Respect for life: Culture change needed
The murders of a mother and her four children in Coco Piece, Clarendon on Tuesday created a traffic snarl in the quiet community.

The nation was understandably shocked after the bodies of a mother and her four children were found with their throats slashed Tuesday morning at their home in the New Road community near Chapelton in Clarendon.

We mourn with the family and friends of 31-year-old Ms Kemisha Wright, 15-year-old Kimana Smith; 10-year-old Shemari Smith; five-year-old Kafana Smith, and 23-month-old Kishaun Henry.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness has quite rightly condemned the murders and said that they represent an attack on our civility, our sensibilities, and our nation. He also said the murders mark “a new low in the level of violence in our society”.

Had this been the first such gruesome killing of children and adults together we would have agreed with Mr Holness. However, the stark, cold and unfortunate reality is that we have experienced these evil acts before.

We have not forgotten the horror visited upon Ms Sonia Williams who, in January 2005, returned home from church to find three of her four children dead — all with their throats slashed and with multiple stab wounds to their bodies.

We also recall the February 2006 murder of a family of six — 42-year-old Ms Terry-Ann Mohammed, 29-year-old Ms Patrice Martin McCool and her children Jessie O’Gilvie, nine; Sean Chin, eight; Jhaid McCool, six; and three-year-old Lloyd McCool — in St Thomas.

In October 2016 gunmen invaded four houses in March Pen, St Catherine, and shot dead Ms Salesha Evans, 24, and her nine-year-old son Revaughn Evans; Ms Venisha Bartley, 22, and her two-year-old daughter Koyandra Wynter; and 14-year-old Marvin Campbell Jr.

Almost two years later, in July 2018, another family was plunged into mourning when 29-year-old Ms Kashief Jackson, as well as her two babies — one-year-old Aviere Williams, and seven-day-old Aranza Williams — were murdered in their home in the district of Tower Hill on the outskirts of Mavis Bank in east rural St Andrew.

Still fresh in our minds is the gruesome murder, in January 2022, of nine-year-old Gabriel King, who was found with his throat slashed on the back seat of his mother’s car, which had earlier been reported stolen.

Then, in March this year, gunmen shot dead 11-year-old Peta-Gaye Cooke and her 19-year-old twin brothers Givaughn and Givaughnie Stewart at their house in Irwin Heights, St James.

Space does not permit us to list the many other such murders which have shattered families and communities, but the problem, as we pointed out, is not new.

Readers may recall that one of the stories this newspaper published as part of our special focus on Child Month in May this year highlighted Jamaica Constabulary Force data showing that for the period January 1 to October 21, 2017 a total of 47 children had been murdered, compared to 32 for the same period in 2016.

In total in 2016, 41 children were murdered.

That, we hold, is an indictment on the society and successive governments as we have failed all those children.

We are not yet sure what led to the murders of Ms Wright and her four children in Clarendon. Whatever the reason, it is clear that too many of us have no regard for the sanctity of life. A lot still needs to be done to change that culture, and the responsibility is not the Government’s alone. We all have a role to play.

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