Saturday, September 14, 2002


Michael Passaro

The Skinny: In the midst of a custody dispute, Passaro parked the family minivan in front of his estranged wife's Myrtle Beach condominium, doused the inside of the van with gasoline and set it on fire with their 2-year-old daughter, Maggie, strapped in her car seat. Passaro planned to die in the blaze, too, but jumped from the van when it exploded.
Firefighters who rushed to the scene asked Passaro if anyone was inside, but he refused to answer. A letter later salvaged from the van indicated that he burned the child to death to punish his estranged wife, Karen.

I AIN'T GOIN' STAY NO MO: Michael Passaro could have stopped his execution any time because he has never appealed his sentence. Passaro's court-appointed lawyer, Joe Savitz, sat outside the Broad River Correctional Institution with a cell phone, ready to file an appeal if Passaro changed his mind. Passaro was so determined to die he even personally appeared before the justices in May, asking them to let him go to his death without a judge ever reviewing his case. That hasn't happened since the state renewed the death penalty nearly 25 years ago. The justices granted Passaro's request, noting that 12 percent of the 302 inmates executed in the United States between 1973 and 1995 waived at least some of their appeals.

THE END: Passaro smiled, blew kisses at his family then told them he loved them and that it was over. He let his final few breaths out as his eyes slowly closed.

FACTOIDS: Passaro, a Navy veteran and former nurse technician with no other violent crimes on his record, was the third man executed in South Carolina this year, and the 28th person executed since the state reinstated the death penalty in 1977. No other executions are imminent.