STARKE -- Twenty-four years after he urged a jury to give him a “glorious” death, Miami serial killer Manuel Pardo shut his eyes, yawned and fell into an eternal slumber, but not before delivering a final, defiant homage to his military past.
“Airborne forever,” the former U.S. Navy veteran said, adding an ode to his daughter: “I love you, Michi baby.”
And so the former Sweetwater cop, who shot and killed nine people during a series of robberies of mostly drug dealers in 1986, was executed by lethal injection, pronounced dead at 7:47 p.m. Tuesday at Florida State Prison.
Before Pardo was strapped to the gurney, he issued a neat handwritten letter, accepting responsibility for killing six men — but no women, he insisted — as part of his “war against men who were trafficking in narcotics.”
But the nephew of Fara Quintero, one of three women slain by Pardo and another man, insisted Pardo was “no soldier.”
“But rather a disturbed soul whose hatred for mankind knew no mercy,” nephew Frank Judd told reporters afterward. He called Pardo’s execution “mild justice” for taking his beloved aunt.
Pardo’s death capped the bloody and bizarre saga of a man who joined the military and law enforcement before he embarked on a killing spree in 1986 that left nine people dead. Most of his victims were drug dealers, people who crossed him and potential witnesses.
Pardo’s demise is also a reminder of a decade in Miami-Dade that was marred by scandals of corrupt cops who robbed, killed and were arrested for crossing the line into the criminal world. His execution was the third in Florida this year.
In October, Miami’s John Errol Ferguson — a killer of eight — was scheduled to be executed, but received a last-minute stay as a federal appeals court considers claims that he is mentally ill.
Pardo, a New York native, signed up with the U.S. Navy in the 1970s, earning several honors before joining the Florida Highway Patrol. Later, he joined the Sweetwater police force, but was fired.
Pardo soon hooked up with Rolando Garcia, a laborer he met through an in-law. They mostly killed drug dealers, and one man they believed was an informant.
Pardo, police said, also shot and killed Sara Musa, 30, and Quintero, 28, who had gotten into an argument with the men about a $50 pawned ring. A third woman, Daisy Ricard, 38, was killed because she just happened to be with her boyfriend, the intended target.
Faced with overwhelming physical evidence, Pardo went to trial in 1988, pleading insanity. At sentencing, he called his victims “parasites” and, despite his lawyer’s advice, requested the death penalty.
“I’m not a criminal. I’m a soldier. As a soldier, I ask to be given the death penalty. I accomplished my mission,” he told jurors.
Even after his conviction, Pardo maintained in numerous press interviews that he did more social good as a killer than he could have done as a police officer.
On Tuesday, his final statement was equally brash. In his one-page letter, he made no apology to the families of his victims. He simply claimed that he took the rap for the death of the women because “it made no difference” whether he faced six or nine death sentences.
Then, he boasted of his pride in seeing the New York football Giants and the Yankees win so many championships, and delighted in the rival Jets “doing what they do best, choke, crash and burn … they stink!”
Pardo also praised Spain for winning a World Cup title in soccer, and urged the country to keep the tradition of bullfighting. Then, he claimed to “accept the consequences” of his actions — and urged his daughter: “Remember, Michi, you are Airborne and Hardcore … No tears!”
“Now, I am ready to ride the midnight train to Georgia,” he wrote.
In the final hours of his life, Pardo visited with eight relatives and friends, and enjoyed a Cuban-style last meal. A corrections spokeswoman said Pardo dined Tuesday morning on roasted pork chunks, white rice and red beans, fried plantains with tomato and avocado, topped with olive oil. He finished with pumpkin pie and Cuban coffee.
Outside, about 45 death penalty protesters crowded a field across from the prison. In Miami, the Archdiocese of Miami — which opposes the death penalty — held a vigil for Pardo.
Just past 7 p.m., with the U.S. Supreme Court denying his last-minute appeals, seven loved ones of the dead were ushered into a small room facing the death chamber at the prison. A glass pane separated them from the killer. The silence was cut only by the drone of a wall air-conditioning unit.
They watched, grim-faced and calm, as Tim Cannon, a corrections official, announced the final procedure was under way. Without incident, the lethal combination of drugs entered Pardo’s body through a tube attached to his arm. Gaunt, bald and pale, he mumbled his last words, unintelligible to the gallery through the speaker system.
Then he yawned, his eyes darting briefly to Cannon, drew a few last breaths and sank into sleep. His mouth fell open and, for the next 15 minutes, his life seeped away quietly.
Finally, a doctor brushed aside a brown curtain. He shined a flashlight into the killer’s eyes, checked his chest with a stethoscope, looked up to Cannon and nodded, pronouncing Pardo dead.