Murder victim’s family does not want death penalty

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A Harrisburg man has been found guilty of first-degree murder in what is Dauphin County's first death penalty case in several years, but the victim's family does not want him sentenced to die.

Miguel Figueroa-Novoa, 25, was convicted Friday morning in the shooting death of his 19-year-old girlfriend, Yarelis
Berrios, at their Ivey Lane apartment just two days before Christmas in
2010.

“It broke our hearts,” said Eduardo Berrios, the victim's father. “She was a good daughter. A good mother.”

Figueroa-Novoa was also found guilty of attempted homicide for seriously
wounding Berrios' mother, Lithz Serrano, by shooting her five times before turning the gun on himself in a failed suicide attempt. Serrano is now permanently disabled.

“We got the justice. I'm happy for it,” Serrano said after Friday's verdict.

The couple's two-year-old son was home at the time, but was not hurt because his cousin, Lithz Berdecia, grabbed him and ran for help. She was 9 years old at the time.

“I hardly speak, I always stay home and I changed a lot,” Berdecia said Friday. “My life has changed and I'm not the same girl I used to be.”

Although things will never go back to how they used to be for the grieving family, and although Serrano watched her daughter die, the family says a guilty verdict is justice enough.

“I'm a human being and we're Christians,” Serrano said. “We don't and that for him, for his mother either, to suffer the way I have been suffering all these years.”

The family does not want others to suffer. That is why they spoke out and wore purple ribbons designed to raise awareness of domestic violence.

“Don't accept it. You don't have to,” Serrano said in a message to victims of domestic violence. “If they put their hands on you, call the cops. That's the first thing you have to do. Call the cops or run away from him.”

The penalty phase of the trial is scheduled to begin Monday.

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