A South Florida drug trafficker convicted of killing a state trooper with a pipe bomb is once again scheduled to die.
Gov. Rick Scott on Friday set Paul Augustus Howell's new execution date for Feb. 26, according to a letter Scott sent to the warden of Florida State Prison.
Scott signed a death warrant for Howell last January, but the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily blocked the execution. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi certified on Wednesday that the stay had been lifted.
Howell, 48, was convicted of killing Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Jimmy Fulford with a bomb placed inside a gift-wrapped microwave oven 22 years ago. Authorities said the booby-trapped package was intended to kill two women in the Panhandle town of Marianna because they knew too much about a drug-related murder in Broward County.
Fulford stopped a car for speeding as it was transporting the package on Interstate 10 in Jefferson County just east of Tallahassee on Feb. 1, 1992. The trooper was killed instantly when he opened the package after sheriff's deputies had picked up the driver, who lacked a valid license, along with a passenger. Fulford was a father of two.
The trooper's wife, Keith Ann Fulford, later asked a judge to condemn Howell to death at his sentencing hearing, saying he could have told Fulford not to open the package. "What Paul Howell did was murder my husband in cold blood," she told the judge.
A prosecutor said Fulford's death likely saved many other lives. It also launched a multistate investigation that unraveled a major crack cocaine ring, resulting in the convictions of 28 people on federal drug charges including Howell.