Biography of Ron McAndrew
Ron grew up in rural Gaston County, NC. After serving in the USAF four and one half years, he was discharged in France in 1960. Ron then lived and worked for a private French firm in France, the Far East and SE Asia, returning to the USA in 1978
Arriving in Florida that year he was hired as a bottom-rung correctional officer and over the next 10 years climbed 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 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, still plagues Ron. (Following the Medina Execution, Ron Shadowed 5 lethal killings by Injections in Huntsville, Texas, thus gathering training for a new way of killing in Florida.)
Early on the morning after the execution of John Bush and to follow tradition there would be a breakfast 15 miles south of the death chamber at Shoney's in Starke, Florida. The warden would take the whole death team to breakfast. This was following Ron's first execution and he felt that it was important to make certain the death team was secure. 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 they were and what they had just done - there were even a few 'high signs.' While stirring his scrambled eggs into hot grits, Ron began to realize what he and the team had just done. Looking over the shoulder of the colonel sitting across from him, Ron could see the head of the female attorney who had represented Bush. Ron says that he saw his own sickness on her face and decided the breakfast was wrong. 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 the condemned if he had anything he would like to share, possibly a message to pass on. While Ron never shared any of the words, he said that "the whispers were sincere and promises were kept".
"Searching his soul for answers would be the question of just why we were we killing people. The governor and other politicians would do their 'chest pounding' in support of these ghastly shows. It was mentally confronting" Ron said. Ron remembered how strongly he’d supported the death penalty before arriving at Florida State Prison. And even though he still professed this belief, the questions on why we were doing this would be 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 on this issue of abuse and was investigating numerous allegations. 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 officer goon squad. That particular warden has now served 8 years in the federal prison system for other wrongdoings in the Florida Department of Corrections.
Alas, the pressure of carrying the death penalty was no longer an issue ......... probably a key factor was the reality he was moving away from the idea of killing people who had killed people. It was wonderfully rewarding in more ways than Ron 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.
For the past 16 years Ron has worked as a certified jail consultant and expert witness.