Biography of Ron McAndrew
Ron grew up in rural Gaston County, NC. After serving in the USAF four years, he was discharged in France in 1960. Ron then lived and worked for a private firm in France and SE Asia, returning to the USA in 1978.
Arriving in Florida that year Ron began his career in corrections as a bottom-rung correctional officer, climbing through all of the uniform and investigative ranks to the position of warden.
It was at Florida State Prison in 1996 that Ron first experienced the premeditated, ceremonial killing of another human being. After executing John Earl Bush, John Mills Jr. and Pedro Medina, the gruesomeness of these sanctioned killings prompted the warden to search his soul.
The flames that consumed Pedro Medina’s head when the execution went seriously awry, the smoke, the putrid odor and this death by inferno was deeply ingrained. The memory of telling the executioner to continue with the killing, despite the malfunctioning electric chair, and being at a point of no-return, plagues Ron still. (Following the Medina execution, Ron shadowed a number of lethal injection executions in Huntsville, Texas, gathering training for a new way of killing in Florida.)
On the early morning after the John Bush execution there was a ‘traditional breakfast’ 15 miles south of the death chamber at a Shoney’s in Starke, Florida. The warden would take the entire death team to breakfast. This was following Ron’s first execution and he felt that tradition was important and moreover, the well being of the ‘team’ was his responsibility. In this small town of 5000 most everyone works at the prison, is retired from the prison or has a family member in the business. In other words, everyone in the restaurant knew who these men were and what they had just done…..there were even a few ‘high signs.’ While stirring his scrabbled eggs into hot grits, Ron began to realize the full import of the spectacle around him. Looking over the shoulder of the colonel sitting across from him, Ron could see the turning head of the female attorney who had represented Bush. Ron says that he saw his own sickness on her sad face and decided breakfast after executions just didn’t fit. It was his first and last traditional death breakfast. It simply appeared celebratory.
Minutes before an execution it’s the warden’s responsibility to sit with the prisoner and read the black bordered death warrant aloud. During such moments Ron would ask those condemned if there was anything that could be done for them or if there was anyone he could call or if they had something very personal and confidential they’d like him to pass on….following of course, their imminent death. While Ron never shared any of the words passed to him during those quiet moments, he says that “the whispers were sincere and promises were kept”.
“Searching his soul for answers that would satisfy the question on just why were we killing people and why our governor and politicians would do their ‘chest pounding’ over these ghastly spectacles was mentally confronting” Ron has said. He began to remember himself as the person who went to Florida State Prison with a firm belief in and support for the death penalty. And even though he still professed this belief, the questions on why we were doing this and if it were necessary, would not leave his mind.
Exactly one year following Pedro Medina’s execution Ron was transferred from Florida State Prison to the warden’s position at the Central Florida Reception Center. Leaving Florida State Prison was both bitter and elating. The abuse of prisoners was rampant and several ‘goon squads’ were literally on the loose! Ron had worked feverously bring this abuse to an end and just as a number of investigations were about to ‘pay off’ he was advised of the transfer. Ron strongly warned his slated successor and provided names, but, alas, to no avail. His successor failed to take the recommended actions and thus, Death Row Inmate Frank Valdes was subsequently murdered by the primary goon squad. That particular warden is now serving 8 years in the federal prison system for other wrongdoings in the Florida Department of Corrections.
Alas, the pressure of carrying out the death penalty was no longer an issue………probably a key factor in the reality that he was beginning to move away from the idea of killing people who had killed people. It was wonderfully rewarding in more ways than one Ron has said. It was during this period that two important things happened in Ron’s life: (1) Ron decided that the death penalty was wrong and (2) That he wanted to do something about it. Yes, Ron had become an abolitionist.
Since 2005 Ron has worked as a highly recognized prison & jail consultant and expert witness. Ron has well over 100 successful cases in his case file history to date.
Ron dedicates this web-site to the two correctional officers that saved his life at Dade Correctional Institution in 1979, Robert Erhenkaufer and the late George Leone.