MIAMI (Reuters) - A man convicted of raping and strangling a 10-year-old girl who lived next door to the halfway house where he resided more than 20 years ago was executed in Florida on Wednesday, a state prison official said.
Elmer Leon Carroll, 56, was pronounced dead at 6:12 p.m. EDT from a lethal injection at the Florida State Prison near Starke, said Ann Howard, a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Corrections.
Carroll was convicted in the 1990 murder of Christine McGowan. Police said Carroll, who lived at a halfway house for ex-convicts and homeless men, broke into the girl's home while her stepfather slept and her mother was at work, and assaulted the fifth-grader in her bed.
A Florida jury gave him the death sentence him two years later for murder and sexual battery. The judge in the case called the crime "savage and barbaric."
The execution came as death penalty opponents in Florida plan to present petitions to Governor Rick Scott on Thursday urging him to veto a bill recently passed by the state's legislature that would speed up the death penalty process.
The "Timely Justice Act" would set deadlines for condemned killers to file appeals and post-conviction motions in a state that has 404 inmates on death row, more than any other state except California.
Supporters of the bill say they want to prevent frivolous appeals that are costly and only end up delaying the executions. Some opponents warn speeding up the process could lead to innocent prisoners being executed.
Before McGowan's killing, Carroll had previously been convicted twice for molesting children.
During his trial, a resident at the halfway house said Carroll told him the girl was "cute" and "liked to watch him make boats," according to court documents.
Authorities found blood and other evidence at the scene that tied Carroll to the crime.
A last-minute appeal by his lawyers to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied shortly before the execution. Carroll's attorneys argued he was mentally ill when he committed the murder.
Carroll was the thirteenth person executed in the United States this year, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
(Additional reporting by Bill Cotterell in Tallahassee; Writing by Kevin Gray; editing by Andrew hay)