Lords of Chaos ringleader’s fate now up to judge


Written by
PAT GILLESPIE
pgillespie@news-press.com

As Kevin Foster was escorted back to the Lee County Jail, he didn’t even glance into the gallery Friday on his way to resuming his life in prison at Union Correctional Institution at Raiford.

For four days, Foster listened and took notes as experts testified about his rough family life, the defect in his brain and how he suffers from bipolar disorder. He also listened as state witnesses shot down the theory Foster suffers from debilitating disorders that weren’t discovered 15 years ago.

Attorneys spent four days and tens of thousands of tax dollars trying to convince Lee Circuit Judge Edward Volz Jr. whether Foster deserves a new penalty phase and chance at a life sentence. The judge told attorneys to provide written closing arguments within two weeks, but probably won’t provide a written order on his decision for several months.

Either way, the losing side will appeal to the Florida Supreme Court.

Foster, the famed Lords of Chaos ringleader, was convicted in 1998 of the 1996 murder of Riverdale High School band director Mark Schwebes.

Foster’s gang of teen friends torched the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Fort Myers and The Hut restaurant in Buckingham before planning to do the same to the school. Schwebes caught several members before they could damage the school and Foster hatched a plan to kill him at his Pine Manor house. Foster fatally shot Schwebes at close range.

Foster attorney Terri Lynn Backhus tried to show Volz that Foster’s trial attorneys – Robert Jacobs and Marquin Rinard – didn’t present enough evidence about his mental makeup and family history and instead relied on showing he was a “good kid worth saving.” The penalty phase follows a first-degree murder conviction and provides attorneys a chance to convince the jury whether the defendant should be sentenced to life or death. Foster’s jury voted 9-3 to put him to death.

“I think we did what we set out to do,” Backhus said. “What we’re trying to show is had this evidence been presented to a jury, they would have had a better idea of who Kevin Foster was.”

She said experts she called provided analysis of family history, physical attributes, a pictorial history of brain testing and other aspects that present a more complete picture of Foster. At trial, Backhus said, the defense attorneys relied on Foster’s mother, Ruby Foster, to prove he deserved a life sentence instead of death.

“That’s exactly the wrong thing to do – that’s what happened in this case,” Backhus said. “In death-penalty cases, it’s just different. When someone’s life is at stake, you have to do more. Death is different.”

But prosecutors David Maijala and Jennifer Gutmore were confident in their witnesses, who testified Foster doesn’t suffer from the mental disorders defense experts said he does.

“I think (the hearing) was successful in combatting what the defense witnesses said,” Maijala said.

Schwebes’ sister, Pat Schwebes D—–, sat through the entire hearing and said some details were difficult to listen to, but she understands the process.

“They’re fighting for his life – I would be doing the same thing,” D—– said. “I can’t say I’m sympathetic, but I can understand that sort of thing.”

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