Time to kill

Babysit­ter from hell

Real People - - CONTENTS -

Young mums don’t of­ten walk off and aban­don their kids, their home and their fam­ily. But, in Fe­bru­ary 2009, Heather Strong fin­ished her shift as a waitress at the Iron Skil­let – a truck­stop restau­rant in Red­dick, Florida – and van­ished.

The pretty 26-year-old was sep­a­rated from her hus­band, un­em­ployed Josh Ful­gham, and worked hard to sup­port their two chil­dren.

Had she just had enough? It wasn’t Josh, but Heather’s cousin who lived nearly 600 miles away in Mis­sis­sippi, who re­ported her miss­ing.

In echoes of the 2014 film Gone Girl, po­lice took in Josh, 33, for ques­tion­ing.

Bald­ing and scruffy, he slouched on a chair in the in­ter­view room, seem­ingly un­con­cerned about his wife’s dis­ap­pear­ance.

He claimed she’d dropped the kids with him and gone off to work, car­ry­ing a large duf­fel bag and wheel­ing a suit­case.

Yet, why had weeks passed with­out him try­ing to con­tact his chil­dren’s mum?

Wasn’t he con­cerned?

‘I don’t need her,’ he said. ‘I’m not look­ing for her – you are.’

His blasé ex­pla­na­tion didn’t add up. Heather had un­claimed pay che­ques wait­ing for her at the Iron Skil­let.

And there was more. Josh had been us­ing Heather’s debit card.

Po­lice ar­rested him on fraud charges while they delved deeper into the mys­tery.

Josh was a nasty piece of work. In Jan­uary, a month be­fore Heather dis­ap­peared, he’d been charged with as­sault­ing her.

He’d shacked up with brunette Emilia Carr, 24, who babysat the kids and was now preg­nant with his baby.

The pair, who had known each other for years, were hardly love’s young dream.

They liked to park up at a lake with a 12-pack of beer and have sex in the back of the car.

They’d had a three­some with a male friend of Emilia’s and filmed it, hop­ing to flog their DIY porn.

Af­ter re­lent­less ques­tion­ing, Josh cracked – to a de­gree.

With­out ad­mit­ting to killing Heather, he agreed to show them where she was.

Di­rect­ing po­lice to Emilia’s house, he pointed out a shabby mo­bile home at the back.

Af­ter pok­ing through a pile of rub­bish with a stick, po­lice found Heather’s de­com­pos­ing body out­side the mo­bile home.

But how had she died?

Nei­ther Josh nor Emilia would ad­mit it – in­stead, they blamed each other.

Po­lice en­listed the help of Josh’s sis­ter to speak to Emilia and se­cretly record their con­ver­sa­tion.

‘Tell me what hap­pened that night,’ Josh’s sis­ter said. ‘Tell me your ver­sion.’

Emilia even­tu­ally de­scribed how Josh had taped Heather to a chair and put a bag over her head. ‘We tried to snap her neck. That didn’t work.’

Then they suf­fo­cated her. ‘I fig­ured it would be quick and pain­less,’ she said.

Po­lice pieced to­gether the night from the con­flict­ing tes­ti­monies. Josh had lured Heather to Emilia’s place, say­ing he had found a stash of money. Then, when she re­fused to sign pa­pers giv­ing him cus­tody of the chil­dren, the evil duo set upon her.

For Josh, it wasn’t so much about love for his chil­dren, as money. If Heather had moved to an­other area, which she planned to do, he’d have had to cough up fi­nan­cially.

He was also jealous about a new re­la­tion­ship Heather had started.

Mean­while, Emilia’s baby bump grew un­der her orange and white jail-is­sue jump­suit. She gave birth in cus­tody.

She and Josh were both con­victed of kid­nap and mur­der at the Marion County Ju­di­cial Cen­tre.

The sen­tences, de­cided by the jury, sparked con­tro­versy. In De­cem­ber 2010, Emilia was sen­tenced to death by lethal in­jec­tion, be­com­ing the youngest woman on death row, but Josh was given life in prison.

It was felt Emilia was the master­mind, play­ing the ‘poor me’ card. Her IQ was 125, while Josh’s was 81.

But the law in Florida changed in 2016, re­quir­ing that all death penal­ties had to be passed by a unan­i­mous jury.

Be­cause Emilia’s death sen­tence was an 8-4 vote, it was com­muted to life in prison. And that means life – the state of Florida has no pa­role.

Josh, who claimed to want cus­tody of his and Heather’s chil­dren – now adopted – will never see them again.

They’re bet­ter off with­out work-shy, cheat­ing, vi­o­lent Josh – but not with­out their mum.

Heather worked all the hours she could to sup­port them.

Hope­fully, they will have that sup­port from their new par­ents. But their de­voted mum will never see them grow up.

Watch The Babysit­ter’s Se­cret episode of Sex, Lies & Mur­der, Wed­nes­day 19 Septem­ber at 9pm

Left: Heav­ily preg­nant Emilia (also above) is ques­tioned by po­lice. Right: Josh Ful­gham

Hard-work­ing Heather mys­te­ri­ously dis­ap­peared

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