KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — U.S. immigration officials missed two chances to detain and deport a Mexican national who was in the country illegally before he allegedly killed four men in Kansas and another man in Missouri in 2016, according to a lawsuit filed by the father of one of the victims.
The lawsuit filed Monday in Kansas City, Kansas, alleges that 42-year-old Pablo Serrano-Vitorino was arrested and released at least twice before March 2016, when the killings occurred. Serrano-Vitorino is charged with five counts of first-degree murder. Prosecutors allege he killed four men in Kansas City, Kansas, and then fled to Missouri, where he killed another man before being captured.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the father of one of the Kansas victims, Austin Harter, The Kansas City Star reported .
Serrano-Vitorino was deported to Mexico after he was convicted of a felony in 2003. At some point, he illegally re-entered the U.S. According to the lawsuit, officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement could have detained him when he was arrested in 2014 and 2015.
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After his 2014 arrest in Kansas for battery, Wyandotte County jail officials notified ICE he was in custody. But Serrano-Vitorino was released after the federal agency didn’t send an agent to the jail, according to the lawsuit. He was arrested later that year drunken driving in Coffey County, Kansas, but the lawsuit doesn’t say if ICE was notified.
Serrano-Vitorino was fingerprinted in Overland Park Municipal Court in September 2015 after he was cited for traffic infractions. ICE officials asked that he be held in custody but sent the paperwork to a different jail in Johnson County, Kansas, the lawsuit contends. He was once again released from custody.
The alleged failure of ICE to follow proper procedures “provided the means for a convicted felon who was illegally in the country, but in custody, to be released and kill Austin and the four other victims,” according to the lawsuit. “These deaths were foreseeable and preventable had the ICE officials, officers and/or agents involved simply followed the laws, regulations and/or procedures, which they were required to uphold.”
ICE spokesman Shawn Neudauer said Tuesday that the agency doesn’t comment on pending litigation, but added that “lack of comment should not be construed as agreement with or stipulation to any of the allegations.”
Serrano-Vitorino is jailed in St. Louis awaiting trial on a first-degree murder charge in the death of Randy Nordman, of New Florence, Missouri. He is charged in Kansas in the deaths of Harter, Clint Harter, Mike Capps and Jeremy Waters. Authorities have not discussed a possible motive for the killings.
Serrano-Vitorina has pleaded not guilty. Missouri prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com