John Reese was sentenced to death by the State of Florida for the murder of Sharlene Austin. According to court documents John Reese would sexually assault and murder Sharlene Austin. John Reese would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death
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Twenty-five year old Charlene Austin had a lot to live for. She was an attractive and athletic young woman who enjoyed a rich social life filled with family and friends. Austin saw her best friend, Jackie Grier, almost every day and enjoyed spending time with her boyfriend, Nick Olson, a soldier stationed at Fort Stewart, Georgia. Grier had recently ended a relationship with an abusive boyfriend, John Loveman Reese, and Grier too was dating a soldier stationed at Fort Stewart. On weekends, Austin traveled from her home in Jacksonville, Florida, to Fort Stewart, to visit Olson and often stopped en route to visit her parents and cousins. Grier and Austin often traveled together to visit their boyfriends.
On Tuesday, January 28, 1992, Austin went to work after having returned from a trip to Fort Stewart. As a single woman living alone, Austin was conscious of her security and had burglar bars on her windows. But her home would not be a safe place when she returned.
Unbeknownst to Austin, Jackie Grier’s former boyfriend, Reese, broke into Austin’s home, while she was at work. Reese entered Austin’s home around noon by using a pocket knife to open the back door. Reese then hid in a closet and waited for Austin to return from work for the evening.
After Austin arrived home around four o’clock in the afternoon, Reese for hours remained hidden, where he thought about the reasons Grier had ended their relationship. While Reese waited, Austin used the bathroom, took off her work clothes, chatted on the phone with Grier, took a nap, and watched television. Meanwhile, convinced that Austin had something to do with the break-up of his relationship with Grier, Reese steeled himself to attack and murder Austin.
Around ten in the evening, Reese felt confident that Austin had fallen asleep on her sofa so he emerged from the closet. Reese attacked the defenseless Austin and choked her, and she awoke. Austin struggled against Reese while he beat and dragged her to the bedroom. Reese threw Austin onto her bed and continued to choke her until she submitted to his sexual assault. After Reese raped Austin, he strangled her until she was unconscious. Reese then placed Austin, face down, on the floor. Spying an electrical cord near the foot of the bed, Reese grabbed it and wrapped the cord around Austin’s neck. Reese pulled the ends of the electrical cord for three to five minutes to slowly choke the life out of Austin. After Reese was sure that Austin was dead, he left her naked body on the floor and went to a nearby Winn–Dixie to buy groceries.
The next day, Grier could not reach Austin, and she began to worry. Grier called her neighbor, Steve Watson, who agreed to accompany her to Austin’s house. Grier and Watson found the back door of Austin’s house unlocked and entered the home.
Grier immediately noticed that Austin’s living room was in a state of disarray: broken pieces of knickknacks littered the floor, couch pillows were ruffled and appeared out of place, and the living room table had been carelessly pushed aside. With what must have been a deep sense of dread, Grier moved toward Austin’s bedroom.
What Grier found confirmed her worst fears. Austin laid dead on the floor, covered with a blanket. Grier called the police, who later determined that Austin had been strangled with an electrical extension cord that was doubled and wrapped around her neck twice with the ends pulled through the loop.
When Grier returned to her home distraught to meet with Austin’s parents, she was surprised to find Reese waiting for her. Reese professed his love for Grier and asked her to stick by him because something had happened, but Grier was too rattled from seeing Austin’s dead body to ask him what he meant.
Grier told Reese that Austin had been murdered and invited him to go outside with her to console Austin’s parents. Reese refused. Grier noticed that Reese had fresh scratches on his neck, forearm, and back.
After the police found Reese’s palm print on Austin’s bed, the police questioned Reese, and he confessed to the burglary, rape, and murder. Reese stated initially that he had broken into Austin’s home to talk with her about Grier, but Reese admitted later that, before Austin had returned home, he had planned to hurt her. Reese confessed that he had hidden before Austin returned home. Reese also confessed that he emerged from hiding after Austin fell asleep on the sofa, grabbed her around the neck, dragged her into the bedroom, raped her, and then strangled her to death with an electrical cord.
The police arrested Reese, and while awaiting trial, Reese confessed to Grier that he had raped and killed Austin. A grand jury charged Reese with first degree murder, sexual battery with great force, and burglary with assault.