WHY KILL LOTOYA?

Family of slain St Elizabeth hotel worker still baffled by brutal slaying in Santa Cruz

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

Sunday, July 23, 2017

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SANTA CRUZ, St Elizabeth — It's a question that is tormenting family members and friends. Why, they ask, would anyone have chosen to kill, even hurt, Lotoya Williamson?

The hotel sales representative, native of Knoxwood, south-west St Elizabeth, who would have turned 26 on August 18, was shot dead by businessman and ex-politician Warrenton Barham at the commercial centre of Santa Cruz on Monday, July 17.

Barham, a losing candidate of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) for the Siloah Division in parish council elections of 2007 and 2012, was in turn shot dead by a policeman after he allegedly refused to drop his weapon and appeared to be lifting it in a threatening manner.

“Nobody deserves this, especially not my daughter. She was such a harmless, fragile person who wouldn't hurt anyone,” Williamson's grieving mother, Sophia Smith-Sharpe, told the Jamaica Observer during a visit to the family home in Knoxwood on Thursday.

“She was not only beautiful on the outside… she was even more beautiful on the inside,” said Smith-Sharpe, who arrived home on Wednesday from Florida after hearing of her daughter's death.

Similar sentiments came from residents of the Knoxwood community. Antane Ricketts, described Williamson, affectionately called “Sashan”, as a “very quiet person … I hardly ever hear her talk and I have known her over 10 years…”. He reflected that, “I believe the truth dead… because both parties are dead but I don't think is because she do wrong why she is dead.”

Paulette Brown, a close friend of the family, remembered Williamson as a “friendly, loving, little girl”, who was “humble, quiet, not talkative…”

When reached by telephone, a co-worker of Williamson spoke of her disbelief at the death of someone whom she described as a “top sales representative” and a “very nice person”. Williamson was happy and welcoming to others but also “reserved”, the co-worker said. “She was always punctual, if I were to tell you that Lotoya was late one day, I would be lying,” she said.

Giving details of her daughter's life, Smith-Sharpe said Williamson is the second of her six children. She attended Knoxwood Basic School, Mountainside Primary, and Newell High.

On leaving school, Williamson did a HEART/NTA training course followed by a year-long course in hospitality and tourism at Bethlehem Moravian College in Malvern. Before doing the course at Bethlehem, Williamson had worked for a time at the Table Top Restaurant operated by Barham and his wife, just metres from where she would eventually die.

Williamson landed a “good job” (as a sales representative) just over a year ago and had been doing very well, Smith-Sharpe said. She described her daughter as a hard-working, “very ambitious” young woman, who set goals for herself.

Responding to rumours that her daughter may have been killed because of the gift of a motor vehicle, Smith-Sharpe told the Sunday Observer that her daughter “bought the car” after securing a bank loan.

Other sources, including the police, told the Sunday Observer that the car in question was bought with loan financing from a leading bank.

Smith-Sharpe confirmed that on the day of her death, Williamson — driven by her boyfriend in the car she had acquired less than a week earlier — visited her hairdresser in the same plaza in which Barham's restaurant is located.

Smith-Sharpe said she was told by the young man that as he waited for Williamson, while seated behind the steering wheel, Barham approached and spoke in praise of the car's condition.

He then leaned on the car and started asking questions including who was the owner? Where was she? Having got answers, Barham is said to have returned to his business place.

He would return sometime later and again lean on the car. Shortly after that, sometime after 4:00 pm, Williamson is said to have left the hairdresser and walked towards her car. On seeing her approach, Barham walked to meet her and spoke.

Williamson did not respond but walked past him towards the car. Smith-Sharpe said she was told that Barham followed her daughter asking questions. “He was asking her, 'So what happen? Whose car is this?' She said, 'it's my car,' and he said 'when did you get this car' and she said 'one day last week'.”

By now, Williamson's boyfriend started asking “what's going on?”

Williamson told him “don't say anything, I will handle it…” But by now the conversation between Barham and Williamson had turned angry and ugly. He allegedly pulled his licensed gun and started to fire.

Smith-Sharpe told the Sunday Observer she was told that Barham's last words to her daughter before he started triggering his gun were: “Yu know you are a very pretty girl?”

The first shots were apparently not aimed at Williamson, but at her boyfriend. Williamson shouted a warning to him to “run!” ringing in his ears the young man ran for his life, taking evasive action as he did so.

Barham then allegedly turned his weapon on the young woman, shooting her in the leg as she attempted to scramble away across the back seat of the car. She came out the other side of the car, but fell. Barham allegedly shot her in the face, killing her.

It was at that point that he was challenged and shot by the police officer who had run to the scene having been startled by gunshots.

On Thursday, Smith-Sharpe said she was getting “very little sleep”, but was surprised at how “strong” she was bearing up. She credited her response to “the Almighty God” and the inspiration of her dead daughter. “She (Williamson) never liked to see me cry,” she said.

She told how her daughter had sent her a loving WhatsApp message just the day before she died.

She also spoke of how her daughter's boyfriend was traumatised. He had been constantly crying and had to be taken to the doctor, Smith-Sharpe said.

“I am trying to help him to cope, I tell him that Sashan doesn't want him to cry…” said Smith-Sharpe.

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