Grieving dad wants death penalty for child killers
Young victims of crime remembered in solemn service
Several parents invited to Sunday’s wreath-laying event for children who died under violent and otherwise tragic circumstances found it too painful to attend the annual remembrance ceremony.
The ceremony, which is organised by the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation each May, took place at the Crying Child Monument in downtown Kingston.
One official told The Gleaner that a number of parents said they did not want to relive the tragic experience of losing a child so they opted not to attend.
For a second time, Lionel Francis, whose daughter was raped and murdered in 2018, laid a wreath, but not just in memory of his daughter this time around, but for all children killed since the memorial was built.
It is not an annual experience he looks forward to, but he admitted that he had to summon the courage as the 2023 representative of all parents across the island.
As he walked with the wreath to the western section of the monument, he recalled that all that replayed in his mind was the fact that the charred remains of his 14-year-old daughter were found behind a church metres away from her home on the morning after she disappeared. She had left home for a nearby shop.
In 2018, the police held a man in Trelawny for questioning in connection with Yetanya’s rape and murder. He was later transferred to the Denham Town Police Station, where he was questioned and blood samples taken and sent for testing.
Years later, Francis believes there has been no justice for his daughter.
“Honestly, it is pretty much the same as before, especially knowing that not much has been done, if anything, since I last came here [at the monument]. Not much in terms of the laws and how the country goes forward with dealing with matters of these nature,” he said. “For the last two years, I haven’t heard anything. Nothing at all.”
A ‘hopeless case’
Francis said that he tried reaching out to the investigating officers about a year ago and was informed that “it’s a hopeless case”.
“The last remark that was made by investigating officers, what they told me, it’s almost like you’re waiting for something to drop from the clouds. People not really being proactive in that sense. People not going out there to do [investigation]. People just sitting down and waiting for something to happen. That’s how I gather it based on what I was told,” he said.
Like many other parents suffering from the loss of a child for whom they had hopes and dreams, he wants the death penalty for those who rob children of their future. He believes this will “put fear into people’s mind as to what consequence can happen”.
He added: “It’s not so much of the action (death penalty), it’s the state of mind that you put people in to prevent [such actions]. I’m not looking forward to seeing anybody being hanged or being put in the ground.”
Kingston Mayor Delroy Williams commended Francis for standing in the gap for all grieving parents.
“This, indeed, is a very sad ceremony for us. We do it annually, and we are always caught in two minds, but we do understand. We have to keep the society aware of these issues,” the mayor said.
Williams also called for an end to violence against children and for the continued awareness of the problem.
He thanked the organisations, junior council members, parents, and children’s uniformed groups that have played major roles in the continuation of the annual ceremony.
Dr Kasan Troupe, acting chief education officer, said it was a bittersweet moment for her.
“ ... It’s really not a joyful experience to be talking about death, especially in a tragic situation, but sweet because we are calling it out for what it is – behaviours that we do not support where children are a target of crime and violence – and I use this opportunity to call out to those persons who are involved in criminality to think seriously about their action, to seek opportunities to be rehabilitated, and to decide to contribute productively to society, more so than to think about their own selves,” Troupe told The Gleaner.