Relief, tears and pain
Family of raped, murdered 9-y-old girl react to guilty verdict

MONTEGO BAY, St James — The parents of a nine-year-old-girl who was sexually abused and strangled to death shed tears of relief on Friday after the teenage boy accused of the heinous crimes was found guilty.

But the girl’s father, who said he had expected the guilty verdict based on the evidence presented during the trial, told journalists outside the court that it still wasn’t enough to ease his pain. He was still cloaked in the same intense grief that consumed him last week when the trial began.

“It is almost the same way, because you can’t forget a thing like that. We are just trying to move on from here,” he said before once more breaking down in tears.

Just as tearful, the girl’s mother dug deep for happy memories. But even those were tinged by sorrow. She clung to how proud she had been to make her daughter’s school uniform. It was the one the child was wearing on the day she was brutally violated and murdered. The uniform was among the estimated 18 items entered into evidence during the nine-day trial.

“It makes me feel sad, because that uniform that I made, it was the first one. I am not really a professional in sewing, so whenever I see her in that uniform, it makes me feel proud because I am the one that made it,” she said.

The families of the victim and the accused — whose houses are about six chains apart — have been ripped apart by the incident, as noted by Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn when she spoke with the media after the verdict.

“It is a tragic situation… [for] the family of the deceased whose daughter suffered a brutal end, the family of the accused whose son will have to take responsibility for what was a very, very awful moment of youthful exuberance which had negative consequences for the life of someone who he grew up with and who would have [seen him in] a position of trust because he was the bigger person,” said the DPP.

During her time on the witness stand on Wednesday, the boy’s mother said she had not joined the search for the missing girl.

On Friday, the nine-year-old’s mother told the media that the family of the accused “keep their distance”.

“They pass us by as if we were the one who offended them,” she said. “The grandmother would just say ‘howdy’, but the rest of the family is as if we were the one who caused them harm.”

Now, both families wait to hear how much time the boy, who was 13 at the time of his crimes in 2018, will spend in jail. He will be sentenced on July 28.

That will give the court enough time to seek expert advice on how to proceed in determining sentencing. Justice Courtney Daye indicated in court on Friday that the law prohibits the death sentence as punishment for a child.

There has been condemnation of the teenager on social media throughout the trial. Even the seasoned Llewellyn has been jolted by the nature of the case. It was the first of its kind she has seen in her more than three-decade-long career, she said.

“I must confess that, in my experience of 30-odd years, this is the first case where technically a child has been found guilty of murder, raping and buggering another child. So, we will do further research and perhaps put something in writing,” Llewellyn said in court after the verdict.

According to testimony presented during the trial, the boy sexually assaulted and killed the young girl, whom he knew, after she accepted his invitation to pick apples as they walked home from school on June 5, 2018. Her body was found near a guava tree, which is about 15 to 20 feet from the apple tree. A post-mortem report presented in court last week showed that the child died of asphyxia caused by manual strangulation. She also had lacerations to the vagina and anus.

Throughout the trial, exhibits included clothing from both the accused and victim, DNA swabs, and testimony from two children. DNA linked the boy to the buggering of the girl. His semen was found in her anus.

Outside the courthouse, the DPP commended her team on securing a conviction.

“We put up the best evidentiary material. It is our role and function and the judge gave his direction in law, and the jurors, who are supreme judges of the facts, made their decision,” she said.

Llewellyn also thanked the consultant forensic pathologist who did the post-mortem report, the DNA report from the Institute of Forensic Science and Legal Medicine, and the police who all contributed to the evidence presented in court.

It was important, Llewellyn said, for citizens to send a clear message about what is acceptable behaviour within their communities.

The jury took about 90 minutes to return a verdict.

“To me, when you do a crime you have to do your time,” said the murdered child’s father.

BY ANTHONY LEWIS Observer writer

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