Tuesday, November 21, 2017
News Roundup

Hillsborough prosecutors to seek death penalty for man accused of killing Avila couple

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TAMPA — Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Julian Ospina-Florez, accused of murdering a prominent doctor and his wife at their Avila home in January.

Ospina-Florez, 31, had worked for Debra Rivera for about a year, driving her around and helping with her upscale jewelry and accessories business. The Jan. 9 shooting occurred soon after they had returned from a trade show in Sarasota, deputies said. Debra was killed inside the home. Her husband, Dr. Hector Rivera, was shot outside as he returned from a neighbor's house.

Deputies have said they believe Ospina-Florez killed the couple because Mrs. Rivera had accused him and others of stealing about $30,000 worth of items.

The Hillsborough State Attorney's Office, which filed its notice to seek the death penalty last month, does not comment on pending cases.

But Susan Rozelle, criminal law professor at Stetson University College of Law, broke down some of the elements any prosecutor would consider when deciding whether to seek the death penalty — 15 fine points in Florida statute called "aggravators."

The classic aggravator, she said, is a murder committed in a cold, calculated, premeditated manner, the act of a killer, lying in wait.

Not all cases that include aggravators end up being death penalty cases. For example, plenty of murders are committed during a robbery, an aggravating circumstance. But not all of those killers are executed. Each case is weighed separately.

"The idea behind the worst punishment we administer should be that it applies to the worst of the worst," Rozelle said.

One murder suspect for whom prosecutors did not seek the death penalty: Dee Dee Moore, accused of killing lottery winner Abraham Shakespeare after taking control of his wealth.

Among the most recent suspects for whom Hillsborough prosecutors are seeking the death penalty: Julie Schenecker, the suburban mother accused of shooting her two children after planning what she called a "massacre."

Alexandra Zayas can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3354.

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