Marshall Lee Gore, the notorious Miami rapist and murderer, was known for his outrageous courtroom antics: insulting lawyers, storming off the witness stand and howling at a guilty verdict.
But after more than two decades on Florida’s Death Row, Gore displayed no insolence in his final moments.
Instead, on Tuesday night, as he lay strapped in a gurney awaiting death by lethal injection at Florida State Prison, he refused to open his eyes.
“Inmate Gore, do you have a last statement you’d like to make,” a prison official asked just past 6 p.m.
Gore, 50, his jowls quivering side-to-side slightly, said not a word.
A lethal cocktail of drugs began coursing into his veins through tubes hooked into both arms. Moments later, his mouth opened in a deep labored breath, then stayed agape as color drained from his ruddy face.
From behind a thick pane of glass, four rows of observers, including relatives of victims Robyn Novick and Susan Marie Roark, leaned forward in their chairs as minutes ticked away. A white-smocked doctor walked in. He pried Gore’s eye lids open, shining a light in. No response. At 6:12 p.m., the prison official pronounced Gore dead.
“I thought that was quite ironic, that he had nothing to say at the end,” said retired Miami-Dade Detective Dave Simmons, who investigated Gore’s slew of rapes. “He played the system for years faking insanity, saying outlandish things to judges and witnesses, and in his moment of truth, he had nothing to say for himself. He was the ultimate coward in the end.”
As the relatives filed out of the gallery, Novick’s sister, Pamela Novick, winked at journalists. Gore stabbed and beat Robyn Novick to death in March 1988, leaving her discarded corpse in a trash heap near Homestead.
Pamela Novick recalled her 30-year-old sister’s “heart of gold” and “zest for life” and the horror of her body dumped “as if one was throwing out garbage.”
Novick read a statement after the execution lamenting that Gore had lived for so long after her sister’s death.
“My sister Robyn wasn’t given a choice of how or when she wanted to die,’’ she said. “She was violently murdered by a serial killer with no mercy and no appeals.’’
Novick’s elderly mother, Phyllis Novick, who lives in Ohio, did not attend Tuesday’s execution. Neither did her father.
“Our dearest father, Alvin, had hoped to see this day. Unfortunately, he passed away too soon,” Pamela Novick said.
Gore’s execution was ultimately quick and drama-free, unlike the 25 years of legal wrangling since he murdered the two women and nearly killed another. It had been Gore’s fourth scheduled execution in recent months. Twice before, courts halted executions as Gore’s lawyers sought to stave off his death because of questions about his sanity.
Then, in a move roundly criticized, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi rescheduled a September execution date so she could attend a political fundraiser; she later apologized. Bondi’s decision still riled many involved in the case.
“It was a slap in the face, not only for the law enforcement officers involved but for the families who have waited 25 long years,” said retired Columbia County Sheriff’s Lt. Neal Nydam, who investigated the Roark murder and attended Tuesday’s execution. Nydam said afterward: “It’s been a roller coaster. But finally, it’s over.”
Nydam attended the execution with former Columbia prosecutor Bob Dekle, who also put away serial killer Ted Bundy. Former Miami-Dade prosecutor Flora Seff also witnessed the execution.
Authorities arrested Gore in 1988 after he kidnapped a stripper Tootsie’s Cabaret in North Miami-Dade. After raping the woman, he slit her throat, bashed her head in with a rock and left her to die in an isolated stretch near Homestead. The woman lived, alerting police officers that Gore had made off with her car, with her 2-year-old son in the back seat. The child was later found alive.
Officers looking for the boy stumbled across Novick’s remains. She was last seen with Gore leaving a tavern.
Novick, 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.
Suspicion soon fell on Gore for the disappearance of Tennessee college student Susan Marie 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 forest road.
In all, Gore was suspected of at least 15 sexual assaults, the attempted murder of a girl in Broward and the two murders.
After he was convicted in a slew of trials, Gore’s lawyers claimed the convicted killer was mentally ill. His execution, they said, would violate a constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. In documents penned himself, Gore tried to prove his insanity by claiming he was being executed as a “human sacrifice” and for “organ harvesting.”
Ultimately, court after court rejected Gore’s claims. Late Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to give Gore a final stay.
“I think the system is set up in a way that makes it very difficult for everybody involved, especially the victim’s families,” former prosecutor Seff said. “Despite that fact so much time has passed, the execution brought some peace to these people.”