Forgiveness for killer? Not yet, say victims' families

The relatives of St Andrew businesswoman Simone Campbell-Collymore and her taxi driver Winston Walters, who were slain in a 2018 contract killing, say justice was done in the sentences given yesterday to Wade Blackwood, the confessed trigger man. However, the forgiveness he asked for will take some time.

Blackwood, who has been in custody since April 2018, had pleaded guilty to two counts of murder and one count of illegal possession of firearm before the Home Circuit Court in downtown Kingston in January.

Blackwood is now to serve eight years and six months for illegal possession of firearm and life imprisonment for his role in the murders, with 35 years on each count of murder, before he is eligible for parole. Those sentences, however, will run concurrently, so he will, in effect, only serve 35 years for both counts.

Yesterday, the teary-eyed relatives of the 32-year-old mother and the 36-year-old taxi operator, husband and father, cut a sombre picture as they filed out of the courtroom following the sentencing.

“To be honest I think we are all satisfied based on the outlines that the judge gave as to how she arrived at her sentencing. I think it was more than just. Obviously, emotionally, you would want to see the maximum, maximum but basically that was what he got. She outlined very clearly what was taken into consideration on both sides,” the slain woman's sister, Keshtina Bonner, told journalists.

As for Blackwood's plea for mercy and forgiveness made through his attorney, she said, “Maybe with time, I don't know, it's too fresh, it's too early. Never say never. I think for something like that, speaking more for myself, at some point you have to let go for your own peace.”

“What do I think of him asking for forgiveness? I think it's the typical response. You have to paint that 'I'm sorry' picture. Does he mean it? I don't know, but it's too fresh to say, 'Yes, we forgive him' or 'Yes, we don't forgive him,' ” she reasoned.

Asked how the sentences would be interpreted by Collymore's young children, who had been close enough to hear the sound of the bullets that took their mother's life, Bonner said, “The comments, as you can imagine from their age, would be they should rot in hell or they should die; they don't really understand. I think they were just looking for payback.”

Bonner said the closeness of the family has been their saving grace amidst the grief.

Yesterday, Walters' 14-year-old son, who requested to be present during the sentencing, was rigid with grief as his mother Jewel spoke to him soothingly.

His aunt, Kerry Ann Walters, in praising Justice Shelly-Williams, said, “We feel pleased, we believe justice has been served, and we like how the judge handled everything.”

“The sixth of May he would be 40. My mom is really breaking down now; she is crying, she is hurting, it's the second son she has lost, it is not easy, it is very painful. The sentence won't ease the pain, but she will get a bit of closure,” she told the Jamaica Observer.

Forgiveness for Blackwood, however, would take some time in coming.

“It's hard, very hard to forgive, as the good book says forgive, but we can't forget, so yeah, we will forgive him, but we can't forget, not in this manner. There's not one day that goes by from January 2 until today that his [Walters'] name has not been called. His name is mentioned every day. He was very jovial, he got along with everybody. If you are having a bad day and you come across him, your day changes.

“I can't say I will forgive him today, but I know I will find it in my heart to forgive him, but not for today,” she said after a very pregnant pause.

Walters' widow, who had initially opted not to speak, said, “We are happy justice is served. It can't bring back Winston Walters or Simone Collymore but at least a bit of closure.”

She said her son has, in his own way tried to cope by hanging on to his father's possessions, even wearing a pair of his father's pants to court.

She said he has also refused to part with his father's car in which he was travelling at the time of his death, even after the authorities no longer had need of it for evidenciary purposes.

“I hope nobody ever has to go through anything of this sort; it is terrible,” she said heavily.

Collymore and Walters were gunned down on Tuesday, January 2, 2018 at approximately 3:57 pm at the entrance of Forest Ridge Apartments, on Stanley Terrace, Red Hills, St Andrew. In the killing, which was captured on closed-circuit television, Blackwood, according to court records, was seen firing into the vehicle from the passenger side. He said another individual fired from the driver's side.

Campbell-Collymore was shot 19 times and Walters five times. Blackwood was subsequently arrested and is among four people, including Omar “Best” Collymore, the husband of the slain woman, whom the police have accused of masterminding the murder.

The police said that after “intensive investigations” Collymore, who had attempted to flee the island, and the others were identified as co-conspirators.

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS Senior staff reporter

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