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Man gets life for killing two

Elvis Serrano was convicted of fatally shooting his estranged wife and her new boyfriend.

By CHRISTOPHER GOFFARD

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 21, 2001


TAMPA -- Meek-looking and small in a borrowed blue cardigan sweater, Elvis Serrano showed no surprise Friday when a translator leaned in to whisper his fate: Life behind bars.

It took a jury about seven hours to find the 48-year-old Cuban immigrant guilty of two counts of first-degree murder in the October 1999 shootings of his estranged wife, Elvira Perez, and the lover for whom she left him, Jaime Ruano.

The prosecution called them cold-blooded, execution-style killings.

The defense called them crimes of passion, evoking a man who toiled at lowly jobs to support his family in a land where he could not speak the language.

The shootings occurred at the Carlton Arms Apartments, where Serrano's wife of 18 years and teenage daughter were living with Ruano. Serrano showed up with a gun. He claimed he started shooting after Ruano boasted Serrano's wife was now his own.

"Clearly, they didn't believe the defendant's account," said prosecutor Scott Harmon of the jury's verdict.

One of the women on the jury sobbed as the verdict was read.

Judge Chet Tharpe handed down a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Serrano declined the opportunity to speak before being led away in cuffs.

"In my opinion, some of the jurors didn't want to do it, but they felt that if they were following the law, they had to," said Harvey S. Hyman, one of Serrano's lawyers. Hyman said his client had acted as "a sincere gentleman that is truly remorseful."

Hyman said Serrano won a government lottery that allowed him to immigrate here from Cuba. Serrano settled in Tampa because his family longed for a climate that reminded them of Cuba. Prosecutors did not seek the death penalty against Serrano. Hyman said Serrano was prepared to plead guilty if prosecutors had offered a deal involving a shorter sentence than life.

"There was no offer," Hyman said. "It was life in prison."

- Christopher Goffard can be reached at (813) 226-3337 or goffard@sptimes.com.

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