Jesse Tafero and the Botched Execution

February 26, 2017

Written by Capt McNeely

Georgia Division ZADF Twitter: @ZADF_ORG

I have focused a lot on women in horror and murder this month and will do a few more articles about those terrifying women before the month is out, but I wanted to focus today a man executed in Florida in 1990.  Why Florida? Because the story of his execution is horrific and unbelievable.


Jesse Tafero just prior to execution

Jesse Joseph Tafero (October 12, 1946), his wife Sonia, their two children, and friend Walter Rhodes were asleep in a parked car.  This seemingly abandoned car was noticed by police officers Phillip Black and Donald Irwin.  Black knocked on the car window and saw the gun on the floor of the car too late.  Tafero fired the weapon killing Black at point blank range and then opened fire on Irwin.  After the double murder, the murderous crew and their children stole the police car, sped away and were finally captured at a road block.

Sonia “Sunny” Jacobs became a yoga instructor in prison after the first five years in isolation.

Tafero had a long criminal record consisting of mostly armed robberies.  He and his wife were sentenced to death – since there was no execution of females in Florida until Judy Buenoano in 1990, Sonia was placed in solitary confinement for the first five years of her sentence.  Their friend Rhodes served    18-years of his three life sentences and was released on parole due to good behavior.
On May 4, 1990 Tafero was strapped into Old Sparky and the switch was flipped; however, something went horrifically wrong!  One of the guards used a synthetic sponge rather than a biological sponge on Tafero’s head (anyone remember The Green Mile?) which does not conduct the electricity as well.  Nearly one-foot flames shot out of Tafero’s head and the smell of cooking flesh filled the air.  Even the second shot of electricity didn’t do the trick.  It took three jolts of nearly 2,000 volts to execute the murderer.  In the end, it wasn’t the electrocution that killed him, Tafero was essentially burned at the stake.  It is said that the smell filled the prison for weeks.

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