Father of Alex Zaldivar 'very happy' over Bessman Okafor's death sentence: 'A long struggle'

Convicted killer Bessman Okafor was once again sentenced to death on Monday in the murder of 19-year-old Alex Zaldivar.

The courtroom proceeding took less than five minutes for the judge to rule in favor of the jury’s nine-to-three vote for Okafor to receive the death penalty.

"I hereby sentence you to death," said Chief Judge Lisa T. Munyon.

Alex's father, Rafael Zaldivar, has attended the courthouse hearings ever since his son was murdered in 2012.   

"We will never have closure," Zaldivar said. "Even if he is executed in the next 15 years. But I will be there. I will be there. The last face he is going to see is my face and his face."

Sitting next to him in the gallery was Brienna Campos, one of the three victims forced to lie face down on the ground in their Ocoee home as Okafor fired a gun at their heads.

"Brienna is very tough," Zaldivar said. "You can see her. She’s always here. And she despises this guy. And she’s a very, very strong woman."


She and her brother, Remington, survived. But their roommate, 19-year-old Alex Zaldivar, was killed.

Zaldivar was murdered just hours before he was scheduled to testify against Okafor in a home invasion trial.

"I’m going to stop by his gravesite, which I always do whenever I can," his father said. "And I know he’s watching. I know Alex’s mother was going to attend today, but it’s very difficult on her."

It had been 12 years since Zaldivar was murdered, and in that time, hearings and trials were completed, and sentences were declared and changed.

In 2015, Okafor was sentenced to death in an 11-to-one vote, but that was overturned in 2016 when the Florida Supreme Court ruled that death sentences had to be unanimous by a jury. However, in 2020, the court reversed its decision, saying juries do not have to be unanimous. Then, in 2023, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a new law that only requires eight out of 12 jurors to approve a death sentence. 

In January 2024, a jury voted in favor of the death penalty, nine to three, during a re-sentencing trial, and Chief Judge Munyon accepted that recommendation. 

"This is good news today, and I am very happy with the outcome," Zaldivar said. "It’s been a long struggle, but we keep pushing. Never give up."

The defense team for Okafor said they plan to appeal the death penalty sentence.

Future court dates are yet to be determined.