Manny Pardo was not insane. Not in the legal sense. No court ever embraced his flimsy not-guilty-by-reason-of-insanity ploy.
But he was surely crazed in the way a disgraceful number of South Florida policemen were afflicted in the 1980s, by all the kilos of cocaine, by so many bundles of illicit cash, by the ostentatious lifestyles of traffickers living so well in plain sight.
The temptations sent Pardo on a horrific homicidal spree in 1985 and 1986, ripping off and murdering drug dealers and eliminating the occasional witness. After the Florida Supreme Court denied his last futile appeal of his nine murder convictions last week, Manuel Pardo Jr., 56, has an appointment at the death chamber in Starke on Tuesday morning.
He’ll be remembered as an unrepentant and vain glorious serial killer, the Navy vet, boy scout leader, onetime Florida State trooper of the month and former detective sergeant with the Sweetwater police force who styled himself as a kind of homicidal crusader for justice. “Instead of nine," he testified at his 1988 trial, “I wish I could have been up here for ninety-nine."
He told the jury, “l enjoyed what I was doing. I enjoyed shooting them. They’re parasites and they’re leeches, and they have no right to be alive. Somebody had to kill these people.”
“I sent their souls to the eternal fires of damnation of hell for the misery they caused.”
His was a rather self-serving crusade. Pardo profited nicely from the drugs and money and guns he stole from his victims, back when drug dealer rip-offs by cops were epidemic in South Florida. The year before, a police officer named Richard Caride led a gang of Hialeah cops on a series of home invasions, going after dealers and their stashes of coke and cash and executing at least two of their victims. Caride, at the time of his arrest, owned a Corvette, Jaguar, Lincoln Continental and two Porsches.
(Caride, rather than trying something like Pardo’s vigilante insanity defense, simply flipped on his accomplices, served a short stint in prison and was able to “rehabilitate” himself right back into a nice managerial job at Miami International Airport, where he was implicated in 2004 in a $5 million scheme to steal jet fuel from the airport depot.)
Also in 1985, the notorious Miami River Cops scandal stunned South Florida. About 100 policemen were arrested, fired, suspended, or reprimanded after making millions stealing money and drugs from traffickers and re-selling the cocaine. In July 1985, three men who had been off-loading kilos from a drug boat jumped into the river and drowned after the gang of rogue cops surprised them. Twenty policemen were convicted in the scandal.
None of these other outlaw cops were as ruthless as Pardo.
His ethos was described nicely in a 1989 brief filed by the state attorney general’s office to fend off an appeal. The brief describes how the former Sweetwater cop and a partner went to the residence of Mario Amador, “ostensibly to purchase two kilograms of cocaine from Amador.”
It reads like a crime novel. “Rather than pay good American dollars for the two kilos, the defendant and co-defendant elected to murder Mario Amador and steal the cocaine. They arrived at his residence with the defendant carrying a briefcase containing not cash, but rather a .22 cal. semi-automatic, silencer equipped pistol.