Lords of Chaos (group)

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Lords of Chaos
Founder Kevin Foster, Pete Magnotti, Chris Black
Founding location Fort Myers, Florida
Years active April 13, 1996 - May 3, 1996
Membership 8
Criminal activities arson, murder

The Lords of Chaos was a self-styled teen militia formed on April 12, 1996, in Fort Myers, Florida.[1] They gained notoriety for a crime spree that ended with the April 30, 1996, murder of one of the boys' teachers, Mark Schwebes, who served as Riverdale High School's band director.

The Lords of Chaos predate the more notorious Columbine High School massacre in Colorado by three years. The Lords of Chaos case has been widely documented, most notably in Jim Greenhill's true crime book about the case, Someone Has to Die Tonight. It is also the subject of a Dateline NBC special, "When A Killer Calls,"[1] as well as being mentioned in Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground by Michael Moynihan & Didrik Søderlind, the book even borrowing the group's name.

Formation of the Lords of Chaos[edit]

On April 12, 1996, in Fort Myers, Florida, Kevin Foster, Pete Magnotti and Chris Black went on a vandalism and arson spree.[1] Florida juvenile records show that only the group's ringleader, Kevin Foster, had any prior arrests or any kind of criminal history, and his primarily consisted of driving violations. The other members of the group had no arrest history. The first spree was quickly followed by a second that included an attempt to burn a church bus and the burning of a bird cage containing two macaws, killing one.

After the night of destruction Kevin Foster decided that they should form a militia dedicated to reigning terror upon the community. The creation of the group's symbol ( (Ø) ) came from an in-joke involving a question Foster missed on a math test. The symbol for the null or empty set is either { } or Ø. On the test, Foster wrote ( Ø ) as the answer to a question whose answer was no set, thereby having it marked incorrect.

Kevin "God" Foster, Pete "Fried" Magnotti, Chris "Slim" Black and Derek "Mob" Shields made up the core members of the Lords of Chaos. The group also included lesser associates Chris "Red" Burnett, Thomas "Dog" Torrone, Brad Young, and later Craig Lesh.

Escalation[edit]

In an East Lee Tribune article titled Hell Raising in Buckingham, a local reporter lashed out at the unknown culprits, calling them "obviously pea-brained vandals" and "person(s) of less than average intelligence and a cretin's personality."[2] This article only further antagonized the boys to do more damage.

On April 17 the group wrote a document entitled, Declaration of War—Formal Introduction of Lords of Chaos, which they planned to mail to the Lee County Clerk/Traffic Violations Bureau but ultimately did not. The manifesto warned:

Lee County is dealing with a formidable foe, with high caliber intelligence, balls of titanium alloy, and a wicked destructive streak. . . . Be prepared for destruction of biblical proportions, for this is the coming of a NEW GOD, whose fiery hand shall lay waste to the populous.

THE GAMES HAVE JUST BEGUN, AND TERROR SHALL ENSUE. . . .[3]

In the early morning hours of April 20, 1996, the group escalated their terror campaign by destroying a historic 12,300-square-foot (1,140 m2) two-story brick Coca-Cola bottling plant in Fort Myers.[1] Kevin Foster's original plan had been to destroy the building on April 19 to emulate the Oklahoma City bombing, which had occurred on that date the year before. Like Timothy McVeigh, he saw his actions as a retaliation against the government for the Waco Siege which had occurred on April 19, 1993.

As a perverse joke, Kevin Foster used a can of Pepsi filled with gunpowder and fitted with a 25-foot fireworks fuse to destroy the historic building. While the other boys arranged propane tanks that they had previously stolen from a local Starvin' Marvin's around the building, Foster ignited the fuse of the homemade bomb. The boys then retreated to a picnic table across the street where they could view the destruction. About 13 minutes later an intense explosion ripped through the building, causing an estimated $100,000 in damage. Because a bomb was used in the arson, the local authorities contacted the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).

On April 26, Kevin Foster and Peter Magnotti robbed and carjacked Emory Lewis, Derek Shields' landlord and the owner of the local Alva County Diner. Shields had hated Lewis ever since he had heard Lewis call his mother a "bitch" and "poor white trash." Lewis was uninjured in the attack.[4]

Murder of Mark Schwebes[edit]

On April 30 the group decided to go steal clothes at a local Dillard's for an upcoming "Grad Nite" at Walt Disney World where Foster planned to steal one of the characters costumes as a disguise to shoot minorities at the amusement park. As part of their diversion Foster rigged a smoke grenade, that he had purchased at an Army/Navy store, with fishing wire. The plan was to stack up the clothes they wanted and run out when the grenade went off. The grenade proved to be a dud.

The boys decided to go to Riverdale High and vandalize the auditorium. Once they got there they stole latex gloves, a fire extinguisher, two staplers and a bag of canned peaches.[5] Foster rigged a Clorox bleach bottle full of gasoline with a lit rag and threw it through the auditorium window.

Mark Schwebes, 32, the band director at Riverdale, caught members of the group loitering on the school grounds and confiscated the peaches, staplers, and fire extinguisher. He recognized Black and Torrone, telling the boys not to be surprised to get a visit from the police in the morning. After Schwebes left, Black angrily stated, "This has to be fixed tonight, because tomorrow's a school day. So, he's gotta die tonight."[6]

Although Schwebes had an unlisted telephone number the boys were able to procure his address through local directory assistance. Most of the other boys went home leaving only Kevin Foster, Chris Black, Pete Magnotti and Derek Shields, the core members of the group. It was decided that Foster would do the actual shooting. Black would act as getaway driver, Shields would knock on the door and Magnotti would stay in the car and act as a look out. On the way to the killing, Foster sang a deranged version of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town":

He sees you when you're sleeping,
He knows when you're awake.
He knows if you've been bad or good,
So be good for goodness' sake!
O! You better watch out!
You better not cry,
Better shut up
And prepare to die.
Kevin Foster's coming to your house.[7]

At approximately 11:30 pm that night, Mark Schwebes heard a knock at his door. Opening it, he received a blast to the face from a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun, which authorities believe killed him instantly. Foster shot him a second time in the buttocks because he wrongly perceived him to be a homosexual. Mistakenly believing that it was impossible to trace shells back to his shotgun because it was a smooth bore weapon, Foster left the two spent shotgun shells at the scene.

Arrest and Trial[edit]

Lead detectives on the case initially focused on a love triangle they believed Mark Schwebes had been caught up in. The members of the group and its hangers-on, however, began bragging about the killing shortly after the commission of the crime. On May 2, Craig Lesh, a hanger-on of the group, bragged to his ex-girlfriend, Julie Schuchard, that the Lords of Chaos had killed the teacher. In the version he told her, he had been present and was actually the one who had knocked on the door. On May 3, after a restless night, Schuchard decided that she had to alert authorities and tell them what she knew.

From Schuchard, detectives learned not only of the Lords of Chaos' murder of Mark Schwebes but also of the group's plans to commit armed robbery at a Hardee's restaurant where Magnotti and Shields worked. The detectives then questioned Craig Lesh, learning that he had not actually been present during the murder. They also learned that the group had been responsible for the Coca-Cola bottling plant bombing. This led to the arrests of the key members of the group on their way to commit the Hardee's robbery.

Brad Young and Craig Lesh were quickly released with no charges filed against them. Chris Burnett worked out a deal with prosecutors whereby he would plead guilty to second degree arson and armed robbery and serve two years in jail, receive 10 years probation and turn state's evidence against the Lords of Chaos. Tom Torrone also turned state's evidence, being allowed to plead no contest to second degree arson and serve one year in jail with 10 years probation. In March 1997, Magnotti plead guilty to first degree murder and was sentenced to 32 years—one for each year of Mark Schwebes life—and agreed to testify. Two weeks before his trial began, Shields pled guilty to first degree murder, followed in October by Black. Both received life imprisonment. Only Kevin Foster would go to trial.

Lee County Prosecutors Marshall King Hall, Bob Lee, and Randy McGruther offered Kevin Foster life without the possibility of parole—an offer he turned down. He told his attorneys Bob Jacobs and Marquin Rinard that he considered this a worse fate than being sent to "Old Sparky", Florida's electric chair.[8]

Jury selection for the trial began on March 3, 1998, presided over by Judge Isaac Anderson. During the trial Foster's mother testified that he was at home during the murder of Mark Schwebes, but one by one the members of the Lords of Chaos took the stand and stated not only that Foster had been there, but that he was the ringleader of the plot.

On March 11 closing arguments were given and the jury retired to deliberate. After 2 hours and 16 minutes, the jury reached a verdict of guilty. On April 9, 1998, the penalty phase of the trial began. The jury would have to decide if Foster should receive the death penalty or if they should be lenient and recommend life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. By a vote of 9 to 3 the jury recommended the death penalty. On June 17, 1998, Judge Anderson agreed with the jury's recommendation and sentenced Foster to death.

Subsequent events[edit]

In 2010 Shields requested clemency and was supported by former Lee County Sheriff, John McDougall, the sheriff who had arrested him. McDougall made the point that Shields had been under some duress at the time of the murder. Shields pointed out that he was not the trigger-man. The request was denied.[9]

In 2000, Foster's case reached the Florida Supreme Court and his appeal was denied.[10] In 2011 in Lee County, Florida, Foster sought a new trial or a new penalty phase based on a theory of inadequate representation, claiming counsel at the time of trial had not made a sufficient presentation on the issue of mental defects.[11] The court denied relief.[12]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Morrison, Keith. "Young Lords of Chaos". Dateline NBC. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  2. ^ Greenhill 2006: 102
  3. ^ Greenhill 2006: 112
  4. ^ Greenhill 2006: 135, 147-148
  5. ^ "Kevin Foster; Florida Death Row Inmate". Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  6. ^ Greenhill 2006: 173
  7. ^ Greenhill 2006: 191
  8. ^ Greenhill 2006: 350
  9. ^ "Lords of Chaos convicted killer gets clemency denied". WINK-TV. 11 November 2010. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  10. ^ Peltier, Michael (8 September 2000). "Florida Supreme Court: Lords of Chaos Ringleader Kevin Foster Should Die". The E. W. Scripps Co. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  11. ^ Kruger, Lindsay (26 April 2011). "Former Lords of Chaos leader back in court". count on 2 first. WBBH. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  12. ^ Miller, Barry (11 July 2011). "Lords of Chaos ringleader's bid to overturn death sentence DENIED". Fox 4. WFTX-TV. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 

References[edit]

  • Greenhill, Jim (2006). Someone Has to Die Tonight. New York: Pinnacle Books. ISBN 0-7860-1755-4. 
  • Moynihan, Michael and Didrik Søderlind (1998). Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground. Vennice, CA: Feral House ISBN 978-0-922915-48-4
  • Dateline NBC (2002). When a Killer Calls. NBC Universal.