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Trial begins in Polk County mass slaying

Nelson Serrano is accused of shooting four people in a factory in 1997. His attorney says the evidence invites doubt.

Published September 6, 2006

BARTOW - Defense attorneys argued Tuesday that a man charged with Polk County's worst multiple slaying, the killings of four people at a factory in 1997, did not have enough time to carry out the crimes.

Attorneys for 67-year-old Nelson Serrano ridiculed the prosecution's argument that he pulled off an elaborate scheme to kill his former business associates in only 10 hours. They also argued that no direct evidence linked him to the slayings.

"The evidence establishes reasonable doubt, point after point after point," Serrano's attorney J. Cheney Mason said during opening remarks in Serrano's trial.

Assistant State Attorney John Aguero said evidence showed that Serrano twice devised a plot to kill one of his former partners, succeeding on the second try in a bloodbath that claimed three additional victims who happened to be in the building.

George Gonsalves, 69, Frank Dosso, 35, Diane Patisso, 28, and George Patisso Jr., 26, were found dead from multiple gunshot wounds to the head the night of Dec. 3, 1997. Diane Patisso was a Polk County prosecutor and the wife of George Patisso. She had gone to pick up the three men to take them to a family birthday party.

"He executed them," Aguero said of Serrano.

Prosecutors said Serrano was out for revenge. He, Gonsalves and Felice Dosso (Frank Dosso's father) had been partners in two related businesses operating at Erie Manufacturing, where garment conveyors were made. Six months before the slayings, Serrano was ousted as chief executive officer by the other two. He then sued his former partners, alleging mismanagement.

Serrano vanished after the killings and was arrested in September 2002 in his native Ecuador.

Serrano has denied involvement in the killings, telling investigators he was in Atlanta on business at the time. Security camera footage from a hotel shows him in Atlanta about noon the day of the murders and again about 10 hours later.

But prosecutors say they have a fingerprint on a parking stub that proves Serrano was in Orlando part of the day of the murders, not in his hotel room nursing a migraine as he has claimed.

Circuit Judge Susan Roberts denied a defense request on Tuesday to dismiss the charges and allow Serrano to return to his native Ecuador on the basis of his attorneys' claim that his extradition was illegal.

[Last modified September 6, 2006, 01:08:02]

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