Guilty verdict in murders of Brazilian missionary family -
Published Friday, October 5, 2012 at 12:06 pm / Updated at 1:56 am
Guilty verdict in murders of Brazilian missionary family

It was an exhausting three weeks of trial – a tedious week of jury selection followed by two weeks of emotional and at times graphic testimony.

After all of that, a Douglas County jury deliberated just three hours before finding Jose “Carlos” Oliveira-Coutinho guilty Friday of three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of a family of Brazilian missionaries -- his boss Vanderlei Szczepanik, Szczepanik's wife, Jaqueline, and their 7-year-old son, Christopher Szczepanik. Jurors also found Oliveira guilty of theft for stealing from the Szczepaniks.

Omaha police and Douglas County prosecutors had built a strong circumstantial case against Oliveira – and paired it with the last-minute conversion of Oliveira's co-defendant, Valdeir Goncalves-Santos. Goncalves had detailed for jurors how he, Oliveira and a third worker – Elias Lourenco-Batista – beat Vanderlei Szczepanik to death in December 2007, then hanged Jaqueline and little Christopher.

Although it took only three hours for the jury to decide Oliveira's guilt or innocence, it made even quicker work of the aggravating factors portion of the case.

The eight men and four women deliberated just a half-hour before
finding that three aggravating factors existed.

The factors: that there were multiple murders; that the murders were
committed for financial gain and that two of the murders were committed
to cover up the first.

Douglas County District Judge Thomas Otepka now will set a hearing for
a three-judge panel to determine whether Oliveira should receive the
death penalty.

Contact the writer: Todd Cooper    |   402-444-1275

Todd covers courts and legal issues for The World-Herald.

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