Crime

Life sentence for man convicted of 1984 Miami baseball bat murder

Rickey Roberts, who beat a Miami man to death with a baseball bat off the Rickenbacker Causeway in 1984, is going to prison for life after prosecutors on Tuesday waived the death penalty.

Roberts, 61, agreed to the sentence, ending decades of legal wrangling in his case. He apologized to the family of George Napoles, who was only 20 when he was murdered.

“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about George. I am deeply, deeply sorry,” Roberts said. “I wish your family peace.”

Roberts was convicted in 1985 of fatally beating Napoles and raping a teen girl at a beach next to the causeway near Key Biscayne. He was arrested, convicted at trial in 1985 and sentenced to death for the slaying.

Roberts was scheduled for electrocution in 1989 but won a stay from the Florida Supreme Court. Then Gov. Lawton Chiles signed Roberts’ second death warrant in January 1996 — he was 18 hours from the electric chair before the state high court again stayed the execution.

After years of litigation, the Florida Supreme Court in 2002 granted him a new sentencing hearing because prosecutors improperly drafted the sentencing order for the judge. He remained convicted of the murder.

Since then, the case was delayed over and over as Roberts and prosecutors fought various legal battles at the appellate courts. His case was delayed again this year after the U.S. Supreme Court declared Florida’s death-penalty sentencing scheme to be unconstitutional — which spurred the legislature to revamp the law.

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