After 32 years, killer faces execution

PALM HARBOR, Fla. - A man who kidnapped and killed a 10-year-old Pinellas County girl more than 32-years ago is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection.

Barring any last minute stays, Larry Eugene Mann will begin carrying out his sentence at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.

Elisa Vera Nelson was last seen riding her bike to school . She had a note in her pocket explaining she was late because of a dentist appointment.

Mann kidnapped her, took her to an orange grove, cut her throat and then beat her head with a pole with a concrete base. He then went home and tried to kill himself, telling the responding police officers he had "done something stupid."

Then-Gov. Bob Graham signed Mann's first death warrant in 1986, but appeals dragged out his case.

Only one of Elisa Nelson's family members has chosen to speak. 

Wanda Vekasi said she loved her niece like her own daughter.  "She was just the sweetest girl and just beautiful," Vekasi said. "I am absolutely disgusted. Its just a slap in the face for us to be paying for him to be alive up there when he admitted to the crime."

Detectives said Mann, a well driller, admitted to grabbing Elisa and taking her to an orange grove blocks from her school in Palm Harbor.

Her family discovered she didn't make it to school after her brother, Jeff, only 12 at the time, told his parents his sister was not at school.

Pinellas detectives found her body the next day. Velaski knows her niece fought for her life and at least prevented a sexual assault.  The forensic evidence proved it.  Her aunt said Elisa stabbed Mann in the neck with a pencil.

"He got her out of the truck and it wasn't long after that he slit her throat from ear to ear and she was on her knees and evidence shows she spent along time crawling around that grove trying to get away from him," said Velaski. "He got ahold of some vines and tied her wrists from behind. She was still struggling and at that point, he picked up a cement post and hit her in the head."

The facts are eerily similar to three open cases in Mississippi dating back to 1973 when Mann lived there.  On Monday, a detective from Mississippi put in a request to speak to Mann about the deaths of a 13, 16 and 20-year-old -- all females.

Velaski said, "If he has committed other crimes, I would hope for some of the families of the victims, there should be some closure there."  

She has nothing to say to her niece's killer.  "I guess the thought of speaking to him is disgusting to me," Velaski said.

Velaski won't be attending the execution. She said the tragedy caused a rift in the family and is not sure if Elisa's mother, her sister, would want her there.

Jeff Nelson plans on attending.  He said he will speak on camera after the verdict.  And he made one statement: "Why did it take 32 years to bring a confessed murderer to justice?  Something needs to be fixed."

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