News

'Mi a go kill somebody over yah'

Residents say suspect in murder of teen boys issued threats

BY PAUL HENRY Co-ordinator Crime/Court Desk henryp@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, January 23, 2014    

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THE 12 fish pots stand in Dog Bridge River in Thornton District, St Elizabeth as a memorial to their teenage owners — Desrick Williams and Ashnell Coke — who were savagely murdered there on January 8.

The section of the river that runs through an area of Thornton called Jackass Pasture, where the murders occurred, isn't deep and the pots are easily accessible.

On more than one occasion David Williams, Desrick's father, suggested to Ashnell's father, Joscelyn Coke, that they retrieve them. But for Coke, a return to the area where the 15-year-old boys were savagely hacked to death, is too painful a task.

In a cruel twist of fate, the teens started setting their fish pots at Jackass Pasture, about two miles from their homes, after their crayfish and shrimp catch were repeatedly stolen at the closer Line River and on the recommendation of the senior Williams.

In October last year, the 26-year-old man accused of killing the boys cleared a small patch of land on the bank of the Dog Bridge River where he planted ganja among legal crops, against the wishes of his father.

The 52-year-old father often told his son to give up farming in the area because his produce would be devoured by grazing cows and goats. The father wanted his son to seek a job at which he could apply his mind and put his five CXC subjects to use.

On the other side of the shallow river, across from where the murder suspect had his field, 53-year-old Earl Thompson reared cows and goats and the animals would graze on both sides of the river. They would trek through the suspect's field and trample his crops, causing him to bristle at the damage.

Desrick Williams, who attended Balaclava High School in the parish, started fishing for crayfish and shrimp in 2010 as a means of helping to support the family and sending himself to school, following an accident in July of that year which left his father unable to work. His frail mother was also unable to work. Older sisters and a brother would help out, but they had their own challenges.

Desrick sold the crayfish he caught for $200 and $300 a pound and the shrimp he would sell for $150. Desrick, who is considered a bright boy, was desirous of attending university after completing high school, so he kept working.

Aiding Desrick was his friend from childhood, Ashnell Coke, a student of Maggotty High School. Ashnell, a quiet boy, was very helpful in his own home, cooking for his father and doing other chores, and at Desrick's where he was very close to the senior Williams who regarded him as a son. Whenever Ashnell wasn't at his home he would be at the Williams', just a few gates away. He also planted his own patch of pumpkin, sorrel, plantain and gungo.

Over time, Desrick's income became threatened by people who stole his crayfish and bait from the fish pots he would set before going to school, or overnight.

To avoid a serious run-in with them, Desrick's father advised him to move his pots to Dog Bridge River, and in December, three weeks before the fateful January 8 day, helped him to move. Desrick would make the daily two-mile journey to Jackass Pasture on his bicycle by himself for two weeks in the latter part of December until Ashnell was able to help out.

Toward the end of December, Thompson went to his field and discovered two of his goats slaughtered. Some time after, he said he was at his home on the Thornton main road when he was approached by the suspect, who, he alleged, had a machete.

Thompson told the Jamaica Observer that the suspect started accusing him of again walking his children through his ground.

"Earl," Thompson said the suspect said to him, "mi wi kill you and you pickney dem."

Thompson said he responded, "Mi no go back over yu place nor the pickney dem."

Thompson said that a week after that he was passing by the suspect's ground when the accused man told him that somebody had been walking "up and down" in his ground.

"Mi a go kill somebody over yah eno, Earl," Thompson said the suspect told him, adding that the man threatened that if he caught anybody in his field, no matter where they ran to, he was going to chase and chop them up.

Thompson and other residents said the suspect had started to act aggressively leading up to the incident.

On January 8, Desrick and Ashnell returned from their respective schools, took in their goats from the field, did their other chores and left home on their bicycles to check on the fish pots.

The boys were long in returning home, which worried the senior Williams. Ashnell's father was worried too, as his son didn't usually stay out late. He began thinking that something might have gone wrong. Williams made his way to the river, but there was no sign of the boys. He left and returned with a search team of about 10 men who were going night fishing. The first thing they saw was a bicycle. Close by, slippers. Then, to Williams' horror, Desrick's hacked body. His heart sank. He immediately went to the police station to report the find. On another search, Ashnell's body was found under shrubs by the same spot.

The suspect was taken into custody the following day without incident, though there was a crowd that wanted to exact their brand of justice.

Last Friday, the Observer visited the unfinished house that the suspect shared with his father up to the time of the incident.

The first question the man's father asked was if his son had been charged. He said if his son was guilty he should be brought to book and confess to the crime.

He showed the news team to his son's room. The words 'Never legal' were scribbled on the door in ink. Inside, a dusty television set sat on a small table beside a bed.

The father said his son had moved back to the area in October after a run-in with his brother in Manchester where they grew up with their mother.

He said his son's behaviour started to get strange following two accidents — one when he was about 10 years old and the other when he was 14 — in which he was flung from his bicycle and had injured his head. A part of the strange behaviour, the father said, was that his son would sit and talk to himself, which would turn to a quarrel with himself.

His son, he said, was on medication for a mental condition. He also said that his son, since moving back to Thornton, seldom ate and would sit and stare. When asked if the family has a history of mental illness, the father said one of his brothers in Montego Bay, St James, is mentally ill. The father said he feared for his own life as he has received death threats.

On Friday, the police visited the homes of the victims, praying with their loved ones and offering words of comfort. At Ashnell's home a relative asked that the suspect be brought to justice. But a senior officer pleaded for patience.

The suspect is yet to be charged.

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