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Convicted Szczepanik Killer Wants New Trial

Convicted Szczepanik Killer Wants New Trial

By Jake Wasikowski. CREATED Jul 12, 2013

Omaha, NE -- The man convicted of killing a Brazilian couple and their child could die for his crimes.  Now, his lawyer is asking for a new trial because of new evidence, he says, would show his client wasn’t there when the Szczepanik family was murdered.

Jose Carlos Oliveira-Coutinho is eligible for the death penalty for their murders.  Prosecutors say he was the mastermind, behind the brutal deaths of the Brazilian family that went missing in 2009.  He was convicted in October of killing Vanderlei, Jaqueline, and 7-year-old Christopher Szczepanik because he was upset over wages they were being paid to remodel an old school building at 16th & Center St.  Vanderlei was beaten to death while Jaqueline and Christopher were hanged.  The 7-year-old boy's remains were found in the Missouri River more than two years later with the help of the accomplice who confessed to his role.

Valdeir Goncalves-Santos is the accomplice who says he was with Oliveira-Coutinho during the murders.  Court documents filed by defense attorneys Horacio Wheelock and Todd Lancaster say Valdeir allegedly confessed to another inmate, that he killed the family, that Oliveira-Coutinho wasn't there, that he didn’t have anything to do with it, and that Oliveira-Coutinho was a “fool.”

Valdeir's attorney, Kevin Ryan, says he's seen this type of accusations before, Inmates facing jail time trying to give information for a lesser sentence.  He says Goncalves-Santos completely denies talking to the inmate about his case.

"I think that anytime you have a death penalty case, I think you have to do every single thing you can, everything you can think of.  So I think his attorneys have to do this,” Ryan explained. “When Valdeir says I didn't say anything like that we believe him because that's not his personality.  If anything, anything that he would say to anyone is that he takes full responsibility for what he did.  That doesn't mean he acted alone or anything like that."

The interaction happened in November while in a holding cell when Goncalves-Santos was sentenced to 20 years for his role in the murders.  The defense says not only does this discredit the witness, but shows that Oliveira-Coutinho wasn't at the scene of the crime.  Ryan says the exchange couldn't have happened because Valdeir speaks Portuguese, and the inmate speaks English and some Spanish.

"It just doesn't change the fact that Valdeir contends that he didn't say anything like this and that he couldn't have said anything like this," Ryan concluded.

The retrial hearing is scheduled for next week in Judge Thomas Otepka's courtroom.  It's likely that this will have to be solved before the 3 judge panel reveals whether or not Oliveira-Coutinho should get the death penalty.

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine was unavailable for comment Friday.