Serial killers such as Judi “Black Widow” Buenano and Aileen Wuornos once walked the grounds of the Broward Correctional Institution on the far western reaches of Pembroke Pines. Shuttered in 2012, the maximum-security female prison is now abandoned and overtaken by weeds and satanic graffiti. After an unexplained fire ravaged the 66-acre property last year, many considered it to be one of the creepiest places in South Florida.
“It's suspicious because there is no electricity running to it," Pembroke Pines Fire Rescue Division Chief Jorge Hernandez told the Sun Sentinel at the time. “It was emptied of people.”
Built in 1977, the Broward Correctional Institution was originally intended to house male inmates but was converted to a maximum-security prison for women. The state’s female death-row inmates would stay here before their executions.
(For the creepiest pictures of the creepiest place in South Florida, see this slide show.)
In the mid-1980s, prosecutors called Judi Buenano the “Black Widow.” She was sentenced to death for the 1971 arsenic poisoning of her first husband in Orlando after he returned from Vietnam. Buenano also received a life sentence for the 1980 drowning of her partially paralyzed son and 12 years in prison for trying to kill her second husband using a car bomb. Buenano became the first woman executed in Florida in more than 150 years. On March 30, 1998, she died in the electric chair.
Aileen Wuornos became the third and last woman executed in Florida. She was given six death sentences and tied to seven murders of middle-aged men throughout Florida, whom she killed while working as a prostitute. Wuornos gave several inconsistent stories about the men's deaths. She claimed she killed them all in self-defense and then admitted to killing some of them to leave no witnesses to robberies. She scored very high on the psychopathy checklist.
Wuornos spent nine years on Broward Correctional Institution's death row awaiting execution. During that time, she accused prison staff of tainting her food with dirt and saliva. There were also allegedly strip searches, tight handcuffing, and other problems. In an interview, she said she was "tortured" at Broward Correctional Institution. Wuornos was executed October 9, 2002. Her life was chronicled in the 2003 crime drama Monster, starring Charlize Theron.
In February 2003, female death-row inmates were transferred to a state prison in Ocala. In 2012, the Broward prison shuttered in a move to cut costs after a sharp decline in prison admissions. Nearby residents were relieved.
In 2014, the City of Pembroke Pines purchased the prison from the state for $13 million. Though the prison has been abandoned for years, it has become a favorite spot for vandals and teenage misfits.
A squeaky gate opens at the end of a winding dirt road that circles the prison's perimeter. Essentially anyone can enter, but this is ill-advised because police monitor the grounds. Barbed wire looms around the gate and atop the fences. Even in searing daylight, the desolate scene seems as if a horde of zombies will stampede out of one of the 26 buildings.
Inside, tables, chairs, and desks that were left behind have been overturned. The walls in every building are covered with graffiti. One room still shows the scorched scars of a fire. Some barred gates are open, allowing access to the cell blocks. The cells are small and empty except for the metal toilets and slivers of windows.
No one would want to stay here too long.
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