News

Clark's Hill's nightmare

BY TYRONE S REID Sunday Observer staff reporter reidt@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, May 04, 2008    

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IT'S a familiar story heard throughout the island: a young person goes missing, the police open an investigation and days later the body is discovered in an advanced state of decomposition, plunging the family and neighbours into mourning.

Forty year-old Marvaree Needham never imagined that her family would one day be faced with such a grave tragedy. Just two weeks ago, Needham's 19-year-old daughter, Nickeisha Samuels, was kidnapped. Close to a week later, her severely mutilated body was found stuffed in a hollow mango tree root in Clark's Hill (a few miles from Stony Hill), the community she has lived all her life.

"This is just a nightmare for the family. We still can't understand why this happen. Everybody up here still in shock. It's just too much," said Needham, who had to be rushed to hospital the day her daughter's body was found. "People been praying for me but I still feel weak. But the family members and people from in the community have been supporting me."

Of Needham's six children, Samuels (affectionately called Keisha) was the eldest and the 'brains' of the family.

Samuels, a St Hugh's High past student who worked as a receptionist at the Life of Jamaica (LOJ) head office in New Kingston, went missing on Saturday, April 19.

According to the police, Samuels left home at about 2:30 pm that day to use the Internet service at the Stony Hill library. She left the library to use the ATM in the town square and was not seen or heard from since then.

A report was subsequently made to the Stony Hill police who opened an investigation. But it was a young boy on his way to fetch water at a river in the community on the afternoon of April 26 who smelt a foul odour emanating from some thick bushes and raised an alarm.

Residents, including Samuels' brother, Kemar, arrived on the scene within minutes to get a glimpse of the decomposed body in the hollow root, after which the Stony Hill police were called. According to the post-mortem report, Samuels was stabbed 10 times in the back and her throat cut. The police surmise that the young woman was raped and killed elsewhere and her body brought back to Clark's Hill to be hidden.

"Everybody taking it hard because of the kind of person Keisha was," said 67-year-old Lisette Needham, Samuels' grandmother. "Keisha born inna mi hand. She was just quiet and hardworking and she always keep to herself. The way how she died is really affecting the family. We all knew she was working towards one goal, and that is to help her mother with her younger brothers and sisters."

Samuels' 17 year-old brother, Kemar, said he will never be able to get over his sister's death.

"I miss everything about her," he told the Sunday Observer. "I am the one who would meet her part way in the evenings when she coming home from work. I feel very bad about all this."

Even the neighbours who sat playing dominoes under a newly erected tarpaulin tent, a few feet from the family home, described Samuels as a positive role model for the youngsters in the community. They say the closely knit community is now mourning one of its most promising stars.

"We all miss her. Nobody had anything bad to say about Keisha. She was a quiet, humble girl and very easy to get along with," one female neighbour told the Sunday Observer.

But while the neighbours painted a darling portrait of Samuels, some residents pointed to a pressing problem facing Clark's Hill: lack of proper lighting in the peaceful community compounded by the thick bushes and deplorable road conditions. As a result, residents are now fearful.

"The place needs proper lighting," said one man who gave his name only as Mr B. "We want more streetlights because even the ones that you see on the post not working and as evening comes the place get dark. We living in serious times now and we cannot take any risks."

He also said that people have been robbed regularly at several points in the district and three years ago a businessman was murdered at his home, close to where Samuels' body was found.

In the meantime, while refusing to divulge key information about their investigation, Detective Corporal Brown of the Stony Hill police told the Sunday Observer they are hoping to make an arrest soon.

"At the moment we are following some strong leads and we hope to make a breakthrough very soon with our investigation," Brown said.

While these developments offer little comfort to the bereaved family, Samuels' relatives hope the criminal(s) responsible for her murder will be brought to justice.

"Ah rough life this we ah guh through, but God ah give we the strength fi go through," said grandfather Needham. "The road rugged, but we have to press on. Every day mi ask God why this happen to Keisha, but mi know him a go bring them to justice."

The blue tarpaulin, domino table and memorial pins worn by relatives and neighbours at the family home last week all bore testament to a community united in grief. The funeral service for Samuels will take place today at 2:00 pm at the Bethel United Zion Church in Clark's Hill, after which her body will be interred at the family plot, where her other deceased relatives were laid to rest.

On the day the Sunday Observer visited the district last week, relatives were seen constructing a sepulchre at the graveside.

In the words of several residents, including Samuels' mother, it will take a very long time for the community to fully heal from the horrific tragedy.

"I have been living here for over 28 years and this is the worst incident we ever have to deal with in this peaceful community," she said. "It doesn't look like Clark's Hill going to be the same again."

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