A Florida man was executed Wednesday for the pipe bombing of a state trooper, James Fulford, in 1992. Paul Augustus Howell, 48, was killed by lethal injection at the Florida State Prison in Stark. Howell had been part of a drug smuggling ring with several associates that shipped drugs from Ft. Lauderdale to Marianna, Florida.
The record shows that one of Howell’s associates, Tammie Bailey, who had knowledge of a previous murder by Howell, and his brother Patrick, was the intended target of the bombing. In order to silence her, Howell had constructed a bomb and hidden it in a microwave oven, which was later gift wrapped to prevent the bomb being seen. Howell then paid a Lester Watson to deliver the package to Bailey. Watson testified that he believed he was delivering drugs to Bailey, even though he knew that Howell had previously made pipe bombs. In fact, Watson probably only narrowly missed being killed by the device himself, not to mention his friend, Curtis Williams, who was also in the car.
Watson was stopped while travelling on I-10 for speeding by Fulford. When Fulford ran a check on the car, he discovered discrepancies in Watson’s story, based on his attempt to drive without a valid license. The dispatcher for the rental company then contacted Howell, who had rented the car, and he told the dispatcher that he was surprised at where Watson had taken the car, but made no mention of the bomb. Watson and Williams were then taken away by two other police officers who Watson had given permission to search the car. Fulford was left with the car, and while investigating the wrapped microwave, he was killed by a large explosion. He died instantly in the blast when he was holding the microwave in his hands. This was the pipe bombing incident that led to Wednesday’s Florida execution.
The execution of Howell has been the subject of controversy due to the use of a new cocktail of drugs, and the fact that Howell was saved by a last-minute stay of execution almost a year ago. The previous drug cocktail included sodium pentobarbital, but that has stopped being sold for executions by the manufacturer. Instead, Florida uses midazolam hydrochloride, which Howell tried to argue was unconstitutional due it being cruel and unusual punishment. The judge refused his appeal, and Howell died Wednesday at 6:32 p.m. for his role in Fulford’s 1992 killing.
Anti-death penalty groups had also appealed to State Governor Rick Scott to stay the execution, but he refused. Indeed, Gov. Scott has overseen the most executions for any first-term governor since taking office.
As his last meal, Howell was given a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. He then spoke with a spiritual advisor, and went to the death chamber. When the curtain was drawn back, he apologized to the Fulford family, but blamed the early detonation of the bomb on a friend. But had the bomb gone off in Bailey’s apartment as he intended, it would have likely killed not only her, but her child and other people in the building. The request Bailey had made to Howell for the microwave in the first instance was so she could heat milk for her child.
Watson, who was paid $200 for driving the microwave to Bailey, was later given a 40-year sentence on drug charges. He was convicted along with 27 other people who were exposed as a result of the attempted bombing.
As it stands, Howell will not be the last Florida man to be executed for the outcome of a pipe bombing.
By Andrew Willig