Suspect accused of murdering Osceola couple won’t face death penalty

Federico Gondola charged in deaths of Roosevelt, Janette Dixon

Outgoing Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala announced before leaving office that the death penalty will no longer be sought in three murder cases.

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – The Orange-Osceola State Attorney’s Office won’t seek the death penalty against the man accused of murdering a married couple in Kissimmee more than two years ago, according to court records.

Roosevelt and Janette Dixon, originally from New York, were found dead in July 2018 in their home on Meadow Oak Circle in Kissimmee. Deputies arrested Federico Gondola, 36, who was known to the family, a few days later. He is charged with premeditated murder.

[TRENDING: Seniors sleep in cars waiting for vaccine | How to get vaccine in Fla. | ‘Amen and awoman:’ Backlash over prayer]

The outgoing Orange-Osceola state attorney won't seek the death penalty in a number of high-profile cases, records show.

Deputies said the Dixons were married for more than 20 years and had moved to Kissimmee after retiring.

State Attorney Aramis Ayala, who has made headlines in the past due to her stance on the death penalty, filed a notice of intent to not seek the death penalty in the case of Gondola and several other high-profile cases, including the one against Anthony Todt, who stands accused of killing his wife and three children at a home in Celebration last year and a botched murder-for-hire plot. Ayala was initially seeking the death penalty in all three cases.

Ayala previously announced she would not seek the death penalty in any case. When she first announced plans to not seek the death penalty in 2019, then-Gov. Rick Scott reassigned dozens of her cases to neighboring State Attorney Brad King, including the one against accused cop killer Markeith Loyd, along with more than a million dollars from Ayala’s budget.

Ayala sued Scott, claiming that the governor unconstitutionally deprived the “democratically elected” state attorney of her position by removing the cases. In a 5-2 opinion, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that Ayala’s blanket prohibition against the death penalty provided the governor with “good and sufficient reason” to remove those cases from her office.

News 6 has contacted Ayala, who did not seek re-election, and heard back from the office of the Ninth Circuit State Attorney, which said the outgoing state attorney reviewed decisions made by her employees who worked under her supervision and informed the office of the following:

“Making the decision on how to charge cases involves a variety of factors and numerous other considerations — particularly — as it relates to cases where the death penalty is being contemplated. I have personally reviewed each of the three cases and provided a specific rationale for my decision. As is our protocol, we notified the families of the victims in advance of each filing. The pursuit of real justice has always been a priority for me, right up until my last day in the office. Difficult decisions like these are made with the utmost concern for all involved,” the statement from the state attorney’s office said.

Monique Worrell, Ayala’s replacement who was sworn into office Tuesday morning, said this is not how she anticipated the first week in her new role.

“This isn’t the first week that I envisioned. This was Aramis’ first week, beginning her term with a discussion about death penalty. So no, this isn’t the first week that I wanted but it is the first week that I have and I don’t want my term to be defined by what we do or don’t do in regard to the death penalty,” Worrell told News 6 in her first interview as state attorney.

Worrell’s office also released the following statement in response to the news:

“It is important to note my administration did not coordinate with the outgoing state attorney on this decision. We will establish our own review panel to examine the individual circumstances of every capital eligible case before rendering any final determinations on the matter. The most important thing we want to communicate is that our focus will always be on the safety of our community and the citizens of the Ninth Judicial Circuit of Orange and Osceola counties. Our charge is to uphold the law and operate within the confines of justice, and that will never change.”