Declaring, “We are not out for blood,” two daughters of the elderly Jamaican-Canadian couple murdered in 2018 have expressed satisfaction with the sentence handed down on Thursday by Supreme Court judge Justice Lorna Shelly Williams to St Thomas native Fabian Skervin.
The judge, in a deftly handled sentencing exercise, ruled that Skervin — who was charged with two counts of murder — should serve life imprisonment for both. She further ruled that both sentences are to run concurrently, resulting in him having to serve 32 years and four months before he becomes eligible for parole.
Melbourne Flake, 81, and his 70-year-old wife Etta, were found dead at their vacation home in Retreat, St Thomas, on January 9, 2018. Flake, whose hands and feet were bound, was observed to have sustained head wounds, while his wife, who was also bound, was said to have been suffocated.
Investigations led to Skervin — a farmer of Tulip Road and Soho district, both in Seaforth — and his female companion being picked up at a house in the Seaforth Housing Scheme in St Thomas on Wednesday, February 7, 2018.
They were subsequently charged with two counts of murder and robbery with aggravation each.
On Thursday, four of the Flakes' children watched via Zoom while the other two older daughters were on spot for the handing down of the sentences.
“I was just here [in Jamaica] two weeks ago, and they remanded him until today and I said, I don't care how much it costs I am going to be here to hear this sentence in person. I was here to ID the bodies, I was here to go through the crime scene, I am going to be here to see it through to the end,” daughter Debbie-Lee told the Jamaica Observer.
“Now I can mourn and process. When you heard his statement, you would have to have taken leave of your sense to think anything of that happened. You know he was covering up,” she said in reference to Skervin's claims that he had not meant to kill the couple but had ended up doing so because he had been under “witchcraft attacks” and was hearing voices.
In acknowledging that the two life sentences would effectively merge into one, she said she was sufficiently appeased.
“I thought it was 64 years [that Skervin would spend in prison]. But you know what, that's enough as far as I am concerned. With jails, you can't keep them in there like animals, they will come out like animals. There has to be some kind of, 'okay, he served his sentence, hopefully he has learnt something from it,' ” she said, adding that the judge “is extremely fair, and we appreciate that. We are not out for blood, no”.
Her sibling, Annmarie, noted Skervin's appeal for pardon from the family.
“He pleaded for forgiveness and I'm not walking around with him in my heart, so it's up to him and God. Somebody could come right now and say you want him to be eliminated? No, I am not on that, there is a God who lives above, and He knows everything. I prayed and I said, 'God, just let justice prevail,' ” she shared.
According to Annmarie, justice had come faster for her family than for others.
“There is a couple in Portland who, just after our parents deaths, they were murdered and up till now there has been no breakthrough, so at least I am thanking God that something has been done today,” she said.
In the meantime, both sisters believe Skervin took a calculated decision to shoulder all the blame for their parents' murders.
“In my mind he is protecting somebody, so he brought it on himself,” Annmarie said, to which her sister responded, “You can play Mary Poppins all you want but your sins, so to speak, shall find you out. Nothing hidden stays hidden.”
Justice Shelly Williams, in handing down the sentences, said the evidence against the defendant “was overwhelming” and that the murders were clearly “premeditated”.
“He admitted that he entered the house of the victims and had hidden in a closet with a piece of board…his actions…showed premeditation. Mr Skervin will be sentenced to two life imprisonments for the murder of Mr and Mrs Flake,” she said.
The Flakes, who were visiting Jamaica at the time of their murders, had been carrying out extensive work on their vacation home and had hired Skervin, among others, to work on the property.
Skervin, upon his arrest, had made several statements admitting that he had murdered them, while claiming that he had been battling spiritual forces which influenced his actions as he did not intend to kill the couple. He confessed to entering the couple's home while they were outside and hiding in a closet with a piece of board until nightfall when he then launched his attack.
He further admitted to beating Mr Flake until he gave him the personal information number for his debit card. That debit card, investigators said, was used to make several purchases, including appliances and jewellery, which included a wedding ring.
Video evidence and recordings had implicated the 29-year-old.