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18 year old allegedly chopped to death by her child's father

Cops praised for protecting accused man in eight-hour stand-off with angry mob

BY GARFIELD MYERS Editor-at-large South/Central Bureau myersg@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, December 01, 2013    

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SANTA CRUZ, St Elizabeth — Those close to her say 18-yearold Kimberly Simpson was rebuilding her life after carnal abuse and pregnancy when she became the victim of enraged jealousy. Simpson’s relatives, friends and the residents of the remote district of Content and surrounding communities of South East St Elizabeth and South Manchester will grieve for a long time.

They won’t easily forget the manner of Simpson’s death — chopped allegedly by the father of her two-year-old son. Nor will they forget the ensuing drama involving an eight-hour stand-off between angry residents and police — the latter protecting the accused, 30-year-old barber Rohan Thomas, from jungle justice.

Indeed, while grieving family members complained that a prompt response by the police to frantic calls for help early Friday could have saved Simpson’s life, the police have also come in for high praise for putting their lives on the line to uphold the law. “I don’t want it to get lost in the mix that the police were heroes on the day,” said Richard Parchment, member of parliament for South East St Elizabeth.

“The police have often come under pressure for allegedly carrying out extra-judicial killings, but (Friday) I saw police putting their lives on the line for a man accused of a most heinous crime because they recognised their responsibility to uphold the law,” said Parchment.

“I saw police standing up in the sun for hour after hour without food or drink in order to protect this man from mob rule,” Parchment added. Police Commissioner Owen Ellington also commended the cops for their “courageous and determined response”, noting that they held the angry mob at bay “at great personal risk”.

In doing so, he said, the police from the St Elizabeth Division, led by Deputy Superintendent Lanford Salmon, “saved the life of a citizen, albeit one accused of a crime”. Added Ellington: “Not only did DSP Salmon and his team prevent the mob from killing this suspect, they also spared our country another blow to its international reputation, which is a function of the police service that is too often ignored.

“I must also congratulate the Mobile Reserve Tactical Team who journeyed from Kingston… and skilfully extracted the suspect from the house and took him to safety without injury to anyone. A special word of thanks too, to our partners the Jamaica Defence Force who provided air support and lift.

“You have all demonstrated a high degree of courage, professionalism and service to country, of which all Jamaicans can be proud,” the commissioner said. Yesterday, DSP Salmon told the Jamaica Observer that the police were simply doing their job.

“We feel for the grieving family, but we have a responsibility to protect every single person, whoever that person is,” he said. As hundreds gathered — some people armed with machetes, sticks and stones — around the house where Simpson was killed and Thomas had taken refuge, a small detachment of police stood guard.

The stand-off eventually ended about 6:00 pm Friday as police reinforcements, flown by Jamaica Defence Force helicopter from Kingston, and the local contingent used teargas and fired shots in the air to clear the large and angry crowd. Eyewitnesses say that as the police set about removing Thomas from the house in rapidly fading light, stones were thrown at them by some among the crowd. Reports say a few policemen were hit.

Grandmother of the victim, Almeda Powell, told the Sunday Observer that Thomas entered the yard at about 7:00 am Saturday and an altercation developed with Simpson. Powell said Simpson had broken off her relationship with Thomas for whom she became pregnant at 15. As a direct result, Thomas was reportedly before the courts for carnal abuse.

The pregnancy had forced Simpson to drop out of school — Victor Dixon High in Mandeville. According to Powell, after jumping the fence and entering the yard early Friday, Thomas pulled the teenager inside the house and used a machete to chop her. She was reportedly chopped in the forehead and the back of the neck.

Reports from residents as well as the police suggest that Simpson was raped and otherwise physically abused before she was killed. She was eventually taken to hospital by a vehicle from the Junction Police Station but reportedly died en route. A grieving Powell charged that the murder could have been prevented had police responded quickly to her frantic calls.

“Mi call dem four time and is only when the worse happen dem come,” the weeping woman said. She charged that her granddaughter was murdered in front of her two-year-old son. She said she only realised Thomas had come to the house when she heard “the baby sey ‘Daddy’”.

Powell said the baby, Jaydan Thomas, was pushed outside the house following the murder. Unconfirmed reports suggested that before the arrival of the police there was an attempt to set the badly injured Simpson alight, after she was wrapped in bed linen.

What is certain is that as irate residents gathered, the house was set on fire, with firefighters eventually putting out the blaze. At one stage during the lengthy stand-off, residents locked the gate of the yard, effectively blocking a police vehicle from leaving with Thomas. Stories from family members and others suggest the tragedy was long in the making. Thomas, who claimed Simpson had disrespected him, had repeatedly threatened her, reports say. He had also allegedly threatened to set the house on fire.

Simpson had been forced to give up a job in Mandeville partly because of the carnal abuse case but also because she said she was “in no peace with Rohan”. In recent months, Thomas had allegedly “put a rope round (Simpson’s) neck” and used a clothes iron to inflict burns on her.

There were suggestions yesterday that as a result of that assault and a subsequent report to the police a restraining order had been taken out, but this could not be confirmed by the Sunday Observer. There were reports, too, that co-workers of Thomas had heard him issuing death threats towards his former lover. Even with all those reports and allegations friends and family members said Friday’s tragedy took them by surprise.

“Mi really and truly never expect him fi kill mi baby,” said Powell, her voice choked with tears on Friday. Powell said her granddaughter had spent most of her life with her, including a decade in New York. It was after her return to Jamaica about four years ago that Simpson became attached to Thomas and got pregnant. Simpson’s cousin and close friend Sanche Biggs, described Simpson as quiet and ambitious.

“Kim was a friendly but very quiet person, she didn’t mix much and she wasn’t no party-goer,” said Biggs.

“She didn’t talk about her plans, but you knew she wanted to get ahead in life.” Parchment, who had listed Simpson as someone he wanted to get enumerated “within the next couple of weeks”, said his impression of the young woman was that she was “striving to get her life together”.

Parchment’s hope was that the tragedy could provide a lesson in helping to prevent such occurrences going forward. “Hopefully, this will help people to realise that when a relationship breaks down and people start to make threats, you must act and do whatever you have to do to prevent a disaster such as this,” he said.

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