A man convicted of killing a gay couple in Florida flipped off the victims’ families after the jury recommended the death penalty.
Peter Avsenew, 32, was convicted of murder in the 2010 deaths of Kevin Mark Powell, 47, and Stephen Adams, 52, in Wilton Manners, a city near Ft. Lauderdale with a large LGBT population. Prosecutors said Avsenew used Craigslist to get invited to the victims’ home and then killed and robbed them, leaving with their money, a car, and other belongings.
During the sentencing hearing, he opted to defend himself instead of letting his lawyer present arguments. He expressed no regret and did not ask the jury to spare his life.
“My job here is simple,” he said. “I don’t have to prove anything to you as clearly the state’s proven. All I have to do is be here and behave. It’s up to you to decide life or death based on the information provided to you throughout this entire trial.”
“I have no regrets in my life and I am proud of the decisions I’ve made. No one really knows what happened that day. Everyone can speculate what ifs and maybes until they’re blue in the face, which they’ll never really know.”
Prosecutors showed the jury pictures of the victims. It took them two hours to agree to recommend the death penalty.
Minutes after the sentencing, he flipped off the victims’ families, showing that it wasn’t so easy to “be here and behave.”
“In my heart of hearts, I knew that he was making that gesture to us, and then he admitted that he made the gesture to our family,” Said Marci Craig, one of the victim’s sisters.
“After what happened in that courtroom just now, I’m happy that he’s being put to the death penalty,” said Missy Badget, sister of the other victim.
The judge described that gesture as “unwise,” because he has not yet been formally sentenced. The jury can only recommend the death penalty; a judge has to order it.
Avsenew’s attorneys argued that he went to the couple’s house and found them already dead, and that he didn’t call 911 because he was working for the couple as an escort.
Prosecutors said that there was no evidence that Avsenew worked as an escort. Shortly after the couple’s deaths, he showed up at his mother’s door and said that he had done “something worse than ever before.”
While staying with his mother, he searched the web several times for information about the investigation into the killings. He also threatened his mother: “Peter has chased me with a Samurai sword,” Jeanne Avsenew told the court. “Peter has had a gun, had a shotgun with my name on the bullet.”
When she checked her computer’s browser history, she saw that he searched the web a few times for information about the investigation into the killings, and she got worried. “All I can think of is if he did that to them, what will he do to me?”
She turned her son into the police.
Adams and Powell met at Cleveland Pride in the early 80’s.
“They fell in love, and they’ve been together ever since,” Powell’s brother said.