Crime & Courts

Man accused in 5 killings had eluded immigration enforcement

Pablo Serrano-Vitorino booking photo taken after his capture early Wednesday in Missouri.
Pablo Serrano-Vitorino booking photo taken after his capture early Wednesday in Missouri. Courtesy photo

The Mexican man accused of five murders this week avoided deportation despite encounters with police and at least one notification that federal immigration officials didn’t pursue in time.

Wyandotte County officials confirmed Wednesday that after a domestic violence arrest last year, federal immigration officials apparently missed an opportunity to ensure the detention of Pablo Serrano-Vitorino, now accused of killing four people in Kansas City, Kan., and one in Montgomery County, Mo.

A spokeswoman for the Wyandotte County Sheriff’s Office said that after Serrano-Vitorino was arrested in June, he said he was born in Mexico. Officials then followed the procedure for any foreign-born person booked into the jail and sent a notice to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The sheriff’s office said its records show that ICE agents did not respond within the prescribed four-hour time frame to the notification.

Serrano-Vitorino was released after the standard six-hour hold in domestic violence cases. He was charged in municipal court with domestic battery and later was found guilty of simple battery and paid a $150 fine.

Officials with ICE said the notification was not a fingerprint “hit” and therefore required a face-to-face interview with Serrano-Vitorino by an ICE agent before a detainer to hold him could be issued. The request from Wyandotte County came it at 1:30 a.m. and Serrano-Vitorino could not be interviewed before he was released, officials said.

While not wanting to criticize ICE, Wyandotte County District Attorney Jerome Gorman said Wednesday that something needs to be done to make sure the system works better in the future.

“It can’t go on the way it happened in this case,” he said.

Serrano-Vitorino had three other encounters with police, but in each case he apparently was released from custody before his immigration status could be ascertained.

In November 2014, he was convicted of driving under the influence in Coffey County, Kan., but ICE officials say an initial review of their records shows that they were never notified that he was fingerprinted at that time.

Last April, Kansas City, Kan., police said, Serrano-Vitorino was the victim of an auto theft, but as a crime victim he was not questioned about his immigration status.

In August, Overland Park police stopped him for traffic violations. He was cited for having a defective headlight, having no valid driver’s license and failure to provide proof of insurance.

Overland Park police said he was not arrested, but he was fingerprinted during municipal court processing before he was issued tickets and released. When his fingerprints were entered in a national database, ICE officials sought to have him detained.

ICE sent the paperwork to the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office to have him held, officials said. But because he was not taken to jail, neither ICE nor the sheriff’s department could take action on the detainer request.

Serrano-Vitorino, 40, was charged Tuesday in Wyandotte County District Court with four counts of first-degree murder for the Monday night spree. In Missouri, Montgomery County prosecutors charged him with first-degree murder Wednesday afternoon.

Gorman said it has not yet been decided whether Serrano-Vitorino will be tried first in Missouri or Wyandotte County. He also said it was too early to determine whether he will seek the death penalty.

Tony Rizzo: 816-234-4435, @trizzkc