High school band director Mark Schwebes saw something he was not supposed to see and it cost him his life.
The 32-year-old teacher at Riverdale High School in Fort Myers, Florida, came across a group of young men strictly by chance who were preparing to break into the school auditorium and set it on fire.
The young toughs belonged to a gang called the Lords of Chaos, headed by 20-year-old Kevin Foster, a self-proclaimed militia leader and a high school dropout. Schwebes threatened to tell school officials the next day about the vandalism.
Deadly shotgun blast
Foster wasn’t about to let that happen. Schwebes was at home on April 30, 1996, when he heard a knock at the door. As he opened the door he was greeted with a deadly shotgun blast to the face.
The Lords of Chaos dedicated themselves to the cause of “chaos and destruction.” Gang members called Foster “god,” they later testified. The Lords began their crime spree with arson and vandalism a few weeks before the incident at the high school.
Police said the group was planning a trip to Walt Disney World to kill tourists. They never got the chance. Foster was charged with first-degree murder. Three other members of the gang were also charged.
Foster claimed he was at home at the time of the killing. His attorney, a deputy public defender, told jurors that other gang members framed Foster.
“The alibi just doesn’t fly,” prosecutor Randy McGruther told jurors in closing arguments. “The truth does not change.”
The other three gang members cooperated with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to taking part in the murder in exchange for their testimony against Foster. They told jurors that Foster planned the murder and ordered them to go along.
Plea deal refused
The gang leader refused a plea deal that would have taken the death penalty off the table.
Derek Shields pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and got life in prison with no chance of parole. Chris Black, who drove the car to Schwebes’ house, also pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to life. Peter Magnetti, who was in the car when they drove to the teacher’s home, pleaded guilty to murder conspiracy and got a 32-year sentence.
Foster was convicted and sentenced to death. In 2011 he tried to get a new trial on the basis of inadequate representation, claiming counsel at his trial had not made a sufficient presentation on the issue of mental defects. The court denied relief.