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Florida executes man for 1980 murder of 10-year-old schoolgirl

(Reuters) - Florida executed one of its longest-serving death row inmates on Wednesday for kidnapping and killing a 10-year-old girl in 1980.

Larry Eugene Mann, 59, was pronounced dead from a lethal injection at 7:19 p.m. EDT (2319 GMT) at the Florida State Prison in Starke, the Florida Department of Corrections said.

A last-minute appeal had been denied shortly before the execution.

Mann, a pedophile who had previously served time in prison for sexual battery, snatched Elisa Nelson from her bicycle as she pedaled to school on November 4, 1980, in the Gulf Coast town of Palm Harbor, according to court documents.

He threw the bicycle in a ditch and drove the girl to an orange grove, where he beat her, stabbed her and crushed her head with a concrete-encased pole, trial evidence showed.

Elisa had carried a note in her pocket explaining that she was late for school because she had a dental appointment. The blood-stained note was found in Mann's truck.

Mann was convicted of murder and sentenced to die in 1981, then received the death penalty again in 1990 after a federal court granted him a re-sentencing.

In an appeal rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court last week, Mann's lawyers argued that Florida's death penalty law failed to meet evolving standards of decency, in part because it allows a jury to recommend death by a simple majority rather than requiring unanimity.

They also said Mann had been arbitrarily chosen for execution from among more than 400 Florida Death Row inmates, 94 of whom had exhausted their appeals.

Since his 1990 re-sentencing, Mann's case had been reviewed by dozens of judges and justices, according to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

(Reporting by Jane Sutton and Tom Brown; Editing by Grant McCool)

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