SANTA ROSA COUNTY, Fla. (WKRG) — A cab driver reported missing by family members would be found dead in a peculiar area of his cab. The man accused of the murder would tell family members the day before something that would incriminate him. This is the story of Bruce Pace.
WKRG News 5 is looking back at the crimes that shocked the Gulf Coast. Bruce Pace’s story is the fourteenth in the series.
It was Nov. 4, 1988, when Frankie Covington reported her father-in-law, Floyd Covington, missing. Floyd was a cab driver in Santa Rosa County, Fla., according to court documents. Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office deputies started searching for Floyd and just three days later they would find his cab.
Floyd’s cab was found in a wooded area covered in brush. When deputies looked inside the car, they found bloodstains all over the seats. Scientists would say that the bloodstain patterns showed that a passenger shot Floyd while he was sitting in the driver’s seat.
Although the cab was found, Floyd’s body would not be found until Nov. 10. His body was found in another wooded area about 12 miles from where the cab was found. During the autopsy, a shotgun shell was found inside Floyd’s chest cavity. This told investigators that whoever had shot Floyd had been at a very close range. The medical examiner determined that the time of death was likely sometime on Nov. 4, the day Floyd was reported missing.
On Dec. 14, 1988, Pace was indicted by a Santa Rosa County grand jury and was charged with first-degree murder and armed robbery. At his arraignment, Pace was appointed two lawyers, Samuel Hall and Randall Etheridge. Pace allegedly confessed to killing Floyd but ended up pleading not guilty, leading to a trial. The state sought the death penalty.
The trial began in Santa Rosa County on Aug. 20, 1989. The state would produce evidence that showed Floyd and Pace were very close. Although the two had a 40-year age difference, Pace thought of Floyd as an uncle.
One witness for the prosecution was a cousin of Paces, Angela Pace. Angela would testify that on Nov. 3 Pace told her he was going to do something that he “hated to do” but that he needed money. Pace’s aunt, Orestine Franklin also testified against Pace saying she saw him driving Floyd’s cab on Nov. 4.
Pace’s stepfather, Harvey Rich, was shown the shotgun used to kill Floyd and positively identified it as one that was owned by Pace’s brother. Rich also testified that he found two shotgun shells that matched the gun on Nov. 5 in his front yard.
Rich also testified that on Nov. 7, Pace showed up at their shared home and said he was in trouble and needed to leave. Rich asked Pace for more details and Pace elaborated on why he needed to leave.
According to Rich, Pace told him that on Nov. 3, Covington had driven him home and dropped him off. Pace then discovered that he had lost his house key, so he entered the home through a window. Once he was in his bedroom, Pace claimed that someone choked him and he lost consciousness. When he woke up, Pace said he was in a wooded area several miles away lying next to the shotgun and cab. Pace said he saw the bloodstains all over the cab and decide to take the shotgun and run.
When it was the defense’s turn to question Rich, Etheridge said it was possible that an intruder could have been in the house and not have been heard by the Riches. The defense would use this in closing arguments to claim someone else could have killed Covington.
On Aug. 25, the state rested its case. The jury was called to deliberate and within two hours they returned with a verdict. The jury found Pace guilty of both first-degree murder and armed robbery.
During sentencing, many people were called to talk about Pace’s character. A high school teacher, an aunt and a corrections officer claimed he was “respectful” and “a loving and caring person.”
The prosecution gave five reasons why Pace should receive the death penalty:
- Pace was on parole at the time of the murder
- Pace had been previously convicted of a violent felony
- Pace committed the murder during a robbery
- Pace committed the crime to avoid arrest
- Pace committed the murder for financial gain
The jury, by a seven to five vote, recommended that Pace be sentenced to death. On Nov. 16, 1989, Pace was sentenced to death for first-degree murder and fifteen years imprisonment for the armed robbery. He is currently on death row in Florida.