Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Ecuadorean sentenced to death in Florida

Ecuadorean sentenced to death in Florida

By PHIL DAVIS -- Associated Press Writer
(Published: June 26, 2007)
BARTOW, Fla. (AP) A former Ecuadorean businessman was sentenced to death Tuesday for killing four people in a business dispute, despite pleas from his native country to spare his life.

Nelson Ivan Serrano, 68, was convicted last year on four counts of first-degree murder for the Dec. 3, 1997, shootings of George Gonsalves, 69; Frank Dosso, 35; Diane Patisso, 28; and George Patisso Jr., 26.

Serrano showed no reaction as Circuit Judge Susan Roberts imposed four death sentences in a hearing that lasted only a few minutes. The sentences will automatically be appealed under Florida law.

"The state felt all along that Mr. Serrano deserved the death penalty," prosecutor John Aguero said. "We feel that was an appropriate sentence."

Serrano's attorneys declined to comment.

Serrano, Gonsalves and Dosso's father were business partners at a garment conveyor factory until a dispute over finances led to Serrano's firing as company president in 1997.

Serrano was arrested in September 2002 in his native Ecuador.

In February, Ecuador's Foreign Ministry requested Serrano be returned to that country because he was "illegally" taken to the United States to face charges.

Ecuador will not extradite fugitives who are facing the death penalty in other countries, but U.S. authorities were able to use Serrano's status as a U.S. citizen to get him deported in 2002. Serrano had U.S. and Ecuadorean passports when he was arrested.

Serrano denied involvement in the killings, insisting he was in Atlanta on business at the time. Defense lawyers said there was no physical evidence connecting Serrano to the slayings and no proof he was in Polk County the night of the slayings.

Prosecutors said rage over his firing drove Serrano to mastermind an elaborate plot to kill Gonsalves and leave himself with an alibi nearly 500 miles away. Dosso and the Patissos were killed because they got in the way, prosecutors said.

In October, the jury that convicted Serrano recommended 9-3 that he be sentenced to death.

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