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Jury Recommends Death Sentence for Convicted Killer Who Said He Has 'No Regrets'

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(SS) Convicted killer Peter Avsenew stood before a Broward jury Thursday morning and offered no excuses, no explanations and no signs of remorse.

“I have no regrets in my life and I’m proud of every decision I’ve ever made,” he said. “No one here knows what happened… You would need a Ouija board for that.”

The jury deliberated less than three hours and recommended that Avsenew, 33, be put to death for the murders of Kevin Powell and Stephen Adams. The Wilton Manors couple took him into their home in late 2010 and paid for it with their lives a couple of days before Christmas.

Avsenew’s response after hearing the verdict: He made an obscene gesture at members of one of the dead man’s families as jurors were led out of the courtroom.

Jurors who saw Avsenew scratching his forehead with his middle finger told a court bailiff, who informed Broward Circuit Judge Ilona Holmes. When Holmes warned Avsenew that his conduct in court can be used against him, he spoke up.

“It wasn’t to the jury,” he said. “It was to the family.”

That, Holmes said, was worse.

Avsenew is the first defendant in Broward to receive a death recommendation from a jury since the state’s death penalty law was rewritten last year. Juries now have to make unanimous decisions to execute convicted killers. Even with a death recommendation, Holmes has the authority to override the jury and sentence Avsenew to life in prison.

But Avsenew has shown no indication that he wants to avoid death row. After the jury found him guilty of two counts of first-degree murder last November, Avsenew dismissed his lawyers, who work for the Broward Public Defender’s Office and had prepared to offer evidence about the defendant’s background to talk jurors out of a death sentence.

Avsenew wouldn’t allow it. He insisted on acting as his own lawyer for the penalty phase of the trial, which opened Wednesday.

Prosecutor Shari Tate painted Avsenew as a cold, calculated killer who betrayed and murdered Powell and Adams, a Wilton Manors couple who took Avsenew in after he posted a suggestive ad on the Craigslist website.

During the trial, defense lawyer Gabe Ermine said Avsenew found Powell and Adams already murdered and that he fled because he did not want to be exposed as an escort. Aside from the ad, there was no evidence or testimony from Avsenew or anyone else to support that account.

At this week’s hearing, Avsenew was largely silent. He gave no opening statement. He cross examined no witnesses. He presented no evidence. His statement to the jury took less than a minute — he offered no apologies, no explanation of why he struck the victims repeatedly in the head with a blunt object or shot them repeatedly.

“I have no regrets in my life and I’m proud of every decision I’ve ever made,” he said. “No one here knows what happened… You would need a Ouija board for that.”

Outside the courtoom, Adams’ sisters Marci Craig and Missi Madgett scoffed at his statement and his obscene gesture.

“We don’t need a Ouija board,” said Craig. “We know that justice was served… In my heart of hearts, I knew that he was making that gesture to us. I said to my husband right away, ‘I think he just flipped us off.’”

She said she had hoped to hear Avsenew express remorse, but was not surprised when he didn’t.

Holmes appointed a lawyer, Arthur Marchetta, to seek evidence that Avsenew did not present to jurors that might have convinced them to spare him the death sentence in favor of life in prison. She also ordered a pre-sentencing investigation, a background check intended to provide background information on the defendant for the judge.

Prosecutors, Marchetta and Avsenew are due back in court Jan. 26 to schedule future hearings and possibly set a sentencing date.

 

Previous SFGN Coverage:

Avsenew Found Guilty in Wilton Manors Double Murder Trial

BREAKING NEWS: Guilty Verdict in 2010 Wilton Manors Double Murder

Manors Double Gay Murder Case Goes to Jury

Families of Wilton Manors Murdered Couple Still Waiting for Answers

Accused Killer Avsenew’s Friends Shocked by Arrest

Suspect Held in Manors Slaying a Petty Criminal with Long Record


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