Man sentenced to death for 2012 murder of 19-year-old in Orange County

An Orange County judge sentenced convicted murderer Bessman Charles Obinna Okafor to death on Monday in connection with the 2012 fatal shooting of 19-year-old Alex Zaldivar.

Bill Gladson, State Attorney for the Fifth Judicial Circuit, stated that the death sentence “reflects the gravity of (Okafor’s) crime.”

According to court records, Okafor and two accomplices took part in a home invasion in May of 2012, which led to a trial that was scheduled to begin on September 11, 2012. Two witnesses, including Zaldivar, were set to provide testimony against Okafor and his accomplices.

The day before the trial was set to begin, Okafor “orchestrated” a plan to murder Zaldivar and the other witness. Zaldivar was shot multiple times, and he succumbed to his fatal injuries.

Two other victims were also shot in the head, but they survived their injuries and would later testify against Okafor.

Okafor was originally found guilty of killing Zaldivar and sentenced to death. However, that sentence was ultimately overturned since the jury recommendation for death was not unanimous.

State law has since changed, and a unanimous verdict is no longer needed for a death sentence. As a result, the ruling to overturn Okafor’s sentence was reversed, and a second sentencing trial was held.

During that second trial, the judge declared a mistrial after a juror disclosed that they had recently spoken with a friend, who knew the victim, about the case.

A third sentencing trial was held, and jurors ultimately ruled 9-3 in favor of the death penalty. On Monday morning, Orange County Judge Lisa T. Munyon upheld the jurors’ decision and sentenced Okafor to death.

The victim’s father, Rafael Zaldivar, stated that while his son can’t be brought back, the death sentence “brings us another step closer to justice and closure.”

The case was presented by Chief Assistant State Attorney Ryan Williams and Deputy Chief Assistant State Attorney Jamie McManus.

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