The family and friends of suspected murderer Peter Serge Avsenew are having a hard time accepting the fact that their loved one may be a killer.
Accused of killing a gay couple in their Wilton Manors home on Dec. 26, 2010, the 26-year-old Flanagan High School graduate, from Hollywood, Fla., is being held without bond on a probation violation.
That charge is unrelated to the deaths of Kevin Mark Powell, 47, and Steve Adams, 52, but police say Avesenew is expected to face charges related to their deaths.
The bodies of Adams and Powell were found inside their rented home early Sunday, Dec. 26, after one of the victim’s sister called police when her brother didn’t show up at her house for the holidays.
The pair met at a Gay Pride march in Cleveland when Powell was 18 years old, a relative told the Sun Sentinel. The men lived together in South Florida for several years, owning a home in Hollywood and then moving to Wilton Manors. Adams was a registered nurse at Jackson Health System and Powell was an interior decorator who set up large displays in department stores, including Macy’s.
Relatives and friends of Avsenew were shocked by the accusations of murder.
“Peter was like a brother to me, man,” recalled Richard McClendon of Davie, Fla. “I could never imagine him doing anything like that and I surely don’t think he did it.”
His ex-girlfriend, Farrah Willis, 33, spent 7 months with Avsenew as a couple in 2007, when they worked together at the popular T-Bones Steakhouse in Haines City, Fla.
“He was cool with all the employees, and many gay ones,” she said. “He was not anti-gay in any way. He was a really nice guy who had been doing well; a genuine person who liked to party a little.”
Farris added that Avsenew was very open about his probationary sentence for grand theft out of Monroe County, and that he was “working on getting his act together, and meeting with his probation officer regularly.”
Violating that probation, however, is the preliminary basis for his new arrest and no bond. Formal charges in the double homicide of Powell and Adams are pending. One thing is clear to homicide detectives, though.
“It was not a random act or a break in,” said Wilton Manors police Sergeant Chuck Howard. “The victims knew the accused assailant.”
Sources confide that detectives are exploring “how and where the men met.” Additionally, police are not saying they have a confession in hand, though it appears Avsenew may have made admissions to third parties.
The arrest also surprised Avsenew’s 21-year-old niece, Erica Howard, from Sarasota, who could only describe her uncle in glowing terms.
“He was and is an amazing uncle and he was always there for me,” Howard said. “And he never let anything bad happen to me, he was more like an older brother. I love him with all my heart and I could never imagine him doing anything like this.”
But most of those reached had not seen Avsenew lately, and were unaware that he had done jail time at least twice this year, getting out once in June. His own posting June 24 on Facebook read that he was excited to be free, announcing that “this was the first day of the rest of his life and he was going to make the most of it.”
It was at Avsenew’s mother’s home in Dundee, Fla., where he was apprehended without incident Dec. 28. That is also where the victims’ stolen car was recovered.
Across the state, Avsenew has been taken into custody more than a dozen times since 2003, state records show. He has been convicted of vehicle theft, robbery, grand theft and engaging in fraud through bounced checks. He also has pled no contest to marijuana possession, loitering, possession of drug paraphernalia, criminal mischief and resisting an officer without violence.
According to the Florida Department of Corrections, Avsenew has relied on about eight different aliases, including the name Peter Avsenen.
Wilton Manors police, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Polk County Sheriff’s Office deputies are working together on the case.
Anyone with further information is asked to contact WMPD Detective Biagio Balistreri at 954-390-2150. To provide anonymous information about this case, the public can contact Broward Crime Stoppers at 954-493-TIPS.
Editor’s note: Norm Kent is a reporter with the South Florida Gay News and this article is used with permission.