A man on trial for the murder of an Omaha family took a last-minute plea deal of second-degree murder on Thursday. In turn, Valdeir Goncalves-Santos will testify for the prosecution as a state's witness to the crime.
Goncalves-Santos had been charged with killing Vanderlei Szczepanik, his wife, and young son. The family was reported missing in December 2009.
Defense attorney Kevin Ryan tells Channel 6 News his client asked asked to speak to police and confess. Over the past two days, Ryan says Goncalves-Santos has taken police to several sites where they were able to gather evidence of the alleged crimes.
Prosecutors have said they believed the family was tortured and dismembered before their remains were dumped in the Missouri River. However, Channel Six News has learned the bodies of the Szczpanik family are expected to be recovered within the coming weeks through the furthcoming investigation.
Under the plea deal, Goncalves-Santos will sentenced for second degree murder. With credit for good behavior and time served, he will likely be deported in eight years.
Thursday's crime scene tape went up around 4-o’clock; you can still see where police had once been almost two years ago. Investigators have a good reason to be here at the former school the Szczpanik family was renovating. Their reason to keep digging? Valdier Goncalves-Santos told them the Szczpanik family was killed here.
Santos' defense attorney Kevin Ryan says with just a day left in the trial, his client had a sudden change of heart. Ryan says, "Within the last 48 hours he continued to come to us saying that he wanted talk to with authorities he wanted to come clean he wanted to give the Szczpanik family and loved ones some closure."
Ryan says the pressure built day after day during the trial on his client's shoulders and that it was within the last round of testimony from the man's wife, and a friend of telling the story of the killing -- that he finally broke.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine says, "I think there was a sense of relief from all the parties involved, especially Tatiana with regards to having somebody held responsible for this and also that we can move forward on the rest of the case, get all the parties that were involved."
Santos pleaded guilty to second degree murder and will most likely serve just 8 more years before being deported to Brazil. As a condition of the plea deal he'll have to testify against his former co-workers, Jose Oliverio-Coutinho and Elias Lourenco-Batista. Charges against those men are coming soon. Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine plans to seek the death penalty for the suspected ringleader, Jose Oliveira-Coutinho. However, Batista, must be extradited from Brazil to face charges.