Family Of Victim Reacts To Pending Execution Of Gables Cop Killer

MIAMI (CBS4) – More than three decades after the crime, a man who murdered a Coral Gables Police officer is finally scheduled to be executed next month.

And that officer’s daughter, former wife and the officer who survived the shooting are all saying that they are grateful that Governor Rick Scott has signed the death warrant, the first such warrant of his administration.

It all started on April 2nd of 1978 when 41-year-old Coral Gables Officer Louis Pena, an 11-year veteran, stopped a stolen car because of a traffic violation near Lejeune Road and Miracle Mile. He did not know that the man driving that car, 27-year-old Manuel Valle, was on probation and was wanted for the attempted murder of a Sweetwater officer.

Valle got out of his vehicle while Pena checked his license tag. Valle was allowed to go back to his vehicle because he said he needed a cigarette. Instead, he grabbed a gun and shot Pena in the neck.

He also shot twice at former Officer Gary Spell, who was hit by one bullet but whose life was saved by a bullet-proof vest.

The incident was captured on a 911 tape as a mortally wounded Pena called a dispatcher, asking for help. You can hear Pena’s police dog barking frantically because Pena was wounded. On the tape, you can hear Pena saying, “I’ve been shot. I’ve been shot.”

Valle and his accomplice fled but they were captured two days later. Records show that Valle confessed and later claimed in court that he fired his gun by mistake. Valle, who is now 61, had avoided execution after a series of appeals, rehearings and even reversals. The case even went to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Pena’s daughter, Jeneane Skeen of Ft. Myers. Had sent three emails to Governor Rick Scott, asking him when Valle would be executed.

When she heard that the Governor signed the death warrant, she was elated. “That’s the greatest news I’ve ever heard,” she said from her Ft. Myers home. “33 years we’ve been waiting and it’s been a long, long, long haul. We’ve never had a Governor sign the death warrant. Governor Scott is the first one to do it. We thank him very much. Manuel Valle doesn’t deserve to be alive anymore.”

“I think it brings a chapter of closure for the whole family,” she said.

Inez Afanador, who was Pena’s former wife, said, “It’s time. It’s been 33 years. It’s time that they put him away already. I’m happy it has come to this. Valle took him. He murdered him. And for that I don’t like him.”

Officer Gary Spell told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench, “I think his death was a total waste. And I think he (Pena) probably would have released the individual that night because he would not have known what he was wanted for at that time. I’m glad to see the current Governor is carrying on with this case.”

Spell retired eight months ago after 33 years as a police officer. “That’s how many years I’ve waited for the execution,” said Spell. He said he had no plans to witness it. He is guardedly optimistic that there will be no more delays.

Officer Pena’s mother had bought him a bulletproof vest shortly before the shooting and had begged him to wear it. But police say because pena was shot in the neck, such a vest would not have saved his life.

More from Peter D'Oench
  • mike

    “Justice” is really absurd in this country. Deals and bargains made between criminals and the system are a hard slap in the face of victims. While honest citizens wronged by their jobs, bosses, banks, realtors and thieving attorneys, cannot get an attorney without hefty retainers and outrageous hoursly fees, criminals on the other hand get free attorneys – is there anything more evil than that? Naturally many politicians who are attrorneys, judges etc, have all this neatly tied up to benefit themselves and not the public at large. To have had this particular animal fed, clothed, given free medical care etc for three decades while his victim lies dead and buried with grieving family members suffering through this horrible ordeal, was simply an aberration of this liberal, bleeding heart minded system in this country. For shame.

  • ed guil

    yeah we need to uncrowded the jail systems and some of those hardcore criminals got to go. go to hell that is. I don’t believe in killing human kinds but some those criminals are monsters not humans.

  • King Ralph

    While it doesn’t justify this shooting, when cops shoot unarmed individuals generally nothing happens to them. Remember the California case where a cop shot a blackman who was laying subdued face down on the floor. The cop claimed it was a mistake as he meant to use a taser. He served less than 2 years in jail. Then there was the Diallo case in NYC where 4 heavily armed cops shot Diallo 19 times in the back for absolutely no reason. The city paid a 7 million dollar settlement and the cops walked. You think the families of those citizens didn’t grieve?

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