STARKE -- A federal appeals court on Monday temporarily halted the execution of Miami killer Marshall Lee Gore, about an hour before he was set to die by lethal injection.
Gore, 49, was to be executed for the March 1988 strangulation-and-stabbing murder of Lauderhill’s Robyn Novick.
Novick relatives, who had flown in from Ohio, were not happy Monday night. They were also joined by relatives of Susan Marie Roark, a Tennessee college student who was kidnapped and killed by Gore in Columbia County.
“They’re upset. This has been going on for 25 years,” said retired Columbia Sheriff’s Office Lt. Neal Nydam, who was with the Roark family at Florida State Prison to witness Monday’s execution. “They’re trying to find closure and it’s not going to happen today.”
Gore’s reprieve, however, may not last long — the court quickly set a Thursday court date for his lawyers in the case to explore the possibility that Gore is insane. The U.S. Supreme Court has long held that the execution of insane inmates is cruel and unusual punishment.
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Atlanta, said it would try to settle the matter before July 1.
Gore’s claim that he cannot be executed because he is insane mirrors that of John Ferguson, a Miami mass killer who earned a stay of execution in October.
The same federal court rejected Ferguson’s appeal, but it took seven months for the judges to rule. A new execution date for Ferguson has not been set.
Unlike Ferguson, Gore has no significant history of being diagnosed for mental illness. A panel of psychiatrists, appointed last month by the governor to evaluate Gore before his execution, found that he was mentally sound.
They noted that Gore spun a conspiracy theory behind the move to execute him: The “Illuminati” wants him dead to sell his organs.
“This fantastic, imaginative scenario,” the panel reported to the governor, “was patently a fabrication designed to mislead the panel and avoid responsibility for his past actions.”
Gore, who grew up in Cutler Ridge, was a pony-tailed conman who charmed women.
His penchant for brutality was discovered in March 1988 when he kidnapped a stripper named Tina at Tootsie’s Cabaret. He raped the woman, slit her throat and bashed her head in with a rock before leaving her to die in a rural area near Homestead.
She survived and alerted police that Gore had stolen her car — with her 2-year-old son Jimmy in the back seat.
Police embarked on a massive search for Gore and the child. Eventually, Jimmy was found alive locked in a cabinet of an abandoned Georgia home. FBI agents nabbed Gore in Kentucky.
Officers who had been looking for the boy found Novick’s corpse in a trash heap near Homestead. She was last seen leaving a nearby tavern with Gore. Her abandoned Corvette was later found in Coral Gables.
Novick, 30, originally from Cincinnati, was a General Motors credit services representative who met Gore during a brief stint moonlighting as a dancer at Solid Gold in North Miami-Dade.
Gore was also identified as the person who killed Roark, who had disappeared two months earlier. She was last seen in his company. In April 1988 Columbia County deputies found Roark’s body, reduced to almost a skeleton, off a rural forest road.
Throughout his trials, Gore displayed outrageous behavior in court, howling, insulting his own lawyers and cursing at television cameras. Once, he took the stand in his own defense only to storm off the stand during cross-examination.
In 1995, a jury convicted Gore of Novick’s murder and he was sent to Death Row. The Florida Supreme Court overturned the conviction after a prosecutor, agitated with Gore’s antics, used improper language in closing arguments.
A new jury convicted Gore. Gov. Scott signed the death warrant last month.
Earlier Monday, at Florida State Prison, Gore met with a spiritual advisor and ate his last meal: a rib-eye steak and a Coca-Cola. He did not touch the side-dish, a baked potato.
No family or friends met with Gore in his last hours, according to a corrections spokeswoman. However, Gore did meet with a volunteer Catholic spiritual advisor, Dale Recinella, who often counsels Death Row inmates.