Jesse Joseph Tafero (October 12, 1946 - May 4, 1990), was executed in the state of Florida for the murders of Phillip Black and Donald Irwin.
The crime, trial, and execution
On the morning of February 20, 1976, Florida highway patrolman Phillip Black and visiting Canadian constable friend Donald Irwin approached a car parked at a rest stop for a routine check. Tafero, Sonia Jacobs, their two children (ages 9 years, and 10 months), and Walter Rhodes were found asleep inside.
Black saw a gun lying on the floor inside the car. He woke the occupants and had first Rhodes then Tafero come out of the car. Then, both Black and the Irwin were shot by Rhodes and Rhodes forced Jacobs, Tafero, and their children into the police car, fleeing the scene. They kidnapped a man and stole his car. All three were arrested after being caught in a roadblock.
In order to receive a lesser charge himself, at their trial, Rhodes (who had been the only one to test positive for gunpowder residue) testified that Tafero and Jacobs were solely responsible for the murder. Tafero and Jacobs were charged, tried, and wrongly convicted with capital murder. Tafero and Jacobs were sentenced to death while Rhodes was sentenced to a life sentence, from which he was released early for good behavior.
Tafero and Jacobs children were placed in the care of Jacobs' parents until her parents were killed in a plane crash in 1982. The children were then separated, live with relatives and family friends, where they grew to be strangers to Tafero and Jacobs.