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Nelson Ivan SERRANO





Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Dispute over finances
Number of victims: 4
Date of murders: December 3, 1997
Date of arrest: September 2002 (in Ecuador)
Date of birth: September 15, 1938
Victims profile: George Gonsalves, 69; Frank Dosso, 35; Diane Patisso, 28; and George Patisso Jr., 26
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Polk County, Florida, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on June 26, 2007

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Nelson Iván Serrano Sáenz (born September 15, 1938) is a former Ecuadorian businessman and nationalized US-citizen (since 1971) who was convicted of murdering Frank Dosso, Diane Patisso, George Patisso, and George Gonsalves in 1997 in Bartow, Florida. A jury recommended the death penalty for Serrano in October 2006 after he was convicted of the murders. On June 26, 2007, Judge Susan Roberts sentenced him to death by lethal injection.


On the December 3, 1997, Frank Dosso, Diane Patisso, George Patisso, and George Gonsalves were found shot execution style at the Erie Manufacturing plant in Bartow. Diane Patisso, a young state prosecutor, had gone to pick up her brother Frank and her husband George at the factory that evening, and prosecutors say she was murdered to prevent her from identifying the killer.

Although there was no clear physical evidence at the scene to link anyone to the crime, relatives of the victims immediately suspected Nelson Serrano, another partner who had been in a bitter dispute with the others. Serrano was a partner, along with Dosso and Gonsalves, in two sister companies, Erie Manufacturing and Garment Conveyor Systems. The businesses had made the three very wealthy men, but bitter fights with Serrano over money began to tear them apart. Dosso and Gonsalves accused Serrano of graft, then theft, and eventually forced him out.

Serrano claimed the he was 500 miles away on a business trip in Atlanta, Georgia when the killings occurred. But prosecutors convinced the jury that Serrano had flown back to Florida under assumed names to commit the crimes.

During the trial Serrano's lawyers fought for a mistrial, claiming that that Serrano was illegally deported from Ecuador to the United States. Serrano is an Ecuadorian citizen by birth and a naturalized US Citizen.

He was arrested in Ecuador and deported back to the U.S. Documents related to his fact were presented during trial and were confirmed by the Ecuadorian Ombudsman through his testimony. However, after examining these documents, Roberts denied the defense motion, finding no cause to dismiss the case based on these facts. The U.S. State Department has not responded to a protest in April 2009 by the current Ecuadorian Government that Serrano was illegally extradited. Prosecutors say that Serrano was not extradited, however, but deported back to the U.S., where he was a citizen.

Serrano's supporters claim that he was beaten and kept in a dog kennel at the airport after his arrest in Ecuador. However, police say that Serrano was kept in an office of the canine police unit at the airport and slept on a couch. Policy say Serrano received a minor injury from a fall as he attempted to escape as he boarded the plane. A flight attendant was witness to this incident.

During the trial, Roberts also denied a defense motion for a change of venue despite the fact that one of the victims, Diane Patisso, was an Assistant State Attorney who worked in the same courthouse.


Businessman sentenced to death in Florida for quadruple office murder

June 26, 2007

BARTOW, Fla. (AP) — A former Ecuadorean businessman was sentenced to death Tuesday for killing four people in a business dispute, despite pleas from his native country to spare his life.

Nelson Ivan Serrano, 68, was convicted last year on four counts of first-degree murder for the Dec. 3, 1997, shootings of George Gonsalves, 69; Frank Dosso, 35; Diane Patisso, 28; and George Patisso Jr., 26.

Serrano, Gonsalves and Dosso's father were business partners at a garment conveyor factory until a dispute over finances led to Serrano's firing as company president in 1997.

Serrano was arrested in September 2002 in his native Ecuador.

He denied involvement in the killings, insisting he was in Atlanta on business at the time. Defense lawyers said there was no physical evidence connecting Serrano to the slayings and no proof he was in Polk County the night of the slayings.

In October, the jury that convicted Serrano recommended he be sentenced to death by a 9-3 vote.



Fla. businessman convicted of killing his former partner, three others in company office

Oct. 12, 2006

After five weeks of testimony, a Florida jury took less than six hours Wednesday to find businessman Nelson Serrano guilty of killing four people in the offices of the company where he once served as president.

Polk County prosecutors argued that Serrano gunned down his former partner, George Gonsalves, on Dec. 3, 1997, in retaliation for being ousted from Erie Manufacturing and Garment Conveyor Systems in June that year.

They said Serrano shot to death the three other victims, Frank Dosso and Diane and George Patisso, to eliminate witnesses to the crime.

The same jury will now decide if Serrano, 68, should be put to death for killing his former business partner and the relatives of a third partner in the company. They return to court Tuesday.

Serrano, a hearing-impaired engineer, appeared shocked as he stared at his monitor reading the verdicts as they were transcribed by the court reporter. He cast several glances at his family but showed no emotion.

Serrano claimed he was in Atlanta for a business meeting when the shootings occurred. In the defense closing argument Monday, attorney Robert Norgard argued that the state had failed to place Serrano in Florida the day of the murders.

The victims' family members, who were threatened with jail if they made a sound as the verdict was read, wept in the hallway outside the courtroom and hugged each other following the verdict.

The parents of George Patisso, who was shot five times in the head, called the verdicts a triumph of good over evil. "Diane and George were good kids," said Mary Ann Patisso. "This doesn't bring them back, but we have justice."

When asked if Serrano got what he deserved, the mother responded, "In hell, he'll get what he deserves."

For Phil and Nicoletta Dosso, the parents of victims Frank Dosso and Diane Patisso, the verdict marked the end of a nightmare that began when they discovered the gruesome crime scene nearly nine years ago.

"No parent should ever have to see what I saw," said Nicoletta Dosso, who was the first person to discover the bodies of her children. "He took away everything from me."

Gonsalves, Serrano, and a third partner, Phil Dosso, relocated to Bartow from New York in the late 1980s to accommodate their expanding company.

Soon afterward, however, relations between the three partners began to sour amid allegations of theft and misuse of funds. The acrimony culminated with Dosso and Gonsalves voting to remove Serrano from his position of president of Garment, which performed installations of dry-cleaning conveyor systems, and cutting his salary.

Serrano left Erie to start his own installation company, but prosecutors claimed that he returned six months later to kill Gonsalves, whom he "detested," and came upon the three other victims in the process.

The jury of seven women and five men sat through nearly six weeks of trial, hearing from 58 witnesses and viewing more than 400 exhibits.

Assistant State Attorney John Aguero said the big break in the case came when authorities discovered an airline ticket from Atlanta to Orlando on the day of the shootings in the name of Serrano's estranged son. That son testified in his father's trial that he did not make the trip.

Aguero also said that an Orlando airport parking receipt bearing Serrano's fingerprint placed him in Florida the day of the murders. From there, authorities believe Serrano picked up a car that his nephew rented for him and drove an hour south to Erie's offices where he knew Gonsalves would be working late.

What he didn't count on, according to Aguero, was that Dosso, the company's general manager, would still be there, along with his brother-in-law, George Patisso, a salesman for the company.

The two men were waiting for Patisso's wife, Diane, to pick them up and bring them home for a birthday party for Dosso's twin daughters. The twins sat with their younger sister in the courtroom for the verdict.

Aguero claimed that Diane Patisso walked onto the scene after Serrano shot the three men first, execution-style, in Dosso's office. Diane Patisso's body was found in a hallway outside her brother's office.

"I thought it was an overwhelming case and that was the verdict we expected and that was the verdict we got," Aguero said.


Man's Trial in Mass Murder Set for April

December 05, 2005

BARTOW -- Eight years have passed since that December night when Phil and Nicoletta Dosso found the bloodied bodies of their son, daughter, son-in-law and business partner at the Erie Manufacturing offices in Bartow.

More than three years have gone by since law enforcement agents charged Dosso's former business partner, 67-year-old Nelson Ivan Serrano, with the worst mass murder in Polk County's history.

The case was set for trial three times this year, only to be delayed because of illness, judicial issues or newly discovered information.

Those issues aside, lawyers for the state and Serrano said they feel certain the case will get to a jury next year. The six-week trial is scheduled to begin April 24 in Bartow. If convicted, Serrano could face the death penalty.

Assistant State Attorney John Aguero said he will argue that Serrano was angry because Dosso and a third partner, George Gonsalves, forced him out of Erie Manufacturing, a dry cleaning equipment business.

He set the stage to appear that he was in Atlanta that Wednesday night, and he was seen in an Atlanta hotel the night before. But he doubled back to Florida, according to prosecutors, using aliases to book flights and rental cars.

He returned to Erie Manufacturing just after dusk Dec. 3, 1997. About that same time, Diane Dosso Patisso, 27, left the State Attorney's Office in Bartow where she worked as a prosecutor to pick up her husband at Erie.

An hour later, at their home in Winter Haven, the Dossos grew concerned because their son, Frank, 35, was uncharacteristically late for his twin daughters' 11th birthday celebration. They called the office repeatedly, but no one answered, so they drove to Bartow.

The Dossos found their daughter's body just inside the doorway into the building at 1520 Centennial Blvd., but the nightmare was just beginning. They stepped into Frank's office and found his body, along with George Patisso Jr., 26, and Gonsalves, 69. All had been shot in the head, execution style.

Law enforcement agents suspected Serrano from the beginning, but couldn't bring charges against him until March 2001, when they discovered his fingerprint on a parking garage ticket at Orlando International Airport the day of the murders. That discovery, they said, broke his Atlanta alibi.

By that time, though, Serrano had moved to his native Ecuador. After working with Ecuadorian officials for more than a year, Agent Tommy Ray with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement had Serrano deported to face murder charges here. He was arrested in September 2002.

By the time the case goes to trial in April, nearly a decade will have passed since the crimes occurred.

Serrano's lawyer, Cheney Mason, like Aguero, said most criminal trials become more challenging with the passage of time.

"As a general rule, any case that's that stale is going to present problems," he said. "It's not something we like to see happen."


Fla. v. Serrano: Timeline of the crime

The following timeline is based on opening statements and testimony of witnesses in the trial of businessman Nelson Serrano, who is accused of flying from Atlanta to Florida to commit a quadruple homicide. Serrano claims he was in Atlanta during the incident.

DECEMBER 3, 1997


 12:21 p.m. Nelson Serrano is captured on La Quinta Hotel's surveillance video in Atlanta
 1:36 p.m. Allegedly using his son's name, Juan Agacio, Serrano boards Delta Flight 1807 bound for Orlando
 3:05 p.m. Delta Flight 1807 lands in Orlando
 3:49 p.m. Parking garage ticket from Orlando International Airport with Serrano's fingerprint is stamped
 5:00 p.m. Maria Dosso calls her husband, Frank Dosso, son of Serrano's former partner Phil Dosso, at Erie Manufacturing and Garment Conveyor Systems in Bartow, Fla.
 5:05 p.m. Erie employee Karen Stevens clocks out along with David Catalan.
 5:20 p.m. Diane Patisso leaves Bartow courthouse and heads to the office, approximately five minutes away.
 5:45 p.m. Maria Dosso, who was expecting her husband to arrive at 5:30, calls the office.
 5:50 to
 6:15 p.m.


Witness John Purvis working at a nearby company notices a man dressed in a suit standing on the sidewalk outside of Erie Manufacturing. Purvis notes the man did not appear to have a car.
 7:28 p.m. Passenger John White, an alias allegedly used by Serrano, checks
in at Tampa International Airport
 7:34 p.m. Phil Dosso calls to 911 to report discovering the dead bodies of his son, Frank Dosso, his daughter, Diane Patisso, her husband, George Patisso and his other business partner, George Gonsalves
 7:36 p.m. First police officer arrives at the scene
 8:20 p.m. Flight leaves Tampa bound for Atlanta
 9:49 p.m. Flight arrives in Atlanta
 10:17 p.m. Serrano is captured on the surveillance video La Quinta Hotel in Atlanta


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