Family of 9-year-old rape-murder victim hails verdict in case against teen
The parents of the nine-year-old schoolgirl in Westmoreland who was raped and murdered four years ago have welcomed Friday’s guilty verdict against a 17-year-old boy on trial for the brutal crime.
“This is the verdict that I was expecting based on evidence and everything that we went through,” the father of the deceased told reporters outside the Westmoreland Circuit Court, moments after the jury delivered its verdict, convicting the accused of rape, buggery, and murder.
Fighting to hold back tears, the father said it had been a long, hard road to justice.
While not holding any grudge against the convicted teen, he added that he was comfortable with the ruling.
“To me, once you do the crime, you have to do the time. It don’t really matter how old you be or how young because doing such things are brutal and cruel,” he said.
“You can’t forget a thing like that. We are going to try and move on now,” he said, recalling the lifeless image of his daughter as he battled the emotions.
The victim’s mom said the family was still hurting.
“Whenever I see her in that uniform, it makes me feel proud because I am the one who made it,” she said of the blue pleated tunic her daughter was wearing when she was killed. “It was neat on her.”
Not seeing her daughter grow up and sharing moments combing her hair, shopping and dressing up is also heart-wrenching, she said.
On June 5, 2018, the nine-year-old girl was sexually assaulted and killed by the teenager, who lived near to her, after she accepted his invitation to pick apples as they walked home from school.
A pathologist testified last week that the girl died of asphyxia caused by manual strangulation and that she had lacerations to the vagina and anus.
The court had heard testimony from the head of the DNA unit at the Government’s Institute of Forensic Science and Legal Medicine, Crystal Beepot, who provided forensic evidence that material found in the anus of the schoolgirl matched the DNA of the accused. The evidence was compared with samples taken from his fingernails and underpants.
The teen, in an unsworn statement, admitted that he had sexual intercourse with the girl in her vagina and not her anus.
He said that he was forced to do so after he was held up by two men, one carrying a machete and the other a gun and that he knew one of the men.
On Friday, Justice Courtney Daye ordered reports from a child psychiatrist and psychologist to help determine the sentence to be handed down to the 17-year-old convict.
Justice Daye noted that he was mandated by law to impose a sentence. However, he postponed sentencing for July 28 in order to mull over the options.
The judge noted that the Child Care and Protection Act will also be reviewed in helping the court to guide the sentencing process, especially considering that the boy was 13 years old at the time of the crime.
“I will have to get what is called a social enquiry report, which means that I have to hear from the probation officer, who will have to go into the community to get a report into his background, so that I can understand as best as possible what to do in terms of sentencing,” Justice Daye said after receiving the verdict from the jury.
The prosecution was led by Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn, with support from Loriann Tugwell and Rennelle Morgan.
“It is one of the most tragic matters that I have prosecuted in my career,” Llewellyn told journalists after the trial.
“It is a tragic situation between the family of the deceased, whose daughter suffered a brutal end, and the family of the accused, whose son will have to take responsibility for what was a very awful moment of youthful exuberance,” she lamented.
“It has negative consequences for the life of someone who he grew up with and he would have been in a position of trust since he was the bigger person,” the DPP said of the convicted teen.
Llewellyn said that her office was able to put up the best available evidential material, and noted that Justice Daye was very thorough in his direction in law to the jury.
“And the jurors who are supreme judges of the facts made their decision,” said the country’s chief prosecutor.
The accused was represented by attorneys Devon Brown and Denley Saddoo.