Judge sentences Bessman Okafor to death more than a decade after teen’s murder


ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — A judge has accepted a jury’s recommendation to put Bessman Okafor back on death row.

On Monday, a judge handed down that sentence more than a decade after Okafor murdered 19-year-old Alex Zaldivar.

Channel 9′s Sam Martello was in the courtroom.

She said the judge’s decision was made in less than five minutes and that Okafor was smiling and chuckling as he left the courtroom.

Watch Eyewitness News at Noon to hear from Zaldivar’s father on this morning’s ruling.

Original story:

12 years after the crime the fate of Bessman Okafor will be sealed on Monday.


The man, now almost 40 years old, is expected to be sentenced for the killing of 19-year-old Alex Zaldivar.

The case happened in September of 2012. According to court documents, Bessman and another man broke into Zaldivar’s home just a day after the teen was supposed to testify about a home invasion that happened earlier in the year.

The 19-year-old was a key witness in that case. Two other people who were at Zaldivar’s home at time were also shot, but they survived. The three were lined up and shot in the head, execution-style, according to the victim’s families.

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Okafor was out on bond for the home break-in case when the crime happened. In previous statements, the family of the 19-year-old said they believe the Okafor came back to kill the three to prevent them from testifying.

In 2015, Bessman was sentenced to death for the killing of Alex Zaldivar, but a change in how the state handles the death penalty led to a resentencing trial. A second attempt ended in a mistrial in 2023.

Back in January of 2024, a jury once again recommended the death penalty. The victim’s family spoke out after that decision. “I am grateful he is being sent back to the death row,” said Rafael Zaldivar, Alex’s Father. “We were looking for a 12-0. We may need to come back here in the future.

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Okafor’s family also vowed to rally behind him at the time. “I am going home today, heartbroken,” said Adaure Onokala, Bessman Okafor’s Aunt. “The Lord knows that he was not the one who shot that young man. I will continue to fight and pray for him until he gets justice.”

That hearing is set for Monday, starting at 9 a.m. at the Orange County Court House.

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