Bessman Okafor sentenced to death for killing Alex Zaldivar

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A Pine Hills man convicted of killing a trial witness three years ago during an Ocoee home invasion has been sentenced to death by an Orange County judge.  Bessman Okafor, 30, was found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of 19-year-old Alex Zaldivar.  In September, a jury had recommended the death penalty, by a vote of 11 to one, but it was a judge who would ultimately decide Okafor's fate.

Okafor was already serving a life sentence for a home invasion and robbery of the same Ocoee home where Zaldivar lived with Brienna Campos and her brother, Remington Campos.  Prosecutors said Okafor and two other men were involved in that robbery in May of 2012.  After Okafor's accomplices were arrested, Zaldivar and Brienna Campos were expected to testify against them, but a day before the trial, on Sept. 10, prosecutors said Okafor had masterminded the execution of the witnesses.  Zaldivar died after being shot multiple times  The Campos siblings were each shot once in the head and left for dead, but they both survived and later testified against Okafor.

There was barely any reaction from Okafor as Judge Marshall Kest read the sentence aloud.  “Because Mr. Okafor was the individual who planned and researched the attack, recruited the personnel, arranged for the lookouts, orchestrated the assault on the home of the victims, participated in the shooting and killing, or attempted killings of the victims, the court finds that the death sentence would be appropriate,” said Judge Kest.

The judge said many factors were weighed against evidence of Okafor's difficult childhood -- abuse and neglect by his family, claims of sexual abuse by a church member, money troubles, and a learning disability.  But in the end, the judge said none of this lessened the heinousness of the crimes,

“I want nothing but death for this man, but not so quickly. I want him in that cell for at least 10 years,” said Rafael Zaldivar, father of Alex.  “Even after he’s executed, it will never bring closure to me for what he did to our son and what he did to our children.”