DeSantis approves death warrant for Jacksonville inmate

Orlando  |  Florida State Prison death row inmate Gary Ray Bowles faces an Aug. 22 execution. On Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Bowles death warrant after serving 25 years in prison for the conviction of several murders.

Serving life sentences for the 1994 murders of Albert Morris in Nassau County and John Roberts in Volusia County, Gov. DeSantis signed Bowles’ death warrant for his murder of Walton Hinton.

Supreme Court documents from 1999 stated that Bowles, acting with premeditation, killed Hinton in his mobile home by crushing Hinton’s skull with a 40-pound stone while he slept. Although suffering from extensive head injuries from the attack, Hinton reportedly fought back against Bowles before Hinton took control by gagging and choking Hinton to death. Additional documents conclude that Bowles later confessed to hate crimes, murdering gay men in Georgia and Maryland.

This is the second death row inmate Gov. DeSantis has put to death since his inauguration earlier this year. In January, DeSantis approved the death of convicted serial killer, Robert Joseph Long, who faced execution May 23 for his 1984 murder of Michelle Simms in Hillsborough County.

The Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops stays firm with their outlook against the death penalty. “The Catechism of the Catholic Church’s” recent reformation by Pope Francis instructed such change on the protection of human life, regardless of sin. The conference continues to believe there are various other methods to implement punishment against convicted criminals that allows penitence without death, most specifically life without the possibility of parole.

That was the request made by Michael Sheedy, executive director of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a May 20 letter to DeSantis, prior to Long’s execution.

“Although (Long) caused much harm, society has been safe from his aggressive acts in the decades of his incarceration,” said Sheedy in the letter urging DeSantis commute the death sentence to life without parole, which would promote a consistent pro-life ethic in Florida. “The cycle of violence – to which Mr. Long’s acts have contributed – must end. His execution would only perpetuate it.

Prior to the scheduled execution, Catholic faithful and members of the community will gather across Florida to pray for the victims of violent crimes and their families, for those on death row, for the governor as he confronts the decision to proceed with the execution, and for an end to the use of the death penalty. For more information, contact a local parish or diocesan respect life conference.