Jury selection begins in Okafor home invasion trial

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - The trial for a high-profile home invasion case began Monday.

Bessman Okafor's home invasion trial was pushed back after investigators said he and his friends killed the star witness, Alex Zaldivar.

Prosecutors said Okafor was behind the killing, but that can't come up during the trial for the initial home invasion.

Okafor said he wanted a new attorney Monday, just before jury selection began.

Okafor tried to fire his public defender, accusing the attorney of not showing him all the evidence against him in the home invasion case.

However, Circuit Judge John Kest said Okafor had three choices: He could keep his publicly funded attorney, he could pay for one out of his own pocket or he could represent himself.

Okafor kept his attorney.

Several potential jurors have said they know that home invasion victim Zaldivar is dead and that Okafor is accused of killing him to silence his testimony.

"I heard the interview with (the) father," said one potential juror.

Okafor darted a worried glance toward Zaldivar's father, Rafael Zaldivar, who was sitting in the gallery across the courtroom from Okafor.

The heartbroken father said Okafor looked at him Monday morning for the very first time.

"He was only 19 years old and it makes me sick. These guys are nothing but …they're animalistic b******, that's all they are," Rafael Zaldivar said.

So far, three men have been excused from serving on the jury because they were aware that after the home invasion in May of last year, Okafor was then accused of killing Zaldivar and trying to kill two others.

Zaldivar was set to testify in the home invasion trial, which was originally scheduled to begin on Sept. 11, 2012. But the 19-year-old was shot and killed in a second home invasion during the early-morning hours of Sept. 10, 2012.

His two roommates, Brienna Campos and Remington Campos, who are also witnesses, were shot but survived. They're both expected to take the stand during the trial.

Investigators said Okafor shot the witnesses in order to keep them from testifying. He's been charged with Zaldivar's death and two counts of attempted murder. The murder trial isn't expected to take place until late 2014.

The trial for the home invasion, which happened on Bernadino Drive in Ocoee in May 2012, has been postponed multiple times due to legal and evidentiary issues. But Rafael Zaldivar, Alex Zaldivar's father, said he's ready for the trial to start and will be at the Orange County Courthouse Monday morning.

"We want to get this case over with, because I just want to move on to the homicide case," Rafael Zaldivar said.

Court records show an alibi for the defendant was recently filed in the case. According to Rafael Zaldivar, two friends of Okafor, Tekethia Ruffin and Mikea Jackson, will testify that he was in Orlando the day of the home invasion.

Nolan Bernard is facing trial with Okafor for the home invasion, but Bernard was not involved with the alleged coverup killing.