MIAMI - For each of the nine people he shot and killed in rip-offs, ex-Sweetwater, Fla., cop Manuel Pardo did not shy away from the ultimate punishment.
"What I'm begging you to do is let me have a glorious ending and not condemn me to a state institution for the rest of my life," he told jurors in an extraordinary sentencing in 1988.
"I'm not a criminal. I'm a soldier. As a soldier, I ask to be given the death penalty. I accomplished my mission."
Twenty-four years later, Pardo is to get his wish.
On Tuesday, he is set to die by lethal injection at Florida State Prison in Starke, barring any last-minute appeals.
Even in Miami's notorious crime lore, Pardo's case remains an anomaly: He was a military veteran turned cop turned serial killer who meticulously kept news clippings of each of his murders.
Born and reared in New York, Pardo's outlook looked bright. He joined the Navy and won honors for good conduct and sharpshooting. He was honorably discharged in February 1978 and, after a short stint as a bank clerk, was accepted into the Florida Highway Patrol academy, where he was class valedictorian. He later earned two college degrees.
But trouble brewed. He resigned in January 1980 from the patrol while under investigation for writing bogus traffic tickets. When he joined Sweetwater Police, superiors lauded him for his work, which included resuscitating an infant who had stopped breathing.
Then in January 1985, Pardo flew to the Bahamas to testify on behalf of a former Sweetwater cop on trial for drug smuggling. Pardo claimed, falsely, that he was a drug agent working with the accused. The lie got him fired from the force.
His downward spiral became precipitous, and murders followed in fairly quick succession. After his arrest, Pardo bragged to a fellow inmate that police missed three additional murders in Homestead, Fla., but he was never charged with those killings.
At trial, Pardo admitted to the crimes but asked to be acquitted because he was insane and couldn't tell the difference between right and wrong. Jurors rejected the claim quickly, and Circuit Judge Phillip Knight sentenced him to death for each of the nine murders.
Afterward, Pardo held a news conference at the Dade County jail, likening himself to President John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.