Tue | Oct 4, 2022

Court shaves 21 days off 25-year sentence of child killer

Published:Saturday | March 5, 2022 | 12:10 AMTanesha Mundle/Staff Reporter

A Westmoreland businessman who was slapped with 25 years to life sentence for strangling a pregnant 14-year-old schoolgirl, but was seeking a 50 per cent reduction, was left terribly disappointed yesterday after his sentence was only reduced by 21 days.

Cornelius Robinson, of Savanna-la-Mar in the parish, had appealed his 2015 sentence on the grounds that it was manifestly excessive.

Handing down its ruling yesterday, the Court of Appeal in setting aside the sentence only took note of the 21 days that Robinson had served before his imprisonment and substituted the sentence with a life sentence and a new stipulation for him to serve 24 years 11 months and 10 days.

The fashion designer and photo studio operator, who was 37-year-old at the time of his conviction, had pleaded guilty to the murder of the Frome Technical High School student Sontoya Campbell, who he had impregnated.

The teenager who was reported missing on January 26, after she left for school and did not return home, was found a day later wrapped in a garbage bag under the Cabaretta River bridge, near to the girl’s school.

Her body was found with the hands and feet bound, and a cord around her neck.

A post-mortem revealed that Campbell’s death was due to strangulation and that she was pregnant at the time of her death.

Days after her body was found, Robinson was arrested and charged following investigations. The murder convict, who had not denied having sexual relations with the child, had reported that he had got angry and killed her after she had threatened to expose him to his wife and her mother.

According to him, the teenager had demanded money from him to buy a Samsung phone and was using her pregnancy to blackmail him.

But residents claimed that Robinson had murdered the teen because she had refused to abort the child and was planning to break the news about the pregnancy to her mother and Robinson’s wife.

However, when he appeared in court, Robinson waived his right to a preliminary hearing and pleaded guilty and was sentenced. However, he later appealed his sentence.

Aggravating factors

His attorney-at-law Lambert Johnson argued that his client was entitled to a 50 per cent reduction in light of his exceptionally early guilty plea, his good antecedents and community reports as well as the fact that he was remorseful.

However, Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Natallie Malcolm and Crown Counsel Dominque Martin argued against the reduction while contending that the aggravating factors in the case had outweighed the mitigating elements.

They pointed to the aggravating factor such as the manner in which the student was killed while recalling that Robinson had confessed that he had squeezed her neck until she was lifeless, the manner in which Robinson had disposed of her body and the fact that he had kept her body in his office for the entire day before later discarding her body at 11:00 p.m.

Noting that the child’s mother had made an arrangement for Robinson to assist her daughter with lunch money and that on the morning of the incident the child had visited him for that reason, the prosecutors also highlighted that Robinson had not only murdered a child but that the act was a betrayal of trust.