Florida death row inmate pleads guilty to 2 murders

Published On: Jan 17 2014 01:06:36 PM EST   Updated On: Jan 17 2014 06:30:07 PM EST

A man who was given a new trial after spending 28 years on Florida's death row and was once two hours away from execution has pleaded guilty to two murders.


A 67-year-old former death row inmate will now spend the rest of his life in prison after a plea deal. 

Roy Clifton Swafford was set to be executed in 1990 for the 1982 death of Brenda Meadows Rucker, a 27-year-old gas station clerk in Ormond Beach.  Swafford was in town for the Daytona 500 and killed her on the day he headed to the race.

In court, Brenda's husband, Kevin, recalled that day 31 years ago. He said as Swafford enjoyed the race, family members searched for the body of Rucker. They had been married for 5 years and were high school sweethearts. 

In 1990, Swafford's execution was stopped just two hours before he was scheduled to die.

As he waited for a retrial, in 2004, the Volusia County Sheriff's Office announced that DNA had implicated Swafford in another murder. Diane Markland, a 17-year-old senior at Spruce Creek High School, was killed in 1981 after being kidnapped, raped and shot 3 times.  This week, a grand jury indicted Swafford in Markland's death.

On Friday, Swafford pleaded guilty to murder of Rucker and Markland. He chose not to speak in court, but family members of the victims did.

Markland's brother, now a sergeant for the Coconut Creek Police Department, addressed Swafford, saying, "today, after 33 years you finally took the first step to man up.  You were nothing, and you will always be nothing.  I was tormented that I wasn't there to protect her."


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