Detain order for Mexican suspected in slayings went astray

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Immigration authorities last year sought to detain a Mexican national charged with killing five men in Kansas and Missouri this week, but they sent the detention order to the wrong Kansas authorities.

Pablo Antonio Serrano-Vitorino, 40, was deported in April 2004 because he was in the country illegally, but he re-entered at some unknown point in time, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in an email.

Serrano-Vitorino, who has been living in Kansas City, Kansas, was fingerprinted at the Overland Park Municipal Court last Sept. 14 after being cited for several traffic violations, which triggered an ICE order to have him detained. However, ICE said it erroneously sent the detention order to the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office instead of the Overland Park Municipal Court, which allowed Serrano-Vitorino to walk free.

Court administrator Robin Barnard said Serrano-Vitorino showed up at the court the next month to pay a $146 fine.

ICE didn’t respond to requests for comment about whether, if the order had been sent correctly, Serrano-Vitorino likely would have been deported or still detained.

Authorities allege that he shot and killed a neighbor and three other men Monday night before fleeing, prompting a manhunt. Serrano-Vitorino was charged Wednesday with gunning down another man Tuesday morning at the man’s rural home near the central Missouri community of New Florence. He was captured early Wednesday morning a few miles from the last shooting and is jailed in Montgomery County, Missouri, on $2 million bond stemming from the Kansas charges.

When he was captured, Serrano-Vitorino had an assault-style rifle with him, said John Ham, a regional spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. He said he didn’t know if the gun was used in the attacks, and that agents were trying to determine how he acquired the weapon.

“If he was in the country illegally, and that certainly appears to be the case, it would have been illegal for him to have a firearm under federal law,” Ham said.

Authorities haven’t discussed a possible motive for the killings. They identified the Kansas victims as Serrano-Vitorino’s neighbor, 41-year-old Michael Capps, and three other men who were at Capps’ home at the time of the attack: local brothers — Austin Harter, 29, and Clint Harter, 27 — and 36-year-old Jeremy Waters, of Miami County, Kansas. Before dying, one of the four managed to call police.

The slain Missouri man was 49-year-old Randy Nordman. His property was about 5 miles from where a truck was found abandoned along Interstate 70 that Serrano-Vitorino was believed to have been driving.

Serrano-Vitorino is charged with four counts of first-degree murder in the Kansas killings and one count of first-degree murder and other charges in the Missouri killing.

In addition to the traffic violations, Serrano-Vitorino was charged with battery last summer, according to the Kansas City, Kansas, municipal court clerk’s office.

Written by Jim Suhr