William Frederick Happ, a 51-year-old death row inmate at the Florida State Prison in Starke, was executed Tuesday evening for the rape and murder of a young woman in 1986. Happ confessed to the murder just moments before he was executed, leaving the woman’s family, who attended his execution, stunned.
According to the Sun Sentinel, Angie Crowley was 21 years old in 1986, when she was abducted by Happ, then 24, at a rest stop on Florida’s west coast. Police said she was on her way to Yankeetown to visit her former college roommate on the night of May 23, when she stopped at a convenience store to call her friend for directions.
Crowley, who had been working at a travel agency in Fort Lauderdale, had to drive six hours to visit the friend, and was supposed to call again later when she was closer. But she never made another call. Her body was eventually discovered on the bank of a canal near Crystal River. Investigators determined that she had been raped and strangled with her pants. Investigators connected Happ, who had previously been arrested for a spate of crimes including public drunkenness, burglary and robbery, to the crime through fingerprinting.
Crowley’s brother, Chris, now 56, said he had waited anxiously for years for Happ’s execution. “He killed my sister, he took her life. But when he took that life, he created so many other victims,” Crowley said. “What he did affected everybody. It ate my mother up. I changed jobs and moved all within three months.”
“It was 27 years to wait for justice — that’s a long time,” Crowley added in a phone interview with the Daily Commercial.
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“You could see this one coming,” Vern Gardner, police chief in Happ’s previous hometown of Gilroy, Calif., said. “Between 1974 and 1984, we arrested him 30 times.”
Gardner said Happ fled the county after he was identified as the perpetrator in an unrelated robbery and kidnapping. Federal authorities eventually issued a warrant for his arrest for unlawful flight and the FBI began searching for him, finally tracking him down on Aug. 14, 1986
Seventeen of Crowley’s friends and relatives attended Happ’s execution at the prison, including two of her brothers, two sister, a nephew, and her aunt.
Happ was calm throughout the ordeal, according to a report from Reuters. A Catholic priest administered his last rites, and he ate a last meal of chocolate and German chocolate ice cream. When asked if he had any last words, Happ said: "For 27 years, the horrible murder of Angela Crowley has been clouded by circumstantial evidence and uncertainty. For the sake of her family, loved ones and all concerned, it is to my agonizing shame that I must confess to this terrible crime."
Moments later, he was executed by lethal injection, including the never before used drug midazolam hydrochloride, which some opponents have cautioned might not work.
Happ was pronounced dead at 6:16 p.m.