Lynda Lyon Block was never one to go along with the crowd.
As a grade-schooler, she favored books over television. At
Edgewater High School, class of 1966, she skipped rock for
Ravel. As an adult, she edited her own magazine, took
long-distance sailing trips, rode a motorcycle cross-country and
joined the Libertarian Party.
It only stands to reason that she would display the same flair
for independence now, as a death-row inmate.
-- former Cub Scout mom, Humane Society volunteer and
Friends of the Library president -- may well become the
last murderer to die in the Alabama electric chair.
The 54-year-old Orlando native is scheduled to be executed at
12:01 a.m. Friday for the 1993 shooting death of police Sgt.
Roger Motley, a small-town cop who thought he was coming to the
aid of needy strangers in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Opelika,
A recent change in Alabama law allows death-row inmates to
choose lethal injection over the electric chair, but it does not
take effect until July 1. That will be too late for Block.
She requested clemency in a written appeal to Gov. Don Siegelman
this week, but was tersely denied. She had put herself on the
fast track to the electric chair by insisting on acting as her
own attorney in her trial, then refusing to cooperate with the
lawyer who was appointed to handle her appeal.
"I tried my best to save her life," said the appeals
attorney, W. David Nichols. "The warden took me down to her
cell and said: 'Lynda, they're trying to fry you. You ought to
talk to this boy. He wants to help.' But she wasn't
She wasn't interested because, in her view, the state of Alabama
does not exist, the legal system is corrupt, the federal
government is the result of a grand conspiracy, and she is one
of the few who knows it.
Block considers herself a member of the patriot movement, a
small but avid militia group whose advocates believe that many
of the day-to-day governmental functions that most people take
for granted -- such as income tax, birth certificates and
drivers licenses -- are illegal.
They are illegal, they argue, because the U.S. government has
been swallowed up, gradually and surreptitiously, by
power-hungry bureaucracies that have made a mockery of the U.S.
Constitution and eclipsed the intentions of the founding
Block and like-minded "constitutionalists" have a
solution. They have seceded from the United States, one by one.
They revoke official documents such as birth certificates and
drivers licenses, actions which help to make them, they claim,
"Free American Inhabitants."
To support their position, they cite obscure legal precedents,
forgotten constitutional amendments and stirring quotes from the
country's founding fathers.
In her own murder trial, Block maintained that the state of
Alabama had no right to try her. She could prove, she said, that
the state had not officially rejoined the union after the Civil
War, and therefore did not exist as a governmental body.
She also argued that she had the right to shoot the police
officer in self-defense, because he had his hand on his holster
as he questioned her companion, Orlando auto mechanic George
Sibley. She cited a constitutional amendment approved by
Congress in 1811 that was meant to limit the power of public
employees over other individuals.
It was never ratified by the states, however.
Sibley, 59, also is on death row, convicted of Motley's murder
in a separate trial. His execution date has not been set.
Michael Haley, commissioner of the Alabama Department of
Corrections, has barred interviews with Block, who was moved
this week to Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, home of the
state's electric chair. Haley said he does not want to provide
her with a platform for her political views.
But much of her story can be pieced together from court records,
interviews with people who knew her, letters she has sent to
friends and her written responses to Orlando Sentinel questions.
"The fact that I love my country enough to be outspoken
about the abuses I've seen and encountered by government agents
or agencies makes me no more 'anti-government' than the NAACP or
NOW," she writes.
She has also written directly to Congress, in a crisp, even hand
on yellow legal paper, claiming the existence of a widespread
conspiracy against her, one that stretches from the
Orange-Osceola State Attorney's Office to the Alabama Supreme
Her cell at Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, Ala.,
where she has lived for the past nine years, was decorated with
pictures of her hero, Abraham Lincoln, and quotes about the
perils of allowing big government to run amok. She worked hard
to keep herself neat and her dyed blond hair in place. Always a
meticulous researcher, she has looked into what happens to a
person executed in the electric chair.
"Your eyeballs explode," she wrote to a friend.
In spite of her revolutionary zeal and her insistence that she
is willing to "die for the Constitution," her voice is
so soft and her movements so hesitant that people who meet her
often come away with the impression of a lost soul rather than a
Her soft-spoken ways make it easy to forget that she is a cop
killer. There was little in her life to foreshadow it.
She spent a year as a student at the old Orlando Junior College.
She worked for a time as a hairdresser. She lived in Key West,
where she volunteered for the library. She loved the opera. She
read poetry. She married, had a son, divorced.
She did not fit the profile of the kind of person drawn to
militia groups, because there is no such profile. White-collar,
blue-collar, male, female -- the only commonality that experts
acknowledge is that connection to such groups fills an emotional
"All these people dream that they are facing the redcoats
on Lexington Green," said Chip Berlet, a researcher at
Political Research Associates in Boston who has studied the
militia movement for 25 years.
Block's mother, a 71-year-old Orlando businesswoman who spoke on
the condition that she not be identified, said she thinks that
her daughter spent her life trying to replace her father,
Orlando businessman Frank Lyon, who died when she was a child.
"She was always very idealistic," she said. "She
was looking for Prince Charming."
If that was her search, it took a strange turn in 1983, when she
moved back to Orlando at the age of 35 and married again, this
time to a man twice her age.
Karl Block was a conservative, old-Orlando securities broker, a
retired military man with a deep tan and thick white hair.
Block, who died two years ago at age 87, was flattered by the
attention of a younger woman. But he was attracted to Lynda Lyon
for another reason.
Since 1974, he had been grieving the death of his only son, who
was killed in a car accident. Block desperately wanted a male
offspring to carry on the family name.
Although it made little sense for him to become a father at his
age, he was adamant. He needed a wife who could bear him a
child, no matter what people might say about the age difference
His daughter, Marie, vividly remembers encountering her future
stepmother in the early 1980s and recognizing her as a former
high-school classmate. But the studious, brown-haired girl she
had known at Edgewater High had been transformed into a
boisterous woman, clattering with jewelry, long nails lacquered,
hair dyed jet black. The only thing unchanged were her blue
eyes, so huge that she seemed to be transfixed in an expression
of permanent surprise.
Marie Block assumed Lynda Lyon was a gold digger and that the
relationship would not last. But it did. In 1984, the couple had
the son Karl Block had wanted. Their marriage disintegrated
eight years later -- around the time that Lynda astonished her
husband by taking a sudden interest in the Libertarian Party,
then attending rallies and lectures about the patriot movement.
Soon, she was publishing a small-circulation magazine, Liberatus.
She wrote articles such as "The Day Our Country Was Stolen
-- How the 14th Amendment Enslaved Us All Without A Shot
"In Europe, Africa and other places in the world, a despot
simply took over a country by waging war," she wrote.
"Here in America, however, as long as Americans were armed
and prepared for hostile armed takeover, the Conspirators knew
that a different technique -- a grand deception by manipulation
of the laws, the courts, the schools, the media -- must be
employed to obtain the same results."
She went on to suggest that others could follow her lead and
declare themselves "natural persons" by revoking their
drivers licenses and birth certificates.
A headline over that section of her article was appropriate in a
way Lynda Block could not foresee.
"A Dangerous Game," it read.
Like others in the militia movement, Block was strongly
influenced by the 1993 siege of David Koresh's Branch Davidian
compound in Waco, Texas. Many militia members saw proof, in the
flaming ruins of the Koresh complex, that the federal government
was out of control.
"After Waco, what was just a theory became a reality,"
says Gary Hunt, one of Block's former comrades in the patriot
Hunt, a former Orlando land surveyor who now lives in Arizona,
flew from Orlando to Waco in April 1993, when the Branch
Davidians were under siege, to see whether he could offer
assistance. He says while he was at Waco he was sure that
federal agents bugged his hotel room and had people in the room
next door, watching him.
Feeling a need, as he puts it, "to ensure my personal
safety," he called several patriot friends and asked them
to arm themselves and meet him at Orlando International Airport
when he flew home.
Among those who did as he asked: Lynda Block. She was
accompanied by a like-minded, fiercely opinionated mechanic
whose face was so gaunt that Karl Block liked to refer to him as
"Ichabod Crane." His name was George Sibley.
By August of 1993, Block and Sibley were not only fellow
patriots but lovers. Lynda had separated from Karl Block, and
the two were in the midst of a divorce. But they battled over
money, and on a steamy summer evening, Lynda Block and Sibley
showed up at Karl Block's apartment to talk about it. Karl Block
wound up with a shallow, one-inch knife wound in his chest.
Sibley and Lynda Block, who claimed that Karl had lunged at her,
were charged with assault and battery.
Overloaded state attorneys, faced with what looked to them like
not much more than another routine domestic-disturbance case,
were only too happy to bypass a trial in favor of a plea deal.
Besides, it was a first offense for both defendants. Prosecutors
were willing to let them go with a slap on the wrist -- six
years of probation.
Sibley and Lynda Block wouldn't have it.
They didn't see an impersonal criminal-justice system
dispassionately grinding away. They saw enemies with a chance to
lash out at them. They suspected that the judge had been given
orders to ignore the plea agreement and put them in jail.
Everything they detested about big government had suddenly
crystallized in their own lives, just as it had at Waco.
They fired their court-appointed attorney. In place of
traditional legal strategies they substituted a patchwork
defense of their own. It included Sibley's contention that the
judge assigned to their case, James Hauser, should be
disqualified because, for one thing, he was using "peculiar
hand gestures of raising fingers of the whole hand while the
heel of his palm rested on the bench" to secretly signal
the court reporter to omit some statements from the court
Lynda Block also told friends and supporters that powerful
people in Orlando -- including Orange County Chairman Linda
Chapin and Sheriff Kevin Beary -- were using the case to attack
her because of articles she had written about them in her
Finally, the two refused to appear at their sentencing hearing
and barricaded themselves in Sibley's Pine Hills home with
weapons and ammunition. They sent a dramatic fax to newspapers
and television stations explaining that they expected an attack
from the police at any moment and would "rather die than
live as slaves."
Then they waited for the police attack that would surely come.
But it never did.
"They wanted a shootout at the OK Corral, but we didn't
give it to them," said an undercover Orange County
sheriff's detective who worked on the case.
Instead, the house was kept under routine surveillance by a
felony squad. At one point a deputy simply knocked on the door
to serve them papers. There was no answer. Somehow, the couple
had slipped away, piling their weapons -- three handguns, two
semi-automatic rifles and an M-14 rifle -- into Block's red Ford
Mustang, on which she had plastered a bumper sticker that said:
"A woman raped is a woman without a gun."
In the car with George and Lynda was the 9-year-old son that
Karl Block had wanted so much. Karl, because of his advancing
age, had agreed to let his estranged wife have custody of the
The three headed north to stay with friends in Georgia. Then
they decided to hide out in Mobile, Ala. They stopped in Opelika
to make a phone call. That was when they finally encountered the
enemy they had been seeking so avidly.
They found him in a Wal-Mart parking lot, in the form of a
bespectacled, 39-year-old police sergeant who liked to send
flowers to his wife and sign the note "Just because."
Roger Motley had been just about every kind of cop you could be
in Opelika. He started as a dispatcher at age 19 and worked his
way through the divisions -- traffic, patrol, detective. Then a
captain, noticing Motley getting onto the other detectives for
not filling out their paperwork correctly, transferred him to
Motley's chief responsibility was making sure that the county
jail ran smoothly. He drove the only patrol car in town that did
not have a light rack on top. He was the only officer in the
city who did not own a bulletproof vest. Because of a shortage
of the vests, he had given his up a week earlier to a rookie
He had never fired his service revolver in the line of duty.
Opelika, just off Interstate 85 between Atlanta and Montgomery,
Ala., is Auburn's blue-collar twin, just far enough away from
the college town to maintain its Old South feel, with Victorian
mansions on one side of town and weathered textile mills -- one
of which served as a set for Norma Rae in 1979 -- in the other.
With a population of 25,000, the city is small enough that its
Wal-Mart serves as the de facto center of town. You couldn't
have picked a more public place. With so many witnesses in the
parking lot, there is little argument about what happened there
early in the afternoon of Oct. 4, 1993.
Roger Motley had just finished lunch with his wife, Juanita. He
was shopping for supplies for the jail when a woman came up to
him and told him there was a car in the parking lot with a
little boy inside. The woman was worried about him. The car
seemed to be filled with possessions and bedding. The boy seemed
like he needed help. She was afraid that the family was living
in their car. Would he check on them?
Motley cruised up and down the rows of parked cars and finally
pulled up behind the Mustang.
Sibley was in the car with the boy, waiting for Block to finish
a call to a friend from a pay phone in front of the store.
Motley asked Sibley for his drivers license.
Sibley said he didn't need one.
He was trying to explain why when Motley put his hand on his
service revolver. Sibley reached into the car and pulled out a
Motley uttered a four-letter expletive and spun away to take
cover behind his cruiser. Sibley crouched by the bumper of the
Mustang. People in the parking lot screamed, hid beneath their
cars and ran back into the store as the men began firing at each
Preoccupied by the threat in front of him, Motley did not see
Lynda Block until the very last moment. She had dropped the
phone, pulling the 9mm Glock pistol from her bag as she ran
toward the scene, firing.
Motley turned. She remembered later how surprised he looked. She
kept on firing. She could tell that a bullet struck him in the
chest. Staggering, he reached into the cruiser. She kept on
firing, thinking he was trying to get a shotgun. But he was
grabbing for the radio.
"Double zero," he managed to say -- the code for help.
He wasn't attacking her. He was trying to get away. He had just
enough consciousness left to put the cruiser into gear. It
glided into a parked car and came to a rest as he blacked out.
He died in a nearby hospital that afternoon.
In letters to friends and supporters, Block later would describe
Motley as a "bad cop" and a wife beater with multiple
complaints against him. As part of the conspiracy against her,
she said, she was prohibited from bringing up his record in
His personnel file makes no mention of any misbehavior. His wife
says he was a kind and patient man. The most serious trouble
Motley ever seems to have gotten into was having a fender-bender
in his police cruiser. After her husband's death, Juanita Motley
received a letter of sympathy from a man who had been a prisoner
in the Opelika jail while he was in charge, saying Roger had
always treated him with kindness.
Sibley and Block tried to flee but were cut off by a police
barricade between Opelika and Auburn. Eventually, they
surrendered. But first, surrounded, they had a conversation with
a police negotiator.
He told them to let the boy out of the car, and they did.
The son that Karl Block wanted so badly was taken into custody
and eventually sent back to Orlando, where he lives with his
grandmother. He is a straight-A student in a private school who
wants to study automotive engineering in college.
Trapped on the Alabama highway, surrounded by dozens of police
officers, Lynda Block feared there would be a shootout before
she and Sibley would have a chance to surrender. She spoke to
the police negotiator.
"Let's not have another Waco happen here," she
It was the second time that day that a police officer had stared
at her with a puzzled look on his face.
"What's Waco?" the negotiator asked.