• Convicted killer Bessman Okafor to get new sentencing next year

    By: Ty Russell


    ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - A convicted killer sentenced to death row went before a judge Wednesday as he begins the process to get a new sentence.


    Bessman Okafor killed Alex Zaldivar, 19, and wounded two others in 2012.


    He has to be re-sentenced because the state Supreme Court ordered all death sentence decisions must be unanimous.


    Read: Florida Supreme Court overturns death sentence for Bessman Okafor


    Rafael Zaldivar, the victim's father, said reopening this case is painful.


    “Everybody has to relive this all over again. It's like we never moved on. It's a never-ending story,” he said.  


    The judge scheduled Okafor’s new sentencing phase for November of next year.


    The sentencing should take two weeks, with the first for jury selection and the other for witness testimony.


    Photos: Orange County inmates on death row


    Okafor will go before an Orange County judge to get an attorney and schedule a new sentencing phase.


    “It's opening up old wounds. It's terrible for our family,” Rafael Zaldivar aid.


    Okafor was sentenced to death in November 2015 for killing Alex Zaldivar and wounding two others during an Ocoee home invasion in 2012.


    The three were set to testify against Okafor in a separate home invasion before the killing.


    Rafael Zaldivar said he thinks about his son every day.


    “He was a good and loving son. Unfortunately, he barely passed his 18th birthday,” he said.


    State law has changed since the previous jury voted 11-1 to send Okafor to death row.


    Jurors must now all agree on the death penalty.


    Rafael Zaldivar believes that will happen.


    “I'm very confident they're going to do it again,” he said.


    Months after the Supreme Court ruling, Orange and Osceola County State Attorney Aramis Ayala announced she would not seek the death penalty during her tenure.


    Read: Florida Supreme Court rules against Ayala on Scott's reassigning of death penalty cases


    Gov. Rick Scott then gave Okafor’s case, along with dozens of others, to State Attorney Brad King in Ocala.


    © 2018 Cox Media Group.
    © 2018 Cox Media Group.

    “Out of the blue, we had to deal with Aramis Ayala, about her not applying the death penalty to our son’s case. So, it’s been difficult for us and we did not need that with everything going on,” Rafael Zaldivar said. “Thank God Gov. Rick Scott executed that order.”


    Ayala  later created a death penalty review panel for first degree murder cases in Orange and Osceola counties that will decide whether prosecutors should argue for life or death.

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