|04-29-2016, 05:38 PM||#1|
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The path of a mass murderer
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — By the time Pablo Serrano-Vitorino surrendered to police in the early morning hours of March 9, he was accused of five murders in two states.
Prosecutors say Serrano-Vitorino fatally shot four men at a home in Kansas City, Kan. on the night of March 7. He then allegedly drove his pickup truck most of the way across Missouri before abandoning it in Montgomery County. On the morning of March 8, police say he shot and killed a fifth man, New Florence resident Randy Nordman. Shortly after Serrano-Vitorino was taken into custody, it emerged that the Mexican national was in the United States illegally.
According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Serrano-Vitorino entered the United States illegally in 1993. In 1998, Los Angeles County court documents show he was arrested for fighting in public. Then, in 2003, he allegedly pointed a rifle at his wife and children. He was deported back to Mexico on April 5, 2004. He slipped back into the United States prior to 2014.
In November 2014, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced the Priority Enforcement Program. Anyone who posed a risk to public safety or national security would be classified as priority one, meaning they would face immediate deportation. Shortly after the March murders, Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer and Kansas Congressman Kevin Yoder held a conference call with ICE officials. Luetkemeyer said Serrano-Vitorino had been classified as priority one. Luetkemeyer said ICE officials told them their agency doesn't have the funding or the personnel to carry out priority one deportations. He disagrees with that argument.
"The bottom line on this is, there's funding for priority one deportations, so it's not an excuse to not go after them," Luetkemeyer said.
Serrano-Vitorino had at least three brushes with the law prior to the murders. In 2014, he was arrested for drunk driving in Coffey County, Kan. ICE said it was never notified when he was convicted. Then, in June 2015, he was booked in the Wyandotte County, Kan. jail on suspicion of misdemeanor domestic assault.
When Serrano-Vitorino was booked, he told deputies he was born outside the United States. Deputies then sent ICE an immigrant alien query, or IAQ. Sheriff's Department spokesperson Lt. Kelli Bailiff said this is standard procedure. The IAQ contains the suspect's name, date of birth, the charges they face and any other identifying information.
"There's really not a typical situation," she said. "They have the option of not responding if they're not interested in speaking about this person. They can call and ask more questions. They can say, hey, we're immediately coming down. We want to interview this person."
In Serrano-Vitorino's case, the Wyandotte County Jail held him for 6 hours and then released him. Bailiff said ICE never followed up on the IAQ the department sent. That September, police in Overland Park, Kan., arrested him for traffic violations. This time, ICE sent a detain order to the Johnson County Sheriff's Department. But Serrano-Vitorino was never booked into the Johnson County Jail. Instead, he paid a $146 fine in municipal court.
Bailiff pointed out Serrano-Vitorino gave his name as Pablo Serrano when deputies booked him in June. She said that might explain why ICE never responded to the immigration query.
"We only can send the information that the person is giving us, and believe me, when a lot of people are booked in, they don't always tell the truth," she said.
ICE's repeated failure to apprehend Serrano-Vitorino despite multiple brushes with local law enforcement angers Luetkemeyer. After the conference call with ICE officials, he and Yoder sent a letter to Secretary Johnson asking for a full accounting of what went wrong and what was being done to correct it. He said Johnson has not yet responded. Luetkemeyer accuses ICE administration of promoting an atmosphere of permissiveness.
"They are not following through on their own protocols when they designate an individual a priority one individual. That cannot happen," he said.
ICE officials turned down repeated requests for an on-camera interview on this story and declined to respond to Luetkemeyer's comments.
Serrano-Vitorino is awaiting trial in Missouri for first-degree murder. Prosecutors are considering seeking the death penalty. He also faces four counts of first-degree murder in Wyandotte County, Kan.
The path of a mass murderer | KRCG
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