Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thriller Thursday: Fred Lewis Way (Jr.)

Well, I made a "thrilling" discovery on GenealogyBank this afternoon.  It is definitely worth it to search indirect family lines because you just never know what you might find!

Fred Lewis Way was my second cousin.  I never paid any attention to this fact before today.  He was just another name and date in my database.  I never met him nor any of his immediate family.  His grandfather, James L. Tapley and my grandfather, Lusion Keman Tapley, were brothers.

I was doing research on Fred's mother today and began searching GenealogyBank for Fred's father's obituary.  He and Fred had the same name, so during my search, the following information popped up.  Just imagine my shock.

On May 15, 2006, Fred died of a heart attack... while on death row in Florida State Prison.  He was sentenced to death in 1984 for the 1st degree murder of his 15-year-old daughter on July 11, 1983 in Town 'n' Country, Florida (a suburb of Tampa).  He was also sentenced to 99 years for the 2nd degree murder of his wife and 30 years for arson, all on that date in 1983.

Here is the first article I found dated June 5, 2006 from The Tampa Tribune.  (I have omitted the names of his living children.)

"Fred Lewis Way:  Killer Dies Awaiting His Execution:  Newspaper Obituary and Death Notice

  TAMPA - In March 1984, just three months into Fred Lewis Way's long wait on death row, he said he felt isolated, bored and horribly, horribly lonely.
  Way also maintained he did not kill his wife, Carol, or his 15-year-old daughter, Adrienne.  He said, some day, he would be vindicated.
  'If I'm not,' he told a Tampa Tribune reporter back then, 'I don't intend to spend 30 or 40 years in this miserable place.  This is hell, being locked up like an animal.'
  He said should his death sentence stand, he would rather be executed than remain in prison.
  On May 15, still awaiting appeals, Way died of an apparent heart attack.  He was 61.
  Way's son, ...was away from home playing basketball when his mother and older sister were killed.  But 12-year-old
{daughter} emerged from her bedroom and confronted her father immediately after their deaths.
  Both siblings testified against their father.
  Now married and living in Alabama,
{living daughter} said a cousin phoned her about her father's death a couple of weeks ago.
  She said she felt saddened, but not because he was gone.
  'I was hoping that before he died, I'd find out why he did it,' she said.  'He never admitted to it.  He just quoted a bunch of Scripture and told lies.'
  During the trial, prosecutors offered a gruesome tale.
  Way, 38 and an engineer for the Federal Aviation Administration, wanted to accept a transfer that would move the family to Central America.  Carol Way adamantly opposed the move.  Adrienne, his oldest daughter, did not want to leave her friends.
  On July 11, 1983, Way and his wife argued in the garage of their Town 'N Country home.  He struck her several times with a hammer.  Then, he called Adrienne into the garage and struck her.
  Way doused them in gasoline.
  Autopsy reports suggested the 15-year-old had not yet died when she and her mother were set ablaze.
{Living daughter} said she remembers playhing Parcheesi with Adrienne when her father told Adrienne to come with him into the garage.  He told {living daughter} to stay in her room.
{living daughter} heard a scream, she walked into the hall.  Her father, she said, walked past her, smiled and winked.  Moments later, he walked outside and started to smoke a cigarette.
{living daughter} tried to open the door to the garage, her father told her not to.  She saw smoke and asked him if he was going to call the fire department.  He said nothing, and she ran to a neighbor's house.
  'That night, he wasn't upset, it didn't seem,'
{living daughter} said.  'He didn't show any emotion to me.'
  Way's defense argued to the jury that his wife and daughter fought each other and, in the melee, accidentally spilled chemicals that caught fire.
  After 11 hours of deliberations over two days, the jurors unanimously found him guilty.  They recommended the death penalty by a vote of 7-5.
  In 1988, a month before Way was to be executed, he received an emergency stay while the courts studied one of his many appeals.  The U.S. Supreme Court eventually upheld the conviction but ordered a new sentencing hearing.
  In 1990, Way again was sentenced to death.  He died as his appeals continued.
  Mike Benito, the former assistant state attorney who prosecuted the case, said Way got everything he deserved.
  "The killing of his daughter was as cold-blooded and cowardly as it gets," he said.
  Not everyone saw it that way.
  Defense attorney David Rankin who learned of Way's death Thursday, said he always thought Way was innocent.  There were several pieces of evidence that never quite sat right with him.
  Rankin said he doubted Way could have murdered two people, spoken to his daughter, then walked outside to smoke all in a short amount of time.
{Living son}, who now lives in Tennessee, said he doesn't know whether his father was guilty, but he is surprised that prosecutors managed to secure a conviction on circumstantial evidence alone.
  'After years of therapy and 800 pages of depositions that I read, I think whether or not he did it, he was railroaded through the process,'
{living son} said.  'I'm not professing his innocence or his guilt, I just think everyone deserves a fair shake.'
{Living son} said he harbors some bad feelings about the way he says law enforcement used him and his sister in the days after they lost their mother and sibling.
  Although he has not rectified the deaths in his mind, he said he eventually did learn to forgive his father.
  'I guess my perspective is a Christian perspective," he said.  "Whether he killed them or not, it's not my place to judge.'"

Author:  Thomas W. Krause
Copyright (c) 2006 The Tribune Co.

Fred Lewis Way's Inmate Photo, Florida Dept of Corrections
That pretty much tells the story.


  1. i am the grand daughter of Fred, daughter of his son. i've read the articles about this for a few years now, thanks for posting. no one will ever know the truth only God and those that would are dead. no matter what was incinuated or stated by my relatives as kids.

    1. I am so glad to hear from you! Thank you for reading my blog and commenting. You are right... no one will ever know what really happened that day. I can only pray that your grandmother and aunt have found some peace. Please keep in touch.