RAIFIELD, Fla. - The man convicted of killing a Coral Gables police officer was executed Wednesday at Florida State Prison in Raiford. Manuel Valle is the 70th person to be executed in Florida since the death penalty was reinstated.
April 2, 1978. Officer Louis Pena stopped a stolen car that ran a red light in Coral Gables. Inside that car, was Manuel Valle. It would be his last day doing the job he loved.
Valle shot and killed pena. His sentence: the death penalty. But he dodged execution for three decades due to appeals and case delays, prolonging the emotional pain inflicted on Pena's family.
"It's a roller coaster," Pena's daughter Jeneane Skeen said. "The police officers have to go back out on to the street the next day going, are they going take care of me if something happens?"
For Pena's family, September 28th marks the end of a nightmare.
"Who cares if he's going to have to suffer," Pena's former wife Inez Afanador said. He caused Louis Pena to drown in his own blood and Louis Pena's family has been suffering for 33 years. Now its Valle's turn to suffer. An eye for an eye."
Manual Valle met with his family one last time Wednesday morning, and with a lay Catholic chaplin in the afternoon. Prison officials say he was calm and cooperative. For his last meal, Department of Corrections Spokesperson Gretl Plessinger said he request Fried chicken, white rice, peach cobbler and Coca-Cola.
Valle's execution was initially set for 4 pm. But there was another court delay. Then at around 6:30 p.m., the six media representatives were brought into the execution chamber witness room, seated behind Officer Pena's family. The window curtain rose, revealing Valle, restrained to a gurney.
The 61-year-old looked up at the witnesses, but remained silent, declining a final statement. At 6:58 p.m., the executioner began the process. Valle blinked for several minutes, yawned and closed his eyes one last time before going to sleep. Sixteen minutes later, at 7:14 p.m., he was pronounced dead.
"For 33 years, people have asked us if the death penalty will really bring us closure," Skeen said. "At this point, it's beyond closure and it's beyond justice. We finally got revenge on the low-life piece of human waste that murdered our father. Officer Louis Pena finally got his rights."
This was the first death warrant signed by Gov. Rick Scott since taking office.
Valle was the first person to be administered a new lethal injection drug. It was the center of one of his delays, because Valle claimed it may cause him pain.