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Gray haired man sitting on bunk in prison cell

By Deirdra Funcheon, for Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

MIAMI — An hour south of Miami, down the street from an alligator farm, a security guard buzzes visitors into the Homestead Correctional Institution. Each guest’s bags are run through a rickety metal detector and he or she is issued a panic button — a portable alarm that can be clipped to a waistband and pressed if an inmate attacks.

The visitation room looks like an elementary school cafeteria, its concrete-block walls painted with murals of Marvel superheroes and Minions. As soon as Marian Dolce slides into her plastic chair, flashing a warm smile, it’s obvious the panic button won’t be needed. She’s wearing light blue scrubs. Her white hair is in a jaunty ponytail atop her head. She says she just got a new “bunkie” — a cellmate. She comes off as downright girlish for a 66-year-old murderer.

Jerry Frank Townsend

Jerry Frank Townsend

To seek the just determination of all criminal matters that are presented to the State Attorney” – from the web site of Broward State Attorney Michael Satz

By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org

Once upon a time Jerry Frank Townsend was South Florida’s deadliest serial killer and rapist.

Broward Sheriff’s Office and Miami Police Department homicide detectives said it was so. Townsend, a grown man with the mental capacity of a child, confessed to nearly two dozen sex murders, they said.

Convicted of six brutal murders and a rape in 1980, Townsend was sent to prison for life. He remained behind bars for 22 years, until he was exonerated by DNA tests that didn’t exist when he was arrested.

The police frame-up of Townsend continues to haunt both BSO and county taxpayers. The Sun-Sentinel reported last month that BSO has agreed to pay $2 million over the next five years to settle a Broward civil rights lawsuit brought on Townsend’s behalf. Miami paid $2.2 million last year to end a similar Townsend suit filed in federal court. The public spent at least $1 million more on defense lawyers for the officers who were involved.

Broward State Attorney Michael Satz, once quick to prosecute Townsend on scant evidence, moved to set aside Townsend’s convictions after the DNA tests cleared him, but conducted no criminal investigation of the police whose testimony put Townsend in prison. Satz spokesman Ron Ishoy said Wednesday that prosecutors reviewed “the entire Townsend case even before the DNA testing” but “did not uncover any evidence to suggest” a frame-up.

Had an actual investigation been made, however, Satz would have found a disturbing record replete with clear and convincing evidence of specific crimes by BSO detectives and other officers, including perjury and the falsification of police reports.