The Commission on Capital Cases updates this information regularly. This information, however, is subject to change and may not reflect the latest status of an inmate’s case and should not be relied upon for statistical or legal purposes.
HEATH, Ronald (W/M)
DC # 065145
Eighth Judicial Circuit, Alachua County Case # 89-3026
Sentencing Judge: The Honorable Robert P. Cates
Trial Attorney: Stephen Scheck – Special Public Defender
Attorney, Direct Appeal: David A. Davis – Assistant Public Defender
Attorney, Collateral Appeals: Robert Harper – Registry
Date of Offense: 05/24/89
Date of Sentence: 12/17/90
Circumstances of the Offense:
Ronald Heath and his live-in girlfriend, Penny Powell, drove to Heath’s grandmother’s house in Jacksonville. Heath and Powell had an argument after which Powell returned to their residence in Douglas, Georgia. Heath drove to Gainesville to visit some friends and was accompanied by his brother Kenneth.
On the evening of May 24, 1989, Heath and Kenneth went to visit two of Heath’s friends who worked as waitresses at the Porpoise Lounge. Over the course of the evening, the brothers initiated a conversation with a traveling salesman, Sheridan. After purchasing the brothers a drink, he inquired as to whether they used marijuana. At Heath’s suggestion, the brothers agreed to rob Sheridan at an alternate location. Heath drove the trio in Kenneth’s vehicle to an isolated area in Alachua County. Heath parked the vehicle on a dirt road and all three proceeded to exit the vehicle and smoke marijuana. At this point, Heath made a pistol gesturing motion and asked Kenneth, “Did you get it?” Kenneth reached under the seat of the car and came back with a small-caliber handgun. Kenneth pointed the gun at Sheridan while informing him that he was being robbed. Sheridan indicated that he was not going to give the brothers anything and, at Heath’s prompting, Kenneth shot Sheridan once in the chest. As Sheridan began removing his possessions, Heath kicked him and used a hunting knife to stab him in the neck and unsuccessfully attempted to slit his throat. Heath then told Kenneth to use the gun to kill Sheridan, and Kenneth proceeded to shoot him twice in the head. They moved the body deeper into the woods and after they returned to the Porpoise, they relocated Sheridan’s rental car to another location and burned it after removing some items.
The following day, the brothers purchased numerous items at a Gainesville mall using Sheridan’s credit cards. Various store clerks in a photo lineup identified Heath, even though Kenneth signed all of the credit card slips. The brothers stopped using the credit cards after being asked biographical questions they could not answer and returned to Jacksonville. They threw the handgun into the St. John’s River, but it was never recovered. Heath returned to the trailer in Georgia, which he shared with Powell.
Heath was arrested at his trailer several weeks after the murder for using the stolen credit cards. The officers obtained permission to search the trailer from Powell. The officers found several of the clothing items purchased using Sheridan’s credit cards as well as Sheridan’s watch.
There was an indictment on both Ronald Heath and Kenneth Heath for the First-Degree Murder and Armed Robbery of Sheridan. Also, there was another case where the brothers were indicted with offenses connected with the forgeries of the credit cards. The two cases were consolidated on 11/06/90. Kenneth pled guilty to the charges in a plea agreement and agreed to testify about the robbery and murder of Sheridan. For the murder conviction, the sentence that Kenneth received was life imprisonment without eligibility for parole for 25 years.
07/12/89 Indicted with the following:
Count I: First-Degree Murder
Count II: Robbery with a Deadly Weapon
07/27/89 Charged by Information with the following:
Count III: Conspiracy to Commit Uttering a Forgery
Count IV: Forgery
Count V: Uttering a Forged Instrument
Count VI: Forgery
Count VII: Uttering a Forged Instrument
Count VIII: Forgery
Count IX: Uttering a Forged Instrument
09/13/89 Charged by an amended Information to include the following charges:
Count X: Forgery
Count XI: Uttering a Forged Instrument
Count XII: Forgery
Count XIII: Uttering a Forged Instrument
Count XIV: Forgery
Count XV: Uttering a Forged Instrument
Count XVI: Forgery
Count XVII: Uttering a Forged Instrument
Count XVIII: Forgery
Count XIX: Uttering a Forged Instrument
Count XX: Forgery
Count XXI: Uttering a Forged Instrument
11/15/90 Defendant was found guilty by the trial jury of First-Degree Murder,
Robbery with a Deadly Weapon, Conspiracy to Commit Uttering a
Forgery, and seven counts of Forgery and Uttering a Forgery.
11/27/90 The jury recommended Death by a vote of ten to two
12/17/90 Defendant was sentenced as follows:
Count I: First-Degree Murder – Death Count II: Robbery with a Deadly Weapon – Life sentence
Count III: Conspiracy to Commit Uttering a Forgery - 6 mo.
Count VIII: Forgery – 10 years
Count IX: Uttering a Forged Instrument – 10 years
Count X: Forgery – 10 years
Count XI: Uttering a Forged Instrument – 10 years
Count XII: Forgery – 10 years
Count XIII: Uttering a Forged Instrument – 10 years
Count XIV: Forgery – 10 years
Count XV: Uttering a Forged Instrument – 10 years
Count XVI: Forgery – 10 years
Count XVII: Uttering a Forged Instrument – 10 years
Count XVIII: Forgery – 10 years
Count XIX: Uttering a Forged Instrument – 10 years
Count XX: Forgery – 10 years
Count XXI: Uttering a Forged Instrument – 10 years
648 So. 2d 660
01/16/91 Appeal filed.
10/20/94 FSC affirmed the conviction and sentence.
01/24/95 Rehearing denied.
02/24/95 Mandate issued.
515 U.S. 1162
04/24/95 Petition filed.
06/26/95 USSC denied petition.
03/24/97 Motion filed.
08/02/04 Motion amended.
04/18/05 Motion amended.
03/29/06 Evidentiary Hearing held.
04/04/07 CC denied motion.
Florida Supreme Court – 3.850 Motion Appeal
3 So. 3d 1017
04/25/07 Appeal filed.
01/29/09 Appeal denied.
United States District Court, Northern District – Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus
06/23/09 Petition filed.
The Direct Appeal took four years for a decision to be rendered. The 3.850 motion was pending from 03/24/97 – 04/04/07.
A Direct Appeal was filed on 01/16/91. Some of the issues raised included: (1) the trial court erred by admitting victim character evidence; (2) the trial court erred by admitting testimony regarding his desire to escape from jail; (3) The trial court erred by excluding Powell’s testimony regarding a statement made by Heath. The Florida Supreme Court found all of these claims either without merit or harmless and affirmed the conviction and sentence of Death on 10/20/94.
A Petition for Writ of Certiorari was filed on 04/24/95 and denied on 06/26/95.
A 3.850 motion was filed with the circuit court on 03/24/97 and amended on 08/02/04 and 04/18/05. On 03/29/06, an Evidentiary Hearing was held, and the motion was denied on 04/04/07.
A 3.850 Motion Appeal was filed with the Florida Supreme Court on 04/25/07. This appeal was denied on 01/29/09.
On 06/23/09, Heath filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus in the United States District Court. This petition is pending.
THE FOLLOWING ENTRIES REFLECT DISCIPLINARY ACTIONS AGAINST THE INMATE
FOR VIOLATION OF THE RULE CITED AND INDICATE THE GAIN TIME DAYS LOST.
DATE DAYS VIOLATION LOCATION
05/15/93 0 UNAUTH PHY. CONTACT FLORIDA STATE PRISON
05/01/94 0 UNAUTH PHY. CONTACT UNION C. I.
11/03/94 0 REF. SUB. ABUSE TEST UNION C. I.
07/12/95 0 UNAUTH USE OF DRUGS UNION C. I.
07/31/95 0 POSS OF CONTRABAND UNION C. I.
04/19/98 0 DISORDERLY CONDUCT UNION C. I.
08/28/99 0 DISOBEYING ORDER UNION C. I.
01/06/03 60 DISRESP.TO OFFICIALS UNION C. I.
02/20/05 0 UNAUTH PHY. CONTACT UNION C. I.
03/18/05 15 POSS OF CONTRABAND UNION C. I.
11/27/01 approved ws
07/08/09 updated klh