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William Frederick HAPP






Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Rape - Kidnapping
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: May 24, 1986
Date of birth: January 19, 1962
Victim profile: Angela Crowley, 21
Method of murder: Strangulation
Location: Citrus County, Florida, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on July 31, 1989. Executed by lethal injection in Florida on October 15, 2013

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Florida Supreme Court


opinion 76634

opinion 76634-J


opinion SC00-1198

opinion SC03-1890


Murderer who raped and killed a woman in 1986 finally confesses moments before being executed

  • William Happ, who killed and raped Angie Crowley, 21, in 1986, was pronounced dead at 6.16pm on Tuesday at Florida State Prison in Starke

  • Moments before his death Happ told his victim's family: 'It is to my agonising shame that I must confess to this terrible crime'

  • Angie's brother replied: 'You need to ask somebody a lot more important than me for forgiveness'

By Lizzie Perry -

October 18, 2013

A Florida man convicted of raping and murdering a 21-year-old woman in 1986 made a shock confession moments before he was executed by lethal injection of a controversial, never-before used drug.

Facing 17 members of his victim's family, William Happ, 51 - the first death row inmate to be injected with the drug midazolam hydrochloride - told those gathered to watch his death: '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 agonising shame that I must confess to this terrible crime.'

Chris Cowley, the victim's brother, said the confession had come as a shock to his family.

'You need to ask somebody a lot more important than me for forgiveness,' he told Happ.

Minutes later Happ blinked repeatedly and shook his head back and forth as he was executed.

The drug was used despite concerns it might not work as promised and could inflict cruel and unusual punishment on the death row inmate.

The execution began at 6.02pm at Florida State Prison in Starke. Happ's eyes opened and he blinked several times.

He closed them and opened them again two minutes later. He then yawned and his jaw dropped open.

At 6.08pm, the official overseeing the execution tugged at Happ's eyelids and grasped his shoulder to check for a response. There was none.

Happ appeared to remain conscious for a greater length of time and made more body movements after losing consciousness than people executed by the old formula which usually kills the prisoner within seven minutes.

Midazolam, typically used by doctors for sedation, was the first of three drugs pumped into Happ as part of a lethal injection cocktail designed to induce unconsciousness, paralysis and death by cardiac arrest.

The first of the drugs administered as part of the lethal injection 'protocol' in Florida has long been the barbiturate pentobarbital.

But Florida and other death penalty states that use a trio of drugs as part of their injection procedures have been running out of pentobarbital since its manufacturer clamped a ban on its use in future executions.

'This is somewhat of an experiment on a living human being,' Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, said Monday.

'The three-drug process depends on the first drug rendering the inmate unconscious and, if he is only partially unconscious, the inmate could be experiencing extreme pain,' he added. 'Because the second drug paralyzes him, he would be unable to cry out or show that he's in pain.'

The 51-year-old Happ, who had abandoned his appeals and said he was ready to die, was condemned for the 1986 abduction, rape and murder of Angie Crowley, whose body was found on a canal bank near Crystal River in central Florida.

Happ was calm when he met with two spiritual advisers, including a Roman Catholic priest who administered last rites, according to Department of Corrections spokeswoman Jessica Cary.

For his last meal, Happ had a 12-ounce box of assorted chocolates and 1 1/2 quarts of German chocolate ice-cream.

'To my agonizing shame, I must confess to the crime,' he said in a slow, deliberate voice before the injection was given. 'I wish to offer my most sincere, heartfelt apology. I have prayed for the good Lord to forgive me for my sins. But I understand why those here cannot.'

Crowley's mother and two siblings died before they could see the sentence carried out, but Crowley's surviving sisters and brothers traveled to Starke to watch as Happ was executed.

Happ's lawyer, Eric Pinkard of St Petersburg, said there were no late motions to stay the execution. Happ told a circuit judge in Inverness, Florida, last month that he did not want to continue the court appeals that have kept him on Florida's death row for nearly a quarter-century.

Another condemned Florida prisoner, Etheria Jackson, has a hearing set for a November 6 in Jacksonville's federal court, challenging the use of midazolam.

Jackson's appeal contends that there is 'substantial risk' of midazolam not working completely, violating the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of 'cruel and unusual punishment' by subjecting the condemned to a painful paralysis and fatal heart seizure over several minutes.

Angie Crowley was making her first long trip through Florida on Memorial Day weekend in 1986 but she never arrived at her destination.

She prearranged with her friend to meet at a convenience store in Crystal River so she could be guided the last few miles of the trip. Crowley found the store, but before she could get to the pay phone, William Happ smashed her car window, kidnapped her. He beat her, raped her and strangled her with her pants before throwing her body into a canal.

Crowley's brother Chris has pushed for years through an online petition and an email campaign to ensure Happ was executed for what he did to his sister.

'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.'

The murder shook Oregon, a small town about 40 miles southwest of Rockford, Illinois. Angie Crowley was a popular student at Oregon High School. After graduating, she attended Northern Illinois University before moving to Fort Lauderdale in December 1985. She worked as a travel agent to help pursue her dreams to travel the world.

'He took away the potential. There were seven kids in that family and she had the greatest potential of everybody. She had the personality, she had the looks, she had the smarts and she had the attitude. She really, really accomplished things and he took that,' Crowley said. 'We were never able to see it.'

And the praise is not just because he's a loving brother. Angie Crowley's friends said she had a magnetic personality. She was a talented musician, honor student and a cheerleader with tons of friends. Always smiling, she never said anything bad about anybody.

'She was a sweetheart. Everybody just loved her, she had a great personality. She was prom queen, she was homecoming queen. She was just a gorgeous, gorgeous girl,' said Jim Kaufman, a classmate who visited Crowley in Florida just before her slaying. 'All of her classmates were devastated. Everybody in the whole town was. The whole town from young to older people knew her very well. She was very, very outgoing.'

She was also a thoughtful friend who made great efforts to stay connected, said Sharon McBreen, who moved from Illinois to Florida in 10th grade.

Not only did Crowley write long letters, but she mailed McBreen a senior yearbook signed by all her former classmates. Crowley's note in the book was two-pages long.

'She was just one of those really good friends who never missed your birthday. The card was always on time. She would write me six-page letters,' McBreen said. 'She would just write, front and back. She filled these letters with everything that was going on in town, and what she was thinking and what she wanted to do.'


William Frederick Happ

DC#  117027

Fifth Judicial Circuit, Citrus County Case # 86-671
Venue changed to Lake County on 06/29/88
Sentencing Judge: The Honorable Jerry T. Lockett
Attorney, Trial: Jeffery M. Pfister – Assistant Public Defender
Attorney, Direct Appeal:  Christopher S. Quarles – Assistant Public Defender
Attorney, Collateral Appeals:  Robert Strain & Carol Rodriguez – CCRC-M

Date of Offense: 05/24/86

Date of Sentence: 07/31/89

Circumstances of Offense:

On 05/24/86, a fisherman found the body of a partially clad woman on the bank of the Cross-Florida Barge Canal. The woman’s shoulders were covered by a tee shirt that was pulled up to her underarms, and a pair of stretch pants was tied tightly around her neck. 

The medical examiner testified that the woman’s face and skull were badly bruised and hemorrhaged, had multiple scrapes on her back and right heel, had suffered ten to twenty hard blows to the head, and had been anally raped before death, the cause of which was strangulation. 

The victim was last seen at a Cumberland Farms store at 2:30 a.m. on 05/24/86, and a woman’s scream was heard at approximately the same time.  The victim’s car was found six-tenths of a mile from the store, with its driver’s side window shattered. 

A shoe print found outside the driver’s side door matched one of Happ’s shoes and Happ’s fingerprints were found on the exterior of the car. 

Happ revealed the details of the crime to a fellow jail inmate, Richard Miller.

Happ’s first trial ended in a mistrial when the prosecutor violated a court order and revealed Happ’s prior criminal record. 

At the second trial, a friend of Happ’s testified that around the time of the murder, he saw Happ walking toward the canal, and the next morning he noticed that Happ had a swollen right hand.  Happ’s former girlfriend also testified that Happ told her that he had broken a car window with his fist. 

Trial Summary:

12/02/86          Indicted as follows:

Count I - First-Degree Murder
Count II - Burglary with Battery
Count III - Kidnapping
Count IV - Sexual Battery

02/05/87          Entered a plea of not guilty

06/29/88         Venue changed from Citrus to Lake County (Lake County case # 88-1037)

07/28/89          Jury returned guilty verdicts on all counts of the indictment

07/31/89          Jury recommended a death sentence by a vote of 9-3

07/31/89          Sentenced as follows:

Count I - First-Degree Murder – Death
Counts II-IV - Life Imprisonment

Case Information:

Happ filed a Direct Appeal with the Florida Supreme Court on 08/30/89, citing the following nine errors: denying motion to dismiss the indictment on double jeopardy grounds, denying motion to suppress evidence, refusing to answer a jury deliberation question, restricting evidence regarding witness testimony, failing to find that the State did not express non-racial reasons for striking a juror, allowing the reading of Miller’s (a fellow jail inmate) testimony at the second trial, commenting on the evidence and limiting defense counsel’s closing arguments, refusing to allow the defense to refer to the key state witness as a “snitch” and “squealer,” and denial of a fair trial due to the cumulative effect of errors. 

The FSC affirmed the conviction and sentence on 01/23/92.

Happ filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court on 06/08/92 that was granted on 11/02/92.  The USSC vacated the sentence and remanded the case to the FSC. 

On 05/20/93, the Florida Supreme Court again affirmed the death sentence of Happ.

Happ filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court on 08/18/93 that was denied on 10/12/93.

Happ filed a 3.850 Motion with the Circuit Court on 01/17/95 that was denied on 05/15/97.

Happ filed a 3.850 Motion Appeal with the Florida Supreme Court on 06/01/98 that was dismissed without prejudice on 09/13/00 to allow Happ to raise ineffective assistance of counsel claims in an amended 3.850 Motion.

Happ filed an amended 3.850 Motion with the Circuit Court on 11/02/99 that was again amended on 08/31/00 and 11/10/00.  The Motion was denied on 09/18/03.

Happ filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus with the Florida Supreme Court on 10/27/00, citing issues related to ineffective assistance of appellate counsel.  The FSC denied the Petition on 05/03/01.

Happ filed a 3.850 Motion Appeal with the Florida Supreme Court on 10/22/03 that was denied on 12/08/05.



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