An escort found guilty of killing a gay couple in Florida has been handed a death sentence. In January, Peter Avsenew was convicted of first-degree murder in conjunction with the 2010 killing of Kevin Adams and Steven Powell. The couple was discovered shot to death and wrapped in blankets in their Wilton Manors home the day after Christmas.
Avsenew, 32, placed an ad on Craigslist and moved in with Adams and Powell just weeks before they were murdered. During the trial, Avsenew’s mother testified she found troubling photos on her son’s computer and questioned him about them. “I told him he was making me an accessory to whatever he’d done… he just laughed [and] said: ‘Don’t worry about it.’”
While police found Avsenew in possession of the couple’s SUV and credit cards, he insisted the men were dead when he found them and he merely stole the items and fled because he didn’t want to be found out as an escort. The jury didn’t buy it, though: In addition to the homicide charges, Avsenew was convicted on two counts each of armed robbery, grand theft auto, credit card fraud and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
A court-appointed attorney claimed Avsenew suffered from childhood trauma stemming from the murder of his sister and sexual abuse at the hands of his stepfather. But he refused to be interviewed by a court psychiatrist and at one point, fired his public defender and was representing himself.
After the trial, Peter Avsenew sent a handwritten letter to Judge Ilona Holmes suggesting there may have been other victims: “It is my duty as a white man to cull the weak and timid from existence,” he wrote. “I will always stand up for what I believe in and eradicate anything in my way. Homosexuals are a disgrace to mankind and must be put down. These weren’t the first and won’t be the last.”
He added, “If you only knew how many there really are, you would faint.”
The letter also detailed how Avsenew began by killing animals — ducks, cats, frogs, squirrels and the like — but moved on because “they were too easy.” At a hearing in June, he declared, “I wholeheartedly have nothing to lose and I’m going to take it out on everybody I can.”
As the victims’ families left the courthouse, Avsenew gave them the finger.
He is the first defendant in Broward County to receive the death penalty since a law passed last year requiring juries to be unanimous in sentencing someone to execution.