ORLANDO, Fla. - Opening statements began on Thursday in the trial for Bessman Okafor, who is accused in a home invasion police say is linked to the murder of 19-year-old Alex Zaldivar.
28-year-old Okafor broke into a home with another man and later killed one of the key witnesses in the home invasion case, police say.
The state said the first witnesses called were the surviving home invasion victims.17055596
Over the past three days of jury selection, the judge has warned prospective jurors not to talk to anyone about the highly publicized case or read about it. But three potential jurors have inadvertently learned about it, which disqualifies them from serving.
Police say Okafor and a friend broke into the teen's Ocoee home in May 2012, demanded cash and drugs at gunpoint and tied up Zaldivar and his two roommates. Just months later, according to investigators, Okafor went back to the same home and shot three people, including Zaldivar, execution style. Zaldivard was killed, while the other 2 victims survived.
Okafor shot Zaldivar, according to police, to keep him from testifying.
The home invasion trial had been delayed for months, and in June a judge delayed it further, saying lawyers needed more time to look at evidence.
Okafor and his co-defendant, Nolan Bernard, face up to life in prison for the home invasion.
Okfaor asked the judge to delay the trial and to appoint him a new lawyer, arguing that his current public defender was doing an inadequate job. The judge denied the request.
Okafor's murder trial is set for October 2014, where, if convicted, he could face the death penalty.
Zaldivar's death demonstrated major failures in Orange County's home confinement program and led to its demise. Okafor was part of the program and being monitored by GPS when he shot and killed Zaldivar, according to police.
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