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Community News: South

Jury Weighs Death Sentence in Killings

March 20, 1994|SANDRA HERNANDEZ

A jury continued to deliberate Friday whether to sentence a man found guilty of killing two Nickerson Gardens residents to the death penalty or life in prison without parole.

Sean Baptiste Neal, 21, was found guilty March 8 on two counts of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of Tomas Miza, 48, and his nephew, Eliseo Miza, 19.

The two were shot Jan. 16, 1993, while sitting in their van on Antwerp Avenue in Nickerson Gardens. Neal approached the van and shot Tomas Miza in the head and then Eliseo Miza in the chest. Tomas Miza's daughter, Olga, was wounded. Prosecutors did not present a motive for the slayings.

Police arrested Neal a few days later at an apartment at Nickerson Gardens. He was later charged in the Mizas' deaths and in the fatal shooting of Anders Ordaz, another resident of the housing project, that occurred two weeks earlier on Jan. 2. The jury deadlocked, 11 to 1, on that murder charge, Carbaugh said.

"It was the cold-blooded murders of three innocent people, and that deserves the death penalty," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Scott Carbaugh.

Defense attorneys for Neal, who was 20 at the time of the slayings, asked the jury to sentence Neal to life in prison without the possibility of parole. "He was a bright young man who should have had an opportunity to grow in the world and didn't," said Stanley Perlo, the deputy public defender representing Neal.

"If you ever want to find a story where everything that could go wrong did go wrong, Sean Baptiste Neal is it. Everything that could go wrong did, from coming from a broken home, to being a victim of random violence, to being isolated in a community filled with gang violence," Perlo said.

Neal, an alleged gang member, was arrested when he was 16 in connection with an armed carjacking, according to Carbaugh.

Last year's killings prompted an outcry from residents who said Latinos were increasingly preyed upon by gangs. Latinos make up about one-third of the 6,224 residents at Nickerson Gardens and Jordan Downs.

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