by Robert A. Waters
An innocent victim of random violence, 49-year-old Janet Acosta worked as a supervisor in the make-up department of The Miami Herald. She was a native of Jacksonville.
The following summary describes the brutal murder of Acosta. It was published by the Florida Commission on Capital Cases.
“Michael Tanzi was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Janet Acosta.
“During her lunch hour on April 25, 2000, Janet Acosta was seated inside her van with the window rolled down, reading a book at the Japanese Gardens in Miami, Florida. At the same time, Tanzi was stranded in Miami with no means of returning to his home in Key West. Tanzi approached Acosta’s van, asking her for a cigarette and the time. When Acosta was distracted, Tanzi punched her repeatedly in the face and gained entry into the van. Holding her wrist and threatening her with a razor blade, he drove the van to Homestead, Florida.
“When they reached Homestead, Tanzi stopped at a gas station where he bound and gagged Acosta with materials found in her van. He took 53 dollars in cash, purchased cigarettes and a soda, and took Acosta’s bank card. He also forced Acosta to perform oral sex but stopped her from continuing because her teeth were loose from the earlier beating. Tanzi continued driving on to Tavernier in the Florida Keys.
“In Tavernier, Tanzi stopped at approximately 5:15 p.m. to withdraw money from Acosta’s account using her personal identification number. Soon thereafter, he stopped again at a hardware store to purchase duct tape and razor blades. At approximately 6:30 p.m., they arrived at Sugarloaf Key. It was there that Tanzi decided he would have to eliminate Acosta as she was impeding his progress and leaving her alive would result in his swift capture. He drove to an isolated area in Cudjoe Key, told her he was going to kill her, and began to strangle her. He stopped to place duct tape over her mouth, nose, and eyes in an attempt to quiet her and then strangled her until she expired. Tanzi then left Acosta’s body in a wooded area.
“Tanzi then drove to Key West, where he used Acosta’s ATM card, smoked marijuana, and visited friends. He had planned to purchase more drugs with her money and to alter the appearance of the van, but the police found Acosta’s van after her friends had reported her missing. When the police approached Tanzi about the van, he had receipts in his pocket documenting his use of Acosta’s ATM card and told the police that he ‘knew what this was about.’ He waived his rights and began confessing to the assault, abduction, robbery, sexual battery, and murder of Janet Acosta.
“He repeated his confession in great detail on audio and videotape. He also showed the police where he had left Acosta’s body and where he had disposed of the duct tape and rope.”
In addition to the murder of Acosta, Tanzi confessed to killing Caroline Holder in Brockton, Massachusetts. In 1999, he strangled and stabbed Holder as she worked in a laundromat. Another random murder. Now Martin Holder, Caroline’s husband, waits impatiently for Florida to execute his wife’s killer. “In the past,” he said, “I didn’t think that taking a life for another life was justifiable. But if something happens to you personally, you kind of look at it differently. Now I think it is justifiable.”
Florida Governor Rick Scott has said he wants to execute the “worst of the worst” killers on Florida's Death Row.
Michael Tanzi fits that category.