STARKE, Fla. (AP) — A drug trafficker who built a bomb in a plot to kill two potential murder witnesses is scheduled to be executed Wednesday for the death of the state trooper who instead became the unintended victim.

Paul Howell, 48, is scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection at 6 p.m. for the blast that killed Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Jimmy Fulford on Feb. 1, 2002. His lawyers filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday arguing that a new drug Florida uses for executions wasn’t tested for that purpose. This is the fifth execution in the state using the new drug, midazolam hydrochloride, as part of a three-drug mix.

Howell built a pipe bomb in his Fort Lauderdale home and placed it in a microwave oven. He gift-wrapped it and then paid Lester Watson $200 to deliver it to a woman in Marianna who, along with a friend, could tie Howell to a drug-related murder. But Fulford pulled Watson over for speeding about an hour from his destination and the bomb never was delivered to the intended target. Watson was arrested after giving Fulford a false name and birthdate. Watson also gave Fulford permission to search the car rented in Howell’s name.

Before Fulford, 35, opened the package, a police dispatcher called Howell to let him know what was going on. Instead of mentioning the bomb, he said he had given Watson permission to drive the car, but didn’t think Watson was leaving the Fort Lauderdale area. Two deputies took Watson and a passenger to a Jefferson County jail while Fulford took an inventory of the car’s contents. He was along Interstate 10 just east of Tallahassee when he opened the package and looked to see what was in the microwave oven.

That’s when the massive explosion took his life. The blast left a depression on the roadway. Had it been detonated in Tammie Bailey’s apartment, the woman who was supposed to receive the bomb, it would have been powerful enough to blow out windows, doors and walls, potentially killing anyone in the apartment as well as neighbors, according to court documents. Bailey’s friend Yolanda McAllister was also an intended target. Bailey had previously told Howell she needed a microwave oven to heat her baby’s bottles.

“He saved a bunch of people’s lives and I feel if he had to do it over again, he would have done the same thing because that’s just the kind of person he was,” said Madison County Sheriff Ben Stewart, who grew up with Fulford and was a deputy when his friend was killed.

Fulford’s death also led to a state and federal investigation that busted up a drug ring and led to the indictment of 28 people.

Even before his death sentence, Howell, a native of Jamaica, was sentenced to life on federal drug charges. He was then convicted on state charges of murder and making, possessing, placing and discharging a destructive device. That earned him the lethal injection he was to receive at Florida State Prison.

Watson testified that while he saw Howell wrapping the box that contained the microwave oven, that he never knew it was a bomb, thinking instead it held drugs — which is likely what Fulford thought, too.

Watson was convicted of second degree murder and is serving a 40-year sentence.

Howell’s brother Patrick, who helped him build the bomb, was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life.

(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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