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Days before execution, cop killer wrote to Catholic archbishop

Only days after Manuel Valle's execution, a letter addressed to Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski arrived at his office from the convicted cop killer himself.

In the two-page letter, written out in small, neat script, Valle penned his thoughts about his family, his forthcoming death and being at peace with God.

But the letter is perhaps most striking for what Valle did not say: He did not mention Coral Gables Police Officer Louis Pena, the man he shot and killed. He did not mention Pena's family. He didn't mention the crime or repent.

The letter was dated Sept. 23. Valle was executed by lethal injection on Sept. 28. The letter arrived in Wenski's office on Oct. 3. When his secretary opened it, Wenski said, she wept.

"I am well, at peace, and prepared for whatever God's will has in store for me within the next week," Valle wrote Wenski, one of several Florida bishops who had asked Gov. Rick Scott to spare Valle's life.

Valle's final words to Wenski disgusted Pena's family.

"As far as I'm concerned, he has no remorse," said Jeffrey Frau, Pena's half brother, who got a copy of the letter from Miami Herald news partner WFOR-CBS 4, which first obtained it. "He doesn't care what he's done to our family. He only cares about himself. Our lives have been destroyed forever."

Valle, then 27, killed Pena, a father of four, after a routine traffic stop on a Sunday afternoon in 1978. After two convictions, three death sentences and countless appeals, the 61-year-old Valle was put to death last month at Florida State Prison.

This summer, Wenski and other bishops of the Florida Catholic Conference pleaded for mercy, urging the state to commute Valle's death sentence to life imprisonment. The Catholic church opposes capital punishment.

"He could have remained alive in prison without the possibility of parole and not threatened society," Wenski said. "Do we really make a statement that killing is wrong by killing somebody?"

In the letter, Valle described himself as accepting his likely fate, an attitude he seemed to maintain until his execution. In the death chamber, he appeared calm, closed his eyes and said he did not have a final statement.

"I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support and thoughtfulness throughout this difficult ordeal," Valle wrote.

Days before execution, cop killer wrote to Catholic archbishop 10/20/11 [Last modified: Thursday, October 20, 2011 11:54pm]
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