Death penalty being sought in Cesareo case

The death penalty will be sought for a Columbus man charged with instigating what evolved into a case of murder-for-hire.

Investigators say Abraham Jimenez Cesareo, 37, of 2207 Seventh St., hired a Chicago man to come to Columbus and physically harm 37-year-old Leobardo Rodriguez Flores. Cesareo hired Eliel Avelar because he was jealous the victim was dating his ex-girlfriend, according to a probable cause affidavit.

In Bartholomew Superior Court 1 Monday morning, defense attorney Joseph Lozano said his client was not prepared to accept either of the two plea agreements he had received.

When Judge James Worton said the matter would move ahead to a jury trial on Nov. 9, Bartholomew County Prosecutor Bill Nash announced he would seek the death penalty against Cesareo.

Nash’s decision will have a certain impact on the upcoming trial, the judge said. For example, a defendant must be represented by two attorneys when the death penalty is being sought in Indiana. One of the lawyers must have experience with a capital punishment case.

Both Nash and Lozano were called to the bench to speak privately with the judge. After the conference ended, Worton said he was not prepared to dismiss the original trial date at this time. However, the judge said he wants to see all parties back in his courtroom on Nov. 1 at 11 a.m. to decide how to proceed.

Avelar pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the death of Flores, who was shot and killed on Feb. 26, 2020, in the parking lot of his employer, Tool Dynamics, located on South Marr Road.

While he accepted a plea agreement, Avelar will not be sentenced until he testifies in the cases of three defendants that include Cesareo.

The plea agreement stipulates Avelar would receive a 17½-year prison sentence if he truthfully testifies against his three co-defendants: Cesareo, Eladia Jacobo Ortiz and Esam Mohammed Abujoudeh.

Abujoudeh, 24, of Oak Forest, Illinois, is charged with battery resulting in serious bodily injury and obstruction of justice as a Level 6 felony. Ortiz, 35, is charged with aiding, inducing or causing murder. Both have change of plea hearings scheduled for January and trial dates tentatively set for February.

If Avelar does not testify or commits perjury, the judge can reject the plea agreement and order him to be tried on all eight felony counts he was charged with. If found guilty of all charges, he would likely spend the rest of his life in prison.