(PatriotWise.com) — The Florida man who shot his childhood friend inside a storage unit in DeBary in 2019 was convicted last Thursday, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reported.
Julio Cesar Rivera, 52, was found guilty of shooting Roberto Ovalle in the back of the head on December 8, 2019. Jurors convicted Rivera of first-degree murder and possession of a firearm by a felon. He faces a possible death sentence.
Rivera had been living in a storage unit that Ovalle, a drug dealer, owned for storing his marijuana and heroin. According to prosecutors, Rivera felt disrespected for having to live in a storage unit used for keeping drugs.
Casey Bathjer, Ovalle’s girlfriend, testified in court that on the night of the murder, she and Ovalle were leaving the storage unit when Rivera said he wanted to show them his “new toy.” Rivera then came up behind Ovalle and shot him in the head.
Rivera allowed Bathjer to leave the storage unit, driving her back to Ovalle’s house. Once there, Rivera drove away, and Bathjer called 911. By the time Rivera returned to the storage unit, the sheriff’s deputies were already there.
In court testimony, Lt. Jayson Paul from the Volusia Sheriff’s Department said Rivera admitted to shooting Ovalle the moment he got out of the car.
Rivera later repeated his admission in a recorded jailhouse phone conversation, according to prosecutors.
At the time of his arrest, Rivera was wanted in New York State for violating probation.
Rivera was on probation after serving a 26-year prison sentence for second-degree murder for killing a New York shopkeeper.
According to ClickOrlando.com, investigators believe that Rivera had been hiding in Ovalle’s storage unit to avoid arrest on the outstanding warrant.
The penalty phase of the trial began on Tuesday as jurors weighed whether to recommend the death penalty in the case.
If only eight jurors recommend the death penalty, Circuit Judge Elizabeth Blackburn would be free to consider either death or a life sentence. If fewer than eight jurors opt for death, the judge must sentence Rivera to life.
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