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'Someone has to die tonight'

Author Jim Greenhill's true crime novel on the frightening power of a charismatic killer — and how he almost became the perfect accomplice. Read an excerpt.

It was big news in Ft. Myers, Florida when an abandoned historic building was destroyed by vandals in a spectacular blast. Behind it lay the Lords of Chaos, a band of teenage misfits led by Kevin Foster, 18, a vicious hatemonger who idolized Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and was known as “God” to his five-man gang.

The explosion was only one episode in a month-long crime spree that began with vandalism and theft, escalating into what a local sheriff later called “a vortex of bloodlust and arson.” The rampage culminated in the brutal shotgun murder of high school band director Mark Schwebes, 32. Police busted the gang before they could unleash a planned racist mass murder at Disney World—but their leader wasn’t done yet.

Author Jim Greenhill conducted extensive interviews with Kevin Foster on Florida’s Death Row. In an astounding development, Greenhill was solicited by the prisoner and his mother Ruby Foster to arrange the killings of three witnesses, leading to a new case against Foster in 2002. His book, "Someone Has To Die Tonight" is the chilling inside story of how a pack of teenage losers found a way to succeed—at murder. Read an excerpt, below.

Chapter One
A Knock on the Door

Fort Myers, Florida; Tuesday, April 30, 1996
Band director Mark Schwebes (Shh-we-beez) left the Riverdale High School (RHS) band boosters’ ice- cream social at 9:38 P.M. The thirty-two-year-old former marine had a military precision in his punctuality, reliability and dress. He never left school without checking for stragglers.

Mark steered his green Bronco II through campus, eyes sweeping the empty grounds, turning past the gymnasium, looking across the swimming pool and approaching the auditorium, where boys stood near the pay phone. That phone doesn’t work, vandalized. He turned into the loop in front of the auditorium and stopped. One boy was tall and odd-looking; the other, short, fat and familiar. I know him. “What are y’all doing?”

“Makin’ a phone call,” the chubby kid said, with attitude.

A third boy peeked from behind a column, ten feet away. Mark focused on the boys at the phone. “You’re not calling; this phone doesn’t work.”

Hands behind backs, the boys fidgeted. “We’re just waiting on a ride. We’re waiting on a friend.”

“Y’all need to wait somewhere else. You don’t need to be hanging out here.”

“This is where we told him to meet us.”

The boy behind the column broke and ran across the road, disappearing into the woods. “Who was that?” Mark said.

“We don’t know.” The attitude dissolved into nervousness.

Mark got out. Staplers on the pay phone. A fire extinguisher and plastic grocery bag of canned goods at the boys’ feet. “Well, gee, where did this come from?”

“We’re just now seeing it.”
Mark glimpsed the tall boy’s hands. Gloves. “Hold out your hands. Why do you have gloves on?”
The boy looked terrified. The chubby one answered. “We like to wear gloves. Is it against the law?”

Auditorium windows had been repeatedly broken. Gloves. Heavy cans. “Give me that stuff.”

The boys peeled off the gloves and put them in the grocery bag. The tall, silent kid loaded Mark’s Bronco.

“Y’all need to find somewhere to go. If you can’t, I’ll take you up to Winn-Dixie.”

“We know a guy across the street. We’ll go to his house.”

“Start walkin’. Use the phone over there.” Mark got in the Bronco and pulled away. The tall kid trotted after him.

“What are you gonna do with the stuff? You’re not gonna report this, are you?”

Mark stopped. “Don’t be surprised if Deputy Montgomery calls you to his office in the morning.”

He turned to the chubby boy. “Don’t I know you? Do you go here?”

“Nope. I don’t know you from Adam.”

Mark drove off. In the mirror, he saw the tall boy standing dejected, shoulders slumped as the fat boy stamped his feet, waving his arms. It came to him: Keyboard class. He’s in keyboard class.


Shortly after 11:00 P.M., after a bite at Cracker Barrel with the band boosters’ president, Mark pulled up to his duplex on Cypress Drive in Pine Manor, nicknamed Crime Manor. The once-secure middle-class neighborhood had deteriorated since Mark’s parents bought the duplex.

Retirement dreams faded as drug peddlers bicycled the streets. Deals gone bad erupted in drive-by shootings. Mark was repeatedly burgled. He couldn’t wait to move to the new house being built south of town. It’d be comfortable when family visited. Big enough that his nephews could have their own room. Big enough for a piano. Mark hoped typical Southwest Florida afternoon thunderstorms hadn’t pockmarked the concrete slab.

Padding around the living room in his socks, he was startled by a knock. At this hour? He listened. Nothing. Undid locks and dead bolts. “Who is it?” A boy. Ball cap pulled down. Looking down. “Yes, may I help you?”

The boy ducked his head farther. “Oh, shit.” He turned and ran.

“Who’s out there?” Mark said, stepping out. “Hello? . . . Who? . . .” Another boy. Dark clothes. Tall. By the garbage can. Pointing. Eye contact. A flash of adrenaline. Mark started to turn away, a reflex, his brain reacting before Gun! became a conscious thought.


11:34 p.m.
“Nine-one-one. What is your emergency?”

“I was sitting outside and heard shots. And a car went flying down the road.”

“Okay. Where’s your address at, ma’am?”

“Seventeen thirty-two Cypress Drive. It sounded like it was right up the street.”

“How many shots?”


“Can you give me a description of the vehicle?”

“I didn’t see it—I ran inside. It scared me.”

Emergency medical service (EMS) workers were on scene in two minutes, followed by firefighters and sheriff’s homicide investigators. A man lay facedown on the doorstep, shotgun wound to his right buttock. The medics rolled him onto a backboard. Another shotgun wound to the side of his face. Close range. His chest rose and fell. The homicide investigators leaned close, hoping for a dying declaration. His chest rose and fell once more; then he was still. The medics declared him dead at 11:38 P.M. and covered him with a sheet.

By midnight, the duplex swarmed with Lee County sheriff’s deputies, measuring, sketching, photographing, collecting and cataloging evidence. Busch beer bottles and a Marlboro Red packet in the yard. Drinking with an acquaintance? Shot pellets and two spent casings. Why two? Why the backside? Wrong place for a coup de grâce. “Up yours?” Sexual revenge? A school pass, cash and paycheck in the guy’s pockets. Teacher. A green Bronco II. Engine still warm. A wallet containing $65 wedged between driver’s seat and console. Mark C. Schwebes, thirty-two . . . Doesn’t look like robbery. On the front passenger seat, a fire extinguisher, staplers and blue plastic Wal-Mart bag containing canned goods and inside-out latex gloves. Doesn’t make sense.

Neighbors reported two shots . . . three? A guy with a little gun. . . . No, a big one. Short guy. . . . No, tall. Dark clothes. . . . No, a white . . . or blue short- sleeved shirt. Black guy. . . . No, white. Car idling in the driveway. . . . No, on a side street. The guy jumped in the passenger side, and it took off fast. Bad muffler. Gray . . . white . . . blue . . . a small, dark car. An ’84 or ’85. . . . An ’82. Maybe a Ford Tempo. Worthless. No one saw the same thing. Shit for evidence, too. No good prints, but there are records of fire extinguishers. This one’s serial number was CE587753. It came from Hallway C of Riverdale High School.

Built out in the country east of the Southwest Florida coastal sprawl, RHS cost $4.6 million and opened in 1972, a prison like campus at the intersection of State Road 80—also called Palm Beach Boulevard—and Buckingham Road.

The school was a product of forced busing for desegregation. Blacks from inner-city Fort Myers, whites from Lehigh Acres and surrounding rural areas. At first, an unhappy, violent mix, it settled into cliques: jocks, blacks, rednecks, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, nerds, “trash” who smoked dope and crack and “freaks” who wore all black, had weird hairstyles, got piercings.

Students dubbed it “Reefer jail.” Locals could cite a string of murderous felon alumni as easily as successful graduates. A pair kidnapped, carjacked and killed a German tourist; one made a contract hit for a thousand bucks; another one abducted three pubescent boys, groped and shot them.

“Let’s Do Something”