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Man guilty of killing US family avoids execution

August 26, 2013

OMAHA, Nebraska (AP) — A Brazilian man convicted of killing a married couple and their 7-year-old son in the U.S. has avoided the death penalty.

A three-judge panel on Monday sentenced Jose Oliveira-Coutinho, 38, to life in prison.

Oliveira-Coutinho was one of three Brazilian men charged with killing Vanderlei Szczepanik, his wife, Jacqueline, and their son, Christopher. Oliveira-Coutinho was convicted last year of three counts of first-degree murder and one count of theft.

The family was last seen in December 2009.

Prosecutors said Oliveira-Coutinho, Valdeir Goncalves-Santos and Elias Lourenco-Batista beat Vanderlei Szczepanik to death and hanged his wife and son before throwing their bodies in the Missouri River. The boy’s body was recovered in 2011.

Neither Oliveira-Coutinho’s attorneys nor Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine immediately returned messages left Monday morning.

Vanderlei Szczepanik was renovating an old school into an Assembly of God church center and had hired the three men to help.

Investigators believe the killings were over money. Prosecutors say the three men racked up thousands of dollars in charges on the family’s credit cards after their deaths.

Goncalves-Santos was sentenced last year to 20 years in prison. Prosecutors have been trying to extradite Lourenco-Batista from Brazil.

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