William Van Poyck, to Be Executed Tomorrow, Had Disturbing Childhood, Records Show

Categories: Crime

William Van Poyck
Long before the prison guard was executed in the botched jailbreak and William Van Poyck, blood-streaked and clutching a pistol, zipped his Cadillac through West Palm Beach blasting several slugs into pursuing cop cars, there were clues of the impending chaos.

Van Poyck -- who was sentenced to death in late 1988 for his role in the guard's murder and will be executed tomorrow at 6 p.m. -- grew up in Miami under the yoke of an indifferent father and three allegedly abusive women, according to never-before-disclosed court testimony and affidavits from the mid-1990s. From there, Van Poyck bounced into juvenile detention centers riddled with controversy and child abuse before he landed in prison at age 17 -- where he would live virtually his entire adult life.

And though Van Poyck and his family maintain the convict never squeezed the shotgun trigger that killed the guard that bloody day in 1987, Van Poyck's early life in Miami carried the same themes as his adult one: violence, disharmony, and instability. It began with his mother's death.

When Van Poyck was 2 years old, his mother, who was a nurse, went to a neighbor's house to check on a family that had fallen ill. The next day, Phyllis Van Poyck and the neighbors were found dead -- killed by carbon monoxide poisoning.

Van Poyck's father, a double amputee and a World War II veteran, couldn't overcome his wife's passing and expressed apathy toward his children, said sister-in-law Alma Van Poyck in an affidavit entered in one of the many Van Poyck's appeals for mercy.

Soon came a string of women who passed through Van Poyck's life as either caretakers or his father's lovers. Rather than raise him, court documents allege, they condemned him under the banner of Christian values. First was a woman referred to in court documents only as "Mrs. Dano."

"She would use a wooden coat hanger for punishment," testified Van Poyck's sister, Lisa. "She was a religious fanatic who needed very little to provoke her to anger and a beating. When she got home to the house, she would beat both [Van Poyck] and me... Mrs. Dano was harder on Billy because he was a boy, and, according to her, boys are more sinful."

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