This one is local for me, it’s the city I grew up in. The perpetrators are in my approximate age group, I was 16 when this occurred. We locals hold a seething resentment towards this group of punks – and for a damn good reason. Sit back and let me tell you why…
So, The Lords of Chaos were a small time teen militia group who did their very best to terrorize Fort Myers, Florida back in 1996. This crime spree ended with the murder of the much loved and respected Riverdale Highschool band director, Mr. Mark Schwebes. The teacher was a truly good and decent human being who went out of his way to help the kids around him. Sadly, his killers were well aware of this, and they used it to their advantage.
The Lords of Chaos lived in one of the more remote areas of Lee County, a little place called Buckingham. The group consisted of teenagers with ridiculous nicknames: Kevin Foster was the leader who referred to himself as “God” (the sociopath had a bit of a God complex), Pete Magnotti went by “Fried”, Derek Shields was called “Mob”, and Chris Black was a bigger boned boy sarcastically referred to as “Slim”. Those 4 were the main members of the gang, but there were a couple of others who were less involved: Thomas “Dog” Torrone, Chris “Red” Burnett, and Craig Lesh. The only one in the group to have a criminal record was their leader, Kevin, albeit mostly driving offenses.
Kevin’s parents owned a local pawnshop so the teen had access to an arsenal of weapons which he was apparently not taught to respect; the weapon which would be used to commit murder, a 12-gauge Mossberg 500 shotgun with an equipped suppressor, had been a Christmas gift when he was just 13. Kevin is described as charismatic, homophobic, racist, and bigoted; he was enamored by the cult leader David Koresh, serials he’d seen on television like Norman Bates, outlaws such as Billy the Kid, and of course the homegrown terrorist Timothy McVeigh. Kevin wanted to do something big to catch a name for himself, he wanted a reputation like that of his idols; the rest of the group had no problem with following his lead.
This group’s crime spree appears to have begun at the end of March when they stole a couple of Jeep Cherokees. They drove the new vehicles out to Lehigh Acres and set them on fire, then they just sat and watched them burn. Next, Kevin filled a Coke can with something which resembled gun powder and attached wires to it with duct tape; said can was placed on a shelf in a local Walmart pharmacy. Next, Kevin called the store and told the employee who answered that there was a bomb inside; panicked shoppers were evacuated, police flocked to the store, it was an absolute mess. This group did their best to destroy everything they could; they spent their time searching for things to steal, random windows to break, or places to set fire to.
On the evening of April 13th the Lords of Chaos decided to vandalize and rob a restaurant called The Hut. This restaurant happened to have an outdoor patio where customers would sit and eat, and there were two much loved macaw parrots kept in a very large outdoor cage. When Kevin heard the two macaw parrots talking, he decided to light them on fire. Now, macaws are not stupid animals, they’re extremely intelligent, large parrots with a lifespan which rivals ours. Thankfully one of the birds did somehow survive the attack, but it lost its mate.
On the anniversary of the Waco siege, midnight on April 20th, Kevin decided to do something big. The group drove out to a historical landmark, our Coca-Cola bottling plant, which was one of the only original bottling plants in Florida. While Kevin carefully filled a soda can with gunpowder and stuck a 25 foot fireworks fuse inside of it, his buddies strategically placed stolen propane tanks all around the building; they carefully ensured that once Kevin’s bomb went off, the whole building would blow. Once it was all set up, the teens sat in a safe spot across the street and watched the show; firefighters did their best to put out the fire, but our beloved historical building was lost.
So, it’s probably obvious that all of this really upset people, by this point the entire state was beyond angry! A local reporter wrote an article about the ongoing vandalism, and said article was very insulting towards the group of punks who were responsible for these terrible acts. The group read this article, and it only added fuel to the fire, so to speak. In turn, they wrote a manifesto which they had intended to mail off to our local newspaper, the News Press. For whatever reason the manifesto was never sent; nevertheless, it read in part:
“Lee County is dealing with a formidable foe, with high caliber intelligence, balls of titanium alloy, and a wicked destructive streak. Be prepared for destruction of biblical proportions, for this is the coming of a NEW GOD, whose fiery hand shall lay waste to the populous.
THE GAMES HAVE JUST BEGUN, AND TERROR SHALL ENSUE…”
The spree continued with the robbery of a woman named Emory Shields; Emory was not only the owner of a small restaurant called Alva Country Diner, but she had been one of the teen’s landlord. After robbing Ms. Shields, they stole her vehicle. At one point the gang took a trip to the Edison mall in hopes of stealing some clothing. They attempted to set off a grenade inside Dillard’s, but thankfully it was a dud. Next, Kevin and his buddies decided to attend Grad Nite, which is a big deal for highschool seniors because they get to run around Disney World throughout the night. Kevin had a plan to steal one of the character suits and shoot up Disney, to kill as many teenagers as possible, but thankfully he chickened out.
On April 30th the teenagers drove to their own school, Riverdale, with the intention of trashing it. They stole several things, set off multiple fire extinguishers, then filled up a bottle of bleach with gas and threw it though the highschool’s auditorium window. Riverdale’s beloved band director, 32 year old Mr. Mark Schwebes, caught the group outside. He confiscated all of the items which which had been stolen from the school, and threatened to tell the resource officer. Kevin knew that once the vandalism inside the school was discovered, the teacher would put two and two together and the group would be busted; he decided that the band teacher had to die before that could happen.
The teens found Mr. Schwebes phone number and address by calling 411. They dialed the teacher first, to ensure that they’d obtained the correct information; after hearing Mr. Schwebes voice, Kevin, Pete, Derek, and Chris Black all jumped in their vehicle and drove over. Kevin knew that the teacher would answer his door for a student he recognized, and since Derek had been a member of the band, that’s who was sent to knock on the door.
At approximately 11:30 pm the teacher opened the door for his student, and Kevin immediately shot him in the face with his aforementioned 12 gauge. It’s said that Mr. Schwebes probably never knew what hit him. When the teacher hit the ground, Kevin shot him once more, this time in the buttocks because the bigot wrongly assumed that Mr. Schwebes was homosexual. The group of geniuses didn’t even bother to pick up the spent shells, they just left them at the scene.
There’s really no telling what else would have happened or who else would’ve been hurt or killed had this group not been caught when they did; it’s said that they had been planning to rob a local Hardee’s restaurant when they were finally caught. Thankfully they were braggarts, and one of the teen’s girlfriends couldn’t keep the secret, she went to the police.
Craig and Brad faced no charges, while Tom and Chris Burnett both took deals; they plead guilty to lesser crimes and received very little punishment in exchange for their testimony against the main members of the group.
Chris Black, Derek Shields, and Pete Magnotti all pled guilty to first degree murder. Pete received 32 years imprisonment while Chris and Derek are serving life. The only one of the group to go to trial was Kevin Foster. On June 17th of 1998 Kevin was sentenced to death; he has appealed his conviction, but recently it was undecided if the penalty would stick. From what I understand there was a new trial in which Kevin blamed his upbringing for his actions and asked that his own life be spared. It was decided that Kevin will ultimately be put to death by the state of Florida.
*I think it was Dateline which aired a two hour special on this case, you know I would link it if I could find it. This special kinda irked me because it almost seemed like the man who covered it fell in love with Kevin. It made the small-time gang leader out to be more than he was, like he was this highly manipulative cult leading criminal mastermind, which just wasn’t the case. Kevin wasn’t well known, there was no big following, and he definitely was not seen as a force to be reckoned with. In all actuality Kevin Foster was a nobody until he and his buddies came up with a menacing name, vandalized our city, burnt parrots alive, and murdered an unsuspecting teacher who would’ve kicked his butt had he not been ambushed. If you’re interested in knowing more, there’s a really decent book about the case, “Someone Has to Die Tonight” which is very much worth the read.
This is a link to Mr. Schwebes sibling’s blog. She’s a Rabbi, and these are her feelings about the murder, and the new penalty trial which Mark’s family has recently had to endure-
* I apologize for the opinions on this one, y’all know I try to keep my opinions out of it but this is too personal. This whole case upsets me, and if you know me at all then you are already aware that I am a parrot person. Some obsess over cats, other dogs, and don’t get me wrong I adore them as well but I own 5 parrots and to know how those poor babies died… My husband is still ticked off about the Coca-Cola plant, it was a part of our city’s history.