made up to try to elicit information from the
The defense also points to Bachman's knowledge of
where Alley's body was as another potential basis for reasonable doubt.
If convicted of first-degree murder, the only
sentence Nichols could have handed to Silva was life in prison without
parole. The jury also had the option of acquitting him or finding him
guilty Silva of second-degree murder or manslaughter.
John Anthony Silva
Interlachen, FL -- May 31, 2000
A 15-year-old boy was arrested late Tuesday and
charged in the death of a 12-year-old boy whose bound body was found in
an empty septic tank three days after he disappeared, investigators said.
Jerry Lee Alley Jr., whose body was found late Monday
at an abandoned house two miles from his home, had an elastic bandage
around his neck and his hands bound behind his back, said Dr. Terrence
John Anthony Silva, 15, of Interlachen, was arrested
at about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday and charged with first-degree murder and
kidnapping in the younger boy's strangulation death, the Putnam County
Sheriff's Office announced.
"Silva's home was the last place Jerry was seen alive,"
according to a sheriff's office statement. "Several people at the house
told of Silva leaving the residence after Jerry, and of Silva making
remarks about the way Jerry died."
Silva "admitted to causing Jerry Alley's death. He
also admitted to placing Jerry inside the abandoned septic tank and
tying him up ..." the sheriff's statement said. "Silva did not offer any
motive for his actions."
The boy was reported missing Friday evening. He was
last seen riding his bicycle near Interlachen, a town about 50 miles
southwest of Jacksonville. Steiner believes the boy was slain sometime
A volunteer firefighter who was part of a search team
found the boy's body and his bicycle in a septic tank 6 feet deep, said
Putnam County Sheriff's Capt. Dick Shauland.
The FBI, Florida Department of Law Enforcement and
the sheriff's office all took part in investigating the death.
Helicopters, tracking dogs and volunteers searched
the sparsely populated area over the weekend for the boy. The FBI joined
the search Sunday because authorities feared he had been kidnapped.
June 1, 2000
The grandmother and guardian of
Jerry Lee Alley Jr., found murdered Monday night, broke her media
silence Wednesday to help make the coming days a "celebration" of her
Anne Alley said she and her
husband, Marvin, have grieved together in private since learning her
son's fate after he disappeared Friday touching off an intensive search
involving dozens of local volunteers.
She said Putnam County Sheriff
Taylor Douglas personally delivered the news of finding her grandson
dead in an empty septic tank only two miles from home.
Then she learned the next day
that a 15-year-old classmate at Price Middle School had been arrested
and charged with her grandson's death, but she and her husband didn't
recognize the accused boy's name.
Marvin Alley recognized the
boy's picture on television and then came a flood of memories of
encounters with Silva and Jerry that had occurred during this school
"Jerry trusted him. He was older.
They rode the same school bus they were casual friends," Anne said. "The
school bus didn't go to this boy's house and there were occasions when
no one would pick up this boy, but my husband would stop in his pickup
truck and give him a ride to his house."On at least one occasion, she
said, Silva came to the Alley home and spent time with Jerry.
"I think they played Jerry's
Nintendo games for awhile and then the boy went home," Anne said. "On
three other occasions, Jerry requested permission to go to this boy's
house and he would ride his bike. This was farther than we would
normally let him go, but he always came home on time."
Anne recalled a chilling account
of her husband encountering Silva Friday night while searchers were
looking for their grandson.
"When he didn't come home when
we expected him, my husband got in his pickup truck thinking he may have
gone to this boy's home and on the way back his chain came off and he's
walking home so he went to that boy's house," Anne said. "That boy told
my husband he had not seen him and Jerry was already dead. My husband
went back to the same house for a second time about 8 o'clock and asked
him a second time if he had seen Jerry since he had gotten off the bus
and the boy said 'no.' He looked my husband straight in the eyes and
never batted on eye."
Anne said Jerry had three loves:
He loved riding his bicycle, playing the flute and watching the
Anne said many of Jerry's
schoolmates had come by their home offering expressions of sympathy.
"It's sad enough a friend was
murdered so horribly. Then to find out a fellow student had done it that
had ridden on the same bus and had the same classes with them," Anne
said. "We have had many of the students come by really deeply broken up.
I want them to know we are available to talk to all during the summer if
it will help them."
Meanwhile, Anne expressed much
gratitude toward the three law enforcement agencies working the case
since Friday night, the community support and the personal attention of
"The sheriff has been wonderful.
They took it serious from the start and they continued to be serious
about it," said Anne. "He came out and stayed with us Monday night
talking it out with us and helping us through it When the autopsy was
over he called and let us know right away. He wanted to make sure we
heard it first from him. He's been in constant contact with us."
"We are going to put up all of
the posters and cards that the children in the schools have made. We
want the children to feel they are participating in the program," Anne
said. "We are hoping it will be a celebration of Jerry's life. My
husband and I are asking for anyone that wants to give flowers we would
much prefer that they give a donation in Jerry's name to the C.H. Price
Middle School's Beginning Band. He so enjoyed the band near the end he
was really getting good on the flute. He would sit out on the front
porch and serenade the entire neighborhood."
Anne spoke openly about her
grandson and the beginning of his thinking about becoming an adult.
"He loved people. He really
enjoyed helping people," she said. "I told him at 12 years old you'll be
an adult in six more years, you need to start thinking about what you
want to be. A few days later he came out grinning and said he wanted to
be a truck driver. I starting laughing. Some friend of his must have
told him some romantic stories about life on the open road. I told him
it wasn't all glamour."
Jerry, she said, was the type of
boy to attempt to save injured animals found in the neighborhood.
"Jerry likes to pick up wounded
birds and take them under his wing. He always did this," Anne said. "If
he saw someone sitting by themselves in the cafeteria and look like they
were upset or lonely he would always make a point of going over to them
and talk. He was just that kind of kid."
Reflecting on the series of
events since Friday, Anne said, "I had hoped our community would be
spared some of this teen-age killing of each other. Hopefully this will
be the last one."
June 5, 2000
Price Middle School Principal Sandra Gilyard was not
certain if she had spoken to Jerry Lee Alley Jr. on the day he died.
But she later recalled he had worn a Relay for Life
T-shirt, and she had asked if he had participated in the event.
Gilyard said the 12-year-old sixth-grader responded
no, but said his mother had walked in the annual American Cancer Society
"So that brought me consolation," said the principal,
who knew Alley and frequently had conversations with the student about "just
the common everyday things you would talk about with everyday people."
Gilyard said many people are running a race, but for
Jerry the race was only 12 years.
"Twelve years to some may not seem long enough, but
in God's sight, Jerry finished his work here," she said.
Gilyard urged the approximately 500 people, including
28 family members, who gathered for Alley's memorial service in the
school gym on Saturday morning not to take anyone for granted.
"He saw everyone as someone special," she said,
referring to Alley.
"Thank you for sharing a fine young man with us, we
salute him. . ." Gilyard said to Alley's family members.
Alley, described as helpful and a lot of fun, was
slain at the beginning of the Memorial Day weekend. His body was found
three days later, last Monday, in a dry septic tank about two miles from
the home in Interlachen Lake Estates where he lived with his
grandparents Marvin and Anne Alley.
John Silva, a 15-year-old classmate, was arrested
last Tuesday and charged with his murder and kidnapping.
Alley's great-uncle, the Rev. Lloyd McClelland, also
gave a tribute to the youth. McClelland said when Anne Alley asked him
to speak at the service he thought "it would be too hard" because he was
"close to him."
McClelland quoted scripture from Genesis 39:20 when
Joseph was sold into slavery, adding "Somehow God makes it come out
He also quoted II Corinthians 5:1, and told the
audience he believed his grand nephew is in Heaven.
"And I know as well as I stand here, Jerry is
standing in Heaven in a glorious kingdom rejoicing with God," McClelland
"I know that God never left the side of our boy, and
now Jerry will never have to leave His side again," he said to Alley's
Students and friends also sent several of their own
tributes, which were read by the Rev. Scott Morrison, a youth pastor at
the First Baptist Church of Interlachen.
"I'm thankful for Jerry because he's a great friend
and he would always be there when I was sad and in pain," Morrison read.
"I'm thankful for Jerry because he never gave up. he
was kind and sweet," read another.
The Rev. Gene Maddox, who spoke on "The Power of a
Christ-centered Choice," told the attendees "this week you and many
others have experienced a wounding of darkness in our lives."
"We have seen it this week. We can call it the ripple
effect, the power of a bad choice," said Maddox, who is pastor of the
First United Methodist Church of Interlachen.
Maddox encouraged the crowd to: "Live close enough to
Christ to be able to recognize the darkness even if it causes great pain."
Tribute music was provided by the Price Middle School
band. Alley, who played flute, was a member of the band.
A praise team comprised of Opal Albert, Bethany
Maddox and Carol Taylor, also led songs. The Jacksonville Jaguars,
Alley's favorite football team, sent a written tribute, which was read
by the Rev. Chris Kozlowski of the Bethel Assembly of God of Interlachen.
Dothea Smith, chairwoman of the Putnam County School
Board, said she never knew Alley personally.
"But I feel by attending this service I've come to
know him as the student that he really was, as a loving and caring
student who cared for us more than himself. My heart and prayers go out
to the family," Smith said.
School Superintendent David Buckles, who also
attended the service, said: "I thought it was a beautiful ceremony in
honor of such a fine young man that was so tragically taken from us."
July 20, 2000
When investigators discovered the body of a missing
Interlachen boy in May, they also found a handwritten note apparently
detailing what to do with Jerry Lee Alley Jr., investigative reports
The note, a sheet of lined, white loose-leaf paper
marked with blue ink, had a list on it with numerous words misspelled,
documents from the Putnam County Sheriff's Office report.
"LIST TO PREPAIR JAREY," the first line of the note
read. That was followed by "STRIP TO UNDERWARE + RAP IN TOWER," "TIE
HANDS," "GAG," and, finally, on line five, "COVER EYES."
It could not be determined what "rap in tower" means
or if it might mean "wrap in towel."
When the Florida Department of Law Enforcement
analyzed the handwriting, it matched samples from John Anthony Silva, a
15-year-old Interlachen boy arrested in the murder and kidnapping of
Alley, 12, his friend. Silva's fingerprints also were found on the note.
These details about Alley's murder were among about
600 pages of investigative and court records released by the State
Attorney's Office for the 7th Judicial Circuit on Tuesday.
Prosecutors have said Silva admitted to causing
Alley's death and hiding the body of the C.H. Price Middle School sixth-grader
inside an abandoned septic tank on a vacant lot at the corner of Evans
Avenue and Carr Street.
An autopsy report showed that Alley died of
strangulation. Dr. Terrence Steiner of the Medical Examiner's Office in
St. Augustine estimated Alley died only hours after he left his home on
On May 26, Alley failed to return home for supper on
time after playing on his bike in his rural neighborhood. The search
ended May 29 when Alley's body was found inside a dried-up septic tank
used by area children as a fort.
On May 28, an officer with the Department of
Corrections, Rex Ziegler, had walked through the same vacant lot with
his dog, Peanut, tracking two sets of bicycle tracks from Silva's home.
He spotted a concrete slab and smelled an odor. But Ziegler said the
slab didn't look like it was covering an opening.
The next day, however, Interlachen resident Dawn
Marie Bachman reported a dream she had in which she saw Alley sitting in
a septic tank on the same piece of property her brother-in-law once
considered buying. At that time, Bachman explained, her husband saw
children playing in a septic tank under the slab.
The dream bothered Bachman so much that she decided
to go to the lot, reports show. When she got there, she found volunteer
firefighters checking an abandoned car. One of the firefighters, Chris
Pellicer, went with her to the slab, where they found some wood over one
Looking inside, they found the boy and his red and
Investigators were led to Silva by friends who
overheard him make remarks about Alley's death. At the time, no one knew
whether Alley was dead or alive.
The documents, provided by prosecutors this week,
don't offer a clear motive for Alley's death. State law exempts records
revealing "the substance of a confession."
But handwritten notes from investigators do mention
Alley's involvement in a Pokémon card club at his school and a
"A lot of people are saying it was over Pokémon," the
notes read. "It might have been over girlfriend . . . If he was out of
the way, she would go out with him."
The records also show that investigators looked at
listed sex offenders who live in the area as possible suspects. They
also talked to Alley's friends, questioning them about his activities at
school and reports that he had been picked on by students.
Silva, an eighth-grader, will be tried as an adult.
He could face life in prison without parole if convicted.
Feb. 6, 2001
No one understands why the life of a well-liked 12-year-old
remembered for his smile and love of the flute had to end so brutally.
Eight months ago, Jerry Lee Alley Jr. did what is
part of many a child's after-school routine -- he rode his bike to a
friend's house. On Friday, May 26, 2000, he rode off to visit John
Silva, a friend who lived a few blocks away.
Jerry, who was always expected to be home by 6 p.m.,
never came home that night. Neighbors and police with bloodhounds
searched throughout Interlachen Lakes Estates, a sparsely populated area
of dirt roads and manufactured aluminum-siding homes where one can drive
stretches of road without seeing a sign of life.
Three days later, Jerry was found strangled in a
dried underground septic tank. Fifteen-year-old Silva was charged as an
adult with first-degree murder.
This morning, lawyers will begin selecting the jury
that will decide whether Silva should spend the rest of his life in
prison without parole for the slaying of his schoolmate and friend.
Learning why someone would kill him will not bring
Jerry back. It could, however, give his family, teachers and neighbors
some understanding of why his life ended the way it did.
Yet to this day, no motive has been determined, said
Putnam County Sheriff Taylor Douglas. As with many heinous crimes,
rumors about why Jerry died circulated throughout Interlachen: He was
killed out of revenge. He was killed over a girlfriend. He was killed
for Pokemon cards.
During a search of Silva's home, police seized an
assortment of Pokemon items, including two three-ring binders containing
cards, a trading card game board and a black and gray backpack.
"We all want a 'Why'," said Cheryl Heymann, Jerry's
reading and language arts teacher at C. H. Price Middle School. "We are
looking for a why, trying to understand it."
Kids tend to tattle on each other, said Sandra
Gilyard, principal of the middle school. When kids fight, they will
typically tell who started it, who hit the other first, who made the
mean remark that sparked the argument. Usually, Gilyard said, kids will
say, "I know why this happened, I know why they did it."
But regarding Jerry's disappearance and death, no
motive was mentioned by any of the schoolchildren.
Tire tracks in front of a weather-beaten memorial on
the corner of Evans Avenue and Carr Street hint that the desolate site
is still visited, that people sometimes stop for a moment to guess at
their own reasons why a local teen is about to be tried for one of the
worst crimes Interlachen, if not all Putnam County, has ever known.
Dried bouquets wrapped in green cellophane, a teddy
bear with matted white fur, plastic flowers and a pocket-sized New
Testament Bible sitting atop a block of sandstone at the edge of the
abandoned lot carry on the memory of what police reports say may have
taken place there that afternoon.
Silva was Jerry's newest friend, Jerry's grandfather
Marvin Alley told detectives, according to police files. Silva was an
eighth-grader, Jerry in seventh. They began trading Pokemon cards, Alley
said. Marvin Alley and his wife, Anne, Jerry's grandparents, had been
his legal guardians since 1995. The boy's father lives out of state.
Jerry didn't know his mother.
His grandfather, who had been raising Jerry for 10
years, said prosecutors asked him not to comment on the case because of
the effect of pretrial publicity. Silva lived with his grandparents,
mother and sister, who could not be reached for comment.
When Jerry didn't come home on time that Friday
night, his grandfather started his own search. Alley checked the Silva
house to see if his grandson was there and was told no one had seen
Jerry, according to reports.
A little after 9 p.m., Alley reported Jerry missing
to police. Douglas remembers the response of the community, how even
though it was Memorial Day weekend, neighbors gave up their full weekend
to help find Jerry.
It was an Interlachen woman's dream that brought the
search to a sad close on Monday night. Dawn Bachman said she dreamt she
saw Jerry playing inside the tank, which local children use as a fort
when they play. She recognized the boy's face in the fliers and
recognized the child in her dream.
Someone should check that tank, Bachman said she
thought that day. But, uneasy about what she might find inside, she
asked a fireman to accompany her. After removing plywood and a wood
pallet covering the tank, fireman Chris Pellicer found Jerry's body
inside, according to reports.
Jerry's body was found partially clothed, his neck,
hands and legs bound with cord and elastic bandages. His red "Magna"
bicycle, his green University of North Florida backpack, unzipped and
empty, a pair of yellow scissors and a Pokemon trading card were also
found inside the tank.
With these items, police also found a note written on
loose-leaf paper reading "a list to prepair Jarey," "strip to underware
+ rap in tower," "tie up hands," "gag," and "cover eyes" next to Jerry's
Investigators identified Silva's fingerprint on the
note and determined the handwriting was also likely his.
On the day Jerry disappeared, Stephany Taylor, a
friend of Silva's sister, saw Silva leave his home with a plastic
grocery bag on the handlebars of the bicycle, she told police the day
after Jerry was found. She could not tell what was inside the bag. When
Silva returned, Taylor said, he was dirty and sweaty, according to
She also told police that after Jerry's grandfather
came to the Silva home looking for his grandson, she and Silva's sister
talked about where Jerry could have gone.
Silva interrupted their conversation, saying, "All I
can say is that's a terrible way to die," according to reports.
Looking for reasons
Some residents, like Debra Spires, can't understand
how a child could contemplate killing another child.
"I can't see a child having those kind of thoughts,"
said Spires, owner of Levi's bar in Palatka, who held an auction and a
cookout to raise money for the middle school in Jerry's honor. She has
lived in Interlachen for 20 years. "This is the worst I've ever seen.
Everyone wants to see how the law handles this in Putnam."
But the trial, which prosecutor Garry Wood of the
State Attorney's Office in Putnam County said is expected to last a week,
may not reveal any reason at all. The prosecution cannot comment on how
it will present the case to the jury, Woodm said.
Silva's lawyer, Douglas R. Withee, assistant public
defender of the capital division of St. Johns and Putnam counties, said
he cannot discuss the defense, but added that until Silva is proven
guilty, he is presumed innocent.
Shortly after Silva's arrest, a judge granted the
teen's lawyer's request that Silva be transported to Community
Behavioral Services in Gainesville for a neurological evaluation,
according to court records.
The court also granted Withee's request to appoint a
confidential expert from the Department of Psychiatry at the University
of Florida to conduct a sodium amytal interview to assist in Silva's
defense. Sodium amytal is commonly known as "truth serum."
The results of those tests were unavailable.
Little has been said by students at C. H. Price
Middle School about Jerry's death and the trial, said Gilyard. School
let out for the summer a few days after Silva was arrested, giving
students and parents time to come to terms with the death of their
schoolmate, she said.
Gilyard carries a picture of Jerry in her wallet. Not
the photo of a younger Jerry shown on television and in the newspapers,
but the class picture taken that spring, showing an older Jerry with
longer hair, the Jerry she knew. The boy who used to come up to her and
tell her about the school band while she stood outside the cafeteria.
The middle school has done what it could to begin
healing after the death of one of its own.
A new euphonium and trombone were purchased with the
$2,000 raised at Spires' fund-raiser. Two student awards will be
established in Jerry's honor: an award for a member of the band and the
Jerry Alley Citizenship Award.
Heymann said she wants to watch the trial to be sure
she's prepared for questions from the kids.
"I wouldn't make it a class discussion," she said. "I
wouldn't let it be. There's going to be plenty of speculation out there.
I want to keep the speculation down and stick with the facts."
While the trial will most likely attract the
attention of those who knew Silva and Jerry, Gilyard said that she'd "rather
not" follow it.
"It will never bring an end to it," Gilyard said of
the trial. "There are two families here that suffered a loss. Either way,
two families have been disrupted. It may bring justice, but not closure."
The jury that will decide whether 15-year-old John
Anthony Silva should spend the rest of his life in prison in the slaying
of his schoolmate was selected after one day of questioning.
Under Florida law, Silva cannot face the death
penalty because of his age.
Clean cut in a black suit and white dress shirt,
Silva sat beside his attorney as the court questioned 42 potential
jurors and narrowed them down to 14 by 5 p.m. The 12 jurors and two
alternates, 10 women and four men, were selected.
The victim's grandparents, Marvin and Anne Alley,
attended the jury selection. No members of Silva's family attended,
court officials said, but his mother was there before jury selection
began to bring him clothes.
Potential jurors were asked questioned whether they
felt that Silva's age would be a factor in their decision and whether
they felt that 15-year-olds are capable of committing adult crimes.
Prosecutor Garry Wood expects to call 20 or fewer
witnesses, including the victim's grandparents, Silva's mother, several
officials from the Putnam County Sheriff's Office and the Florida
Department of Law Enforcement.
Silva's attorney Douglas R. Withee, an assistant
public defender, did not present a witness list during the selection. It
is not known whether Silva will testify.
Feb. 8, 2001
Two hours into a police interview that began as a
matter-of-fact, almost lighthearted talk about what could have happened
to Jerry Lee Alley Jr., John Silva had a message for Marvin and Anne
Alley about the slaying of their 12-year-old grandson: "I'm sorry. I
didn't mean for this to happen."
The 3 1/2-hour interview taped on May 30 recounted a
story of how the two boys rode off on their bikes looking for a friend,
then instead, stopped to wrestle at the septic tank where Jerry Alley's
body was found on May 29.
As the prosecution played the interview to the court
over loudspeakers, Silva's posture reflected his taped voice. He sat
back, chin in hand, one knee up, relaxed, then, as his voice broke into
sobs and sniffles on the tape recorder, he covered his face with his
hand. Silva, 15, is on trial for first-degree murder, accused of killing
his friend, then hiding the body in a dry septic tank. The boy had been
missing for three days.
At one point while they were wrestling with each
other, Jerry was hurt while they were playing, Silva told Putnam County
police detective John Merchant and Florida Department of Law Enforcement
agent Jeanine Williams.
So Silva took him down into the tank to "cool off."
The underground septic tank was a place where Silva used to go to "get
away, to cool off" when he was mad, he told them. On his way into the
tank, Jerry fell and hit his head, Silva said as he sniffled and cried.
He tried to stop his friend's head from bleeding
profusely with an Ace bandage. Silva said he carried the bandage with
him because his own leg was injured a few weeks ago.
He tried to keep Jerry awake so he wouldn't go to
sleep. He was afraid that Jerry would hurt himself, so he tied Jerry's
hands in front of him. When Jerry's body was found, his hands were tied
behind his back.
And then, Silva said, he left him alone in the tank.
He threw Jerry's book bag and his bicycle into the tank.
He left because he panicked. He covered up the tank,
with his friend inside, with sheets of plywood and rode away. At home,
he watched television. He said he tried to act as if nothing happened
because he was scared.
That was all he could remember.
Still, the smooth, encouraging voices of Merchant and
Williams asked for more details.
"It's time to come man to man," Merchant said. "There's
more to this. I know what happened and I wasn't even there."
Williams said: "We're lifting a burden off you right
They questioned him over and over, repeating the same
questions: Why didn't you call for him if he was hurt? Why did you hurt
him? Why did this happen?
Silva repeatedly sobbed the same answers: "I don't
know. I don't remember."
Merchant told Silva he planned out Jerry's murder.
Silva said he didn't remember planning anything. A handwritten note
titled "list to prepair Jarey," found in the septic tank along with
Jerry's body, was never mentioned during the interview.
Williams asked Silva to spell Jerry's name. He
spelled it properly, though it was misspelled in the note, which
officials said was likely written by Silva.
An investigator testified that both boys'
fingerprints were on the note. Three came from Silva and one from the
victim, according to Joseph Dorsey of the FDLE.
A medical examiner testified later in the trial that
the boy died of strangulation after having a bandage and electrical cord
tied around his neck. He found no sign of a head injury as described by
Feb. 9, 2001
A 15-year-old was convicted of first degree murder
Thursday for strangling a 12-year-old whose body was found in a dry
septic tank pit two days after he disappeared.
The jury deliberated less than two hours before
finding John Silva guilty. The 12 jurors had the option of considering a
second-degree murder or manslaughter conviction.
The verdict, met with tears from both families,
guarantees the Putnam County teen a mandatory life sentence, with no
chance of parole.
The victim's grandparents, Marvin and Anne Alley,
embraced Silva's mother, Cynthia, immediately following the verdict.
"We're all in pain over this," Anne Alley said
outside the courtroom, holding her grandson's picture over her heart.
"In one way it was what we hoped for, but in another it is not victory.
We still don't have our son and now another mother has lost her son."
She and her husband hugged Silva's mother because,
Anne Alley said, they're both in pain and Cynthia Silva "hasn't had the
outpouring of love that we received from the community."
The Silva family did not want to comment on the
ruling, said a court officer, who added they were waiting for someone to
drive them home because they were too distraught.
Silva's attorney, Douglas Withee, was unavailable for
comment. At the end of the trial, he requested that one of his
associates at the Public Defender's Office stand in for him at Silva's
sentencing on March 15. Judge Arthur W. Nichols III requested that
Withee be present with his client.
Silva, who sat crying with his hands cupped over his
face after the verdict was announced following two hours of
deliberations, had to be supported by court officers as he was
"It's a sentence that will keep John Silva off the
street so he won't be able to harm anyone again," prosecutor Garry Wood
said. "He'll die in prison."
The most damning evidence against Silva was the note
left in the septic tank where the victim was found after being missing
for two days, Wood said. "The note's inescapable."
The note was written by Silva, according to witnesses
including Cynthia Silva, who said her son dismissed it as a practical
joke a few days before his friend's death.
In his closing arguments, Wood said the note "sticks
to him [Silva] like glue he won't shake off his body."
"He fulfilled every wish listed in the note," Wood
said, running through each item in the "list to prepair Jarey" left in
the tank -- "strip to underware + rap in tower," "tie up hands," "gag,"
and "cover eyes."
Holding up the two soiled Ace bandages to the jury,
the murder weapons wrapped around Jerry Alley's neck and ankles, and the
electric cord, Wood said, "These are the instruments of death that tell
you what the defendant did to Jerry Alley."
Withee asked jurors to find Silva either not guilty
or to consider lesser charges.
He told them to consider the short amount of time a
prosecution witness said Silva was gone the day Jerry went missing from
his Interlachen home and whether he could have committed the murder
during that span of time by himself.
"Please consider, was someone else involved? Could
this young man have completed these horrible acts in no time?" Withee
said of the 30- to 35-minute time span testified to by a witness. "There
are significant, significant questions about who was involved in this.
That is a very short time to do the apparent awful
work that was done on this young man."
Referring to statements and questions made by law
enforcement officials on a 3-hour taped interview with Silva that
neighbors had seen Silva and Jerry with two other boys, Withee said, "There
is another voice, two perhaps, to be heard here."
At the end of his closing statement, Wood read aloud
from a class assignment Silva wrote at C.H. Price Middle School, where
both he and Jerry went. In the assignment, Silva was asked to agree or
disagree with the statement, "kids [should be] charged as adults."
He wrote "Yes."
Silva then wrote, as if in response to why kids
should be charged as adults when they commit crimes, "Kids will think
twice about crimes, teaches lessons," then the adage, "you do the crime,
you do the time."
March 16, 2001
Fifteen-year-old John Silva sat quietly in handcuffs
as a Putnam County judge sentenced him to life in prison with no chance
of parole for killing his schoolmate and friend, Jerry Lee Alley Jr.
The sentencing went quickly, lasting less than an
hour, with brief statements from the Alley family and friends asking
Judge Arthur W. Nichols III to set an example for other children and
send Silva to prison for life. Silva wasn't old enough to be considered
for the death penalty.
"It goes without saying that Jerry was a special
boy," said Anne Alley, the 12-year-old's grandmother and adoptive parent
with her husband, Marvin. "It goes without saying that our lives are
changed forever, with children killing children. We need to make a
statement that this is the real world, that if you kill somebody, there
are real consequences."
Only Silva's mother, Cynthia Silva, spoke on his
"I still do not believe that he did this crime," she
said. "There was definitely someone else involved. He is extremely
immature for his age. He doesn't do things that normal teenagers do. He
hasn't even understood most of the process of what is going on here."
Silva, who cried during his trial and conviction last
month, showed no emotion.
His attorney, Putnam County Assistant Public Defender
John Stephenson, said he told him that he needed to realize he will most
likely go to prison for life.
"That may explain his lack of reaction," Stephenson
Although the life sentence was the judge's only
option, Cynthia Silva asked that her son be sent to a juvenile facility
instead of an adult prison.
Nichols agreed to recommend that Silva be housed in a
juvenile facility until he is 21, when he would be transferred to an
adult prison. Silva will be taken to a prison reception center in Lake
Butler where his final placement will be determined.
Outside the courthouse, Marvin Alley said the ruling
was the only outcome that he thought was right. Anne Alley added that
she has no animosity toward the Silva family