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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Rape - Robbery
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: February 3, 1988
Date of birth: August 9, 1967
Victim profile: Marlene Reeves, 62 (she was physically ill and also mentally retarded)
Method of murder: Smothered with a pillow
Location: Pasco County, Florida, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on April 11, 1989

Florida Supreme Court

opinion 74231

DC #755994
DOB: 08/09/67

Sixth Judicial Circuit, Pasco County, Case #88-00394 CF
Sentencing Judge: The Honorable Maynard F. Swanson, Jr.
Trial Attorney: A. J. Ivie, Esq. – Private
Attorney, Direct Appeal: Robert F. Moeller – Assistant Public Defender
Attorney, Collateral Appeals: Richard Kiley & James Viggiano – CCRC-M

Date of Offense: 02/03/88

Date of Sentence: 04/11/89

Circumstances of Offense:

Gregory Capehart was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of 62-year-old Marlene Reeves on 02/03/88.

Marlene Reeves, the victim, was an elderly woman who lived independently in her own apartment in Dade City.  She was completely illiterate; she could not read, write, or make change.  Edith Snow, a friend of the victim, testified that many people took advantage of Reeves.

Reeves’ body was discovered by police officers while investigating a reported break-in at her apartment complex.  Deputy Sheriff Jeffrey Clark found Reeves’ apartment ransacked and her body lying on her bed, with a pillow covering her face.  Reeves’ underwear was pulled down to her knees and her nightgown was pushed up to expose her breasts. 

Medical examiners concluded that Reeves’ sexual organs were injured, indicating a sexual assault prior to death.  Reeves died as a result of asphyxia from being smothered with a pillow.  Investigators lifted a palm print from the scene, which was later found to match Gregory Capehart’s.

Capehart admitted to Walter Harrison, a longtime friend, that he killed Reeves, but told him that it was an accident.  Capehart said that he broke into her apartment to steal some money, but Reeves woke up, and when he tried to knock her out with the pillow, he accidentally killed her. 

When making a statement to police after his arrest, however, Capehart then claimed he was with a couple of guys who were going to rob Reeves.  Capehart claimed that he was outside during the robbery, and when he entered Reeves bedroom, he saw one of the guys strangling her.

Trial Summary:

02/24/88          Defendant indicted on the following:

Count I:           First-Degree Murder

Count II:          Burglary W/ Intent to Commit Assault

04/20/88          Defendant entered a plea of “not guilty” on both counts.

02/22/89          The jury found the defendant guilty of the following:

Count I:           First-Degree Murder

Count II:          Burglary W/O Intent to Commit Assault

02/23/89          Upon advisory sentencing, the jury, but a 7 to 5 majority, voted for the death penalty.

04/11/89          The defendant was sentenced as followed:

Count I:           First-Degree Murder - Death

Count II:          Burglary W/O Intent to Commit Assault – 15 years

NOTE: Capehart’s sentence on Count II:  Burglary W/O Intent to Commit Assault was later reduced to seven years.

Case Information:

Capehart filed his Direct Appeal in the Florida Supreme Court on 05/30/89.  In that appeal, Capehart argued that there was insufficient evidence to prove he killed Marlene Reeves and that the trial court erred in permitting the testimony of a medical examiner, who did not perform the autopsy. 

Capehart objected to the testimony of Officer Muck who negated Capehart’s claim that someone else killed Reeves, and he also objected to the admission of character evidence of the victim. 

In reference to the penalty phase, Capehart argued that the court did not adequately examine his claim of ineffective counsel and their refusal to grant him a new court-appointed counsel.  He also claimed that the court erred in its application of aggravating factors. 

Upon examination of this claim, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the cold, calculated, and premeditated (CCP) aggravating factor was falsely applied to Capehart’s case.  With three other valid aggravating factors present, however, the Supreme Court deemed the inclusion of the CCP factor as harmless error. 

On 06/13/91, the Florida Supreme Court affirmed the convictions and sentence of death; however, they vacated Capehart’s 15-year burglary sentence and remanded for re-sentencing according to sentencing guidelines.

On 12/01/91, Capehart filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus in the United States Supreme Court, which was denied on 01/21/92.

On 04/19/93, Capehart filed a Motion to Vacate Judgment and Sentence (3.850) in the State Circuit.  He has filed six amended motions, the last of which was filed on 07/10/03.  On 04/21/04, an evidentiary hearing was held and the judge granted a new penalty phase.  Capehart is awaiting resentencing.


Gregory Capehart

DOB: 08/09/67
Date of Sentence: 04/11/89 

Who is Gregory?

Gregory was born on August 9, 1967, lived in Dade City, Florida. His mother was an alcohol addicted, during her pregnancy never more than two days passed by without being completely drunk. 

As the mother arrived at home with the baby after a difficult delivering, the father throw the baby through the window out into the rain. In the following years the parents took rarely care of Gregory, they did not speak to him, apart from letting him know that he was unwanted and unloved. Added to this his parents fought all the time and didn't stop from being violent. These familiar surroundings left their marks, Gregory had mental problems and later went to a school for mentally retarded children.  

After his parents separated, Gregory lived with his maternal grandmother in Orlando. Life got not better there, it only changed. Grandmother's favorite was Gregory's older brother Raymond. He was intelligent, an athlete and could do no wrong to his grandmother. The same could not be said for Gregory, who suffered from the rage of his Grandmother and got beaten by her, even then Raymond was the wrongdoer.

Gregory's childhood was stamped by constant rejection on one hand and a permanent struggling for acceptance on the other hand.

Gregory started drinking in a very young age and like father and mother he drank till being completely drunk. 

All this could have caused him getting a angry young man. But this did not happen. Even when attacked, he would not fight back. Many times he was beaten by the children of the neighborhood, but he never fought back. His nonviolent behavior and the open talks about his Christian believes earned him the nickname "Preacher".

As a youth he went back to his father in Dade City. It didn’t went well between the two and Gregory lived on the streets. He came into the wrong crowd and did all that older children told him to do, to get accepted by them. This way he became toy of drug-addicted and criminals.

In the age of 15 he was transferred to a youth-center because of burglary, he described that time as the “best in his life”. After this he went back to the streets.

During a time in jail in 1985 he tried several time to commit suizide.

In his psychological report of Feb. 2nd, 2002 Dr. Bill E. Mosman finds, that Gregory is classified as mentally retarded after Florida’s law.

The Crime and Circumstances of the Crime

Gregory was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of 62-year-old Marlene Reeves.

Marlene Reeves, the victim, was an elderly woman who lived independently in her apartment. She was physically ill and also mentally retarded, wasn’t able either to read nor write. This was reason why people around her took advantage of her. Edith Snow, a friend of the victim, testified that many people took advantage of Reeves.

Reeves’ body was discovered by Deputy Sheriff Jeffrey Clark. He investigated a reported break-in at Rebecca Henry’s apartment. She was awaken by an intruder at 5 a.m. Henry described the intruder as a black male, 5’9’’ tall, 165 lbs – no similarity to Gregory.

Deputy Clark wanted to question the direct neighbor of Henry – Marlene Reeves.

He found Reeves’ apartment ransacked and her body lying on her bed, with a pillow covering her face. She was smothered with a pillow and after the Medical examiners she was sexual assault prior to death. Investigators lifted a palm print from the scene, which was later found to match Gregory Capehart’s.


A neighbor of Reeves – R. Caruthers – testified that he saw a man wearing a yellow/orange trench-coat between 4.40 and 6.00 a.m. heading to Reeve’s apartment.

D. Harrison testified, she saw Capehart that night with a black trench-coat.

Rebecca Henry – the woman next door – who was awakened by an intruder: In trial the state made the jury believe that Gregory also burglarized her apartment. However Henry had not identified him and her description did not fit Gregory.

Further Facts

There was another crime suspect, the state knew his name and had access to this individual's fingerprints. His fingerprints were never compared to those retrieved from the scene of the crime. Nothing of that all was revealed to the defense - possible evidence for Gregory's innocence.

Gregory made statements. The state knew that these statements were coerced. The statements were consistent with the initial results of the investigation. However later it was discovered that the initial interpretation of the evidence was wrong, therefore the coerced statements of Gregory didn't fit the evidence anymore. That fact too the state tried to hide from defense and jury. The state asked the jury simply to ignore evidence that was inconsistent with the statements. 

The mental health experts, who testified for the state, got the statements presented as the truth, therefore they reached completely forged conclusions and presented these conclusions to the jury.

They found a partial palm print at the outer window-screen, that fit Gregory's. The state presented this as evidence of his guilt and clamed that the perpetrator entered the victim's bedroom through the window. However this is contrary to the other evidence, during investigation it became clear, that the perpetrator came through the door and left through the window. Therefore the palm print is without conclusiveness.

The coerced statements was consistent with what the state wrongly believed at first (perpetrator entered through the window).

Gregory's story:

He was selling drugs at that day. Somebody wanted to buy drugs, but told Gregory he had no money with him. Therefore this man had to get his money. Greg accompanied him. Greg was waiting outside. When he looked through the window, he saw the man on that woman, pushing a pillow on her face. Greg panicked and run...

Trial Summary

02/24/88 – Gregory indicted on First Degree Murder and Burglary with intent to commit assault

04/20/88 – Gregory entered a plea of “not guilty”

02/22/89 – An all-white jury (the victim was white too – Gregory is black) found Gregory guilty of First Degree Murder and Burglary Without Intent to Commit Assault

02/23/89 – The jury voted for the death penalty by a 7 to 5 majority. , voted for the death penalty. The official sentencing is on 04/11/89

In the following direct appeal the Florida Supreme Court confirmed conviction and sentence. The US Supreme Court refused in January 1992 to hear the case.





Gregory Capehart on death row



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