BARTOW, Fla. – A former businessman was found guilty Wednesday of first-degree murder in the 1997 shootings of four people in a factory where he had lost his job.
Nelson Ivan Serrano, 68, faces the death penalty for the killings. Jurors are set to hear testimony Tuesday in the sentencing phase of the trial.
Prosecutors argued that Serrano killed his former partner, George Gonsalves, 69, out of revenge for being ousted as president of Erie Manufacturing six months earlier. The other victims were killed because they happened to be in the factory at the time, prosecutors said.
Serrano vanished after the slayings and was arrested in September 2002 in his native Ecuador.
He denied involvement in the killings, telling investigators he was in Atlanta on business at the time. Defense attorneys said there was no physical evidence connecting Serrano to the Dec. 3, 1997 slayings.
Serrano hung his head as the verdict was read. The victims' families wept quietly in the back of the courtroom.
"At least I got justice for my kids," said Felice Dosso, who was partners with Serrano and Gonsalves and found the bodies on the night of the slayings. "I wish he would burn to death. I am against the death penalty, but in this condition right now I can think no differently."
Dosso's son, Frank, 35, his daughter Diane Patisso, 28; and son-in-law George Patisso, Jr., 26, were all shot multiple times. Diane Patisso was a Polk County prosecutor. She had gone to the factory to pick up her husband and others to take them to a birthday party.
Serrano's attorneys left the courtroom without speaking to reporters.