Finding Alex Zaldivar's killers required a combination of sophisticated technology and strong police work.
Surveillance video designed to capture red-light runners was used to put the suspects' vehicles less than a mile from the crime scene.
Cellphone software, meant to automatically find Wi-Fi hotspots, put the prime suspect's phone within a few hundred feet of the slain 19-year-old.
An ankle monitor used to track defendants out of jail on bond noted the alleged triggerman was not home at the time of the slaying.
And one witness in particular helped detectives tie it all together.
The Orange-Osceola State Attorney's Office recently released roughly 800 pages of reports, evidence logs, photographs and cellphone records detailing the extraordinary measures detectives employed to build cases against the suspects. Prosecutors this week confirmed they will seek the death penalty for the accused mastermind, 28-year-old Bessman Okafor.
Orlando police homicide detectives Michael Moreschi and Patrick Schneider led the homicide investigation on behalf of the Joint Homicide Investigation Team.
Over the course of three months, detectives would unravel what they say was a conspiracy to kill witnesses before they could testify against the men accused of committing an earlier home invasion at the same house in May.
In all, detectives made eight arrests, executed numerous search warrants, seized several vehicles and gave evidence to a grand jury, which indicted Okafor.
The coordinated effort by the homicide-team detectives was the kind of success story that area police chiefs had in mind when the team was formed in June.
"We don't have the resources or the staffing, but the team effort made it so all the suspects were arrested and all the leads were followed up on," said
Bloodied and in shock, siblings Brienna and Remington Campos hobbled through their dark backyard at 5:20 a.m. on Sept. 10, climbed over a fence and stumbled to a neighbor's house seeking help.
The stunned neighbor dialed 911 to report that two people covered in blood were standing on her porch claiming to have been shot.
Moments earlier, the Campos siblings and their roommate, Zaldivar, were each shot in the head by a trio of armed, masked men who had burst through the front door claiming to be seeking drugs and money.
Zaldivar was shot twice and lay dead in a pool of blood, his hands lightly clasped behind his back.
Orlando police say the real motive was to kill the witnesses — Zaldivar and Brienna Campos — who were scheduled to testify against Okafor and another man for the May home invasion.
Roughly 35 minutes after the neighbor phoned 911, homicide detectives were notified of the slaying. Some of the Ocoee officers who responded immediately were familiar with the house and its residents. One officer had investigated the May home invasion, records show.
The Campos siblings were seriously injured but able to describe the attack and suspects that morning. Officers made quick connections and set their sights on Okafor — the one person detectives said had something to gain from eliminating the witnesses.
Unraveling the conspiracy
Working backward chronologically, detectives began to unravel the conspiracy.
Although he was out on bond and under home confinement in the May attack, records showed Okafor violated curfew three times on Sept. 10, including at the time the killing occurred.
Cellphone records were cross-referenced with cellphone-tower pings, which placed Okafor, his girlfriend Sherria Gordon and friend Emmaneul Wallace near the scene just before the shooting and afterward.
A forensic search of Okafor's Android phone showed several text messages and phone calls with the accomplices before and after the slaying. And it showed the device searched for Wi-Fi hotspots and picked up signals from neighboring homes that morning.
Surveillance video was pulled from several sources — including red-light cameras, a neighbor's home-security system and a gas station — which enabled police to identify the suspects' vehicles.
Finally, when confronted by the evidence stacked against her, Gordon, who was 8 months pregnant with Okafor's baby, began to talk.
She told detectives Okafor picked her up about 4 a.m. A short time later, they met up with Nesly Ciceron at a Marathon gas station on Silver Star Road. Surveillance video showed Gordon paid for gas there.
From there, Gordon said, they drove to an abandoned house, where they met up with a third man she didn't know.
Okafor got in another vehicle and ordered Gordon to park and wait for his call. She claimed not to know what he was doing or where he was going, records show. She received a 22-second call from Okafor at 5:25 a.m., and pings show the suspects' cellphones moved toward Okafor's home. The home-confinement monitor noted Okafor was back home at 5:46 a.m.
Okafor was arrested a day after the killing, following a brief standoff. He has denied all involvement in the slaying and claimed not to know anything about it during interviews with detectives.
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Alex Zaldivar was a 19-year-old college student who was living with several friends at the home on Bernadino Drive that was initially robbed in May. Zaldivar was the younger of two sons born to Rafael and Kyoko Zaldivar. Zaldivar was an aspiring model and loved to eat good food, according to family members.
Brienna Campos, 20, was shot in the head as she lay on the living room floor near her brother Remington and Zaldivar. She told investigators the gunmen asked her about drugs and money during the May home invasion and the night of the shooting. She survived.