A convicted child-killer with a $1,000 bounty on his head was beaten to death in a prison yard hours after being let out of a secure cell. An inmate was charged in the murder.
Donald McDougall, 40, had spent a week in protective custody after a caller to a radio talk show offered the bounty on a show marking the 14th anniversary of the 5-year-old girl’s death.
McDougall asked to rejoin other prisoners, and eight hours after doing so, he was attacked Tuesday in a compound filled with about 200 prisoners at the Avon Park Correctional Institution, about 65 miles southeast of Tampa.
McDougall was serving a 34-year term in the 1982 torture slaying of Ursula Sunshine Assaid. The case twice led to changes in state law lengthening sentences for violent inmates. McDougall was due to be released in the spring.
Last week, a caller to Orlando radio station WTKS offered a $1,000 bounty on McDougall during a show marking the anniversary of Ursula’s death, said Corrections Department deputy secretary Bill Thurber.
Investigators believe “the broadcast was a contributing and inciting factor” in the attack, said county sheriff’s spokeswoman Sonya Dodds.
WTKS program director Harry Valentine had no comment. Dodds said investigators were working with the station in an effort to get a copy of the broadcast.
Prison witnesses said Arba Earl Barr, 33, struck McDougall in the back of the head with a steel bar and then hit him several more times after he fell, Dodds said. Barr, who is serving a 114-year term for robbery and battery, was charged with murder.
Ursula died after more than two days of nonstop abuse. In her last two months, the little girl was deprived of food and water, fed soap, denied sleep and forced to stand naked for hours and recite the alphabet.
Her body was found months later in a weighted duffel bag in a retention pond, but her ashes lay unclaimed in a funeral home until 1988, when a children’s advocate arranged for their burial.
McDougall, who lived with Ursula and her mother, was convicted of murder and aggravated child abuse. Ursula’s mother, Susan Assaid, was convicted of manslaughter and served nearly five years.
McDougall initially was scheduled to be released on New Year’s Eve 1992, but after protests, Attorney General Bob Butterworth ruled child sex offenders weren’t eligible to be released early to ease prison overcrowding.
“The community was outraged and incensed, very angry,” said prosecutor Norm Wolfinger.
In March, Butterworth again changed the rules to deny killers, kidnappers and sex offenders release credits for good behavior. Without that change, McDougall might have been released sometime this year, Wolfinger said. McDougall’s case also was cited in 1993 by state leaders as they pushed through a major prison expansion program.
When he heard about McDougall’s death, Wolfinger said he thought about Ursula and what she went through before she died.
“She suffered for days on end,” he said.
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