On April 5, 2005, Glen James Ocha, a 47-year-old convicted killer who legally changed his name to “Raven Raven,” found himself permanently grounded. The state of Florida executed Ocha by lethal injection that morning after for the slow, gruesome 1999 strangulation murder of convenience store worker Carol Skjerva, 28.
It was a horrific slaying that Ocha said was motivated by Skjerva mocking his diminutive male endowment, and that, in time, led to Pope John Paul II and Governor Jeb Bush debating the killer’s fate while the world watched. Ultimately, the side in favor of Ocha getting the needle won out.
The saga didn’t begin on such ugly terms. In fact, Ocha and Skjerva initially hit it off. The pair met in a Kissimmee, Florida, bar and went back to Ocha’s place and engaged in consensual sex — but the post-coitus pillow talk proved to be less than pleasing.According to Ocha, Skjerva mocked his performance in general and the disappointingly small size of his genitals in particular. She even apparently threatened to fill her boyfriend in on all the underwhelming details.
Ocha flew into a rage, grabbed a long length of rope from his garage, and returned to strangle Skjerva to death with it. He threw the rope around her neck and lifted her from the ground three times as she struggled. Alas, he proved too weak from being drunk and stoned to finish the job.
Finally, with Skjerva unconscious, Ocha fastened the rope around her neck one last time, threw it over a door and hoisted her up, then shut the door on the rope as she dangled. From there, Ocha drank a beer while casually watching Skjerva hang to death.
Afterward, Ocha stuffed Skjerva’s body in a home-entertainment center out in his garage and drove her car to Daytona Beach. Once there, cops picked him up for disorderly intoxication and Ocha spilled his guts about what he’d done.
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In short order, Ocha pleaded guilty to murdering Skjerva and refused to allow a public defender to negotiate down from the death penalty. In fact, Ocha specifically asked for the opposite, writing a letter to Assistant Attorney General Stephen D. Ake in which he stated, “Sir, I wish for my execution to come swift and unhampered.”
Six years later, Ocha got his wish.
Interestingly, along the way, others sought to spoil Ocha’s dream of dying at the hands of the state. Prominent among them were local Catholic leaders, whose church teachings oppose capital punishment.Eventually, even Pope John Paul II attempted to intercede. He wrote an open letter to Florida Governor Jeb Bush, a convert to Catholicism. The pontiff appealed to Bush’s beliefs as a Catholic, and also pointed that Ocha had suffered severe head injuries early in his life that led to erratic behavior and frequent expressions of a desire to commit suicide. In essence, the Pope told Bush that to sign Oscha’s death order would be to assist in the suicide of a sick and suffering victim of mental illness.
Jeb Bush says he mulled over the request from the leader of his church and, after Pope John Paul II himself died on April 2, the governor stated, “I actually was prepared to delay the execution out of courtesy for and respect for the Pope’s passing.”
Regardless, Bush said he had a duty to the people of Florida and the family of Carol Stjerka, and he ordered Ocha into the death chamber three days following the pontiff’s demise.
Upon being strapped to the execution table, Ocha said:
“I would like to say I apologize to Carol Skjerva, the girl that I murdered, her family and her friends. This is the punishment that I deserve. I’m taking responsibility for my actions. I want everybody to know I’m not a volunteer but this is my responsibility I have to take.”
After that, Glen Ocha finally received what he’d been after for so long.
Main photo: Glen Ocha [Florida Department of Corrections]