Prosecutors are depending on telephone records, CCTV footage, travel records, alleged inconsistency in utterances, and forensics as they seek to have a 38-year-old native of the Dominican Republic, Santo Yamarco Hernandez, convicted of murder.
The accused was denied bail today (April 4) when he made his maiden appearance before Magistrate Ayana Baptiste-DaBreo in relation to the murder of British Virgin Islands (BVI) native Alston Penn.
Penn’s lifeless body was found lying face-down in a pool of blood on the Windy Hill road about 5:25am on March 10. The lower part of his body was naked.
Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Kim Hollis, in outlining details of the case, said the deceased suffered ‘extensive head injuries’ including severe trauma to the face and skull.
Two bloodied boulders, along with Penn’s clothing, were recovered from the scene and swabbed.
The DPP did not disclose the findings of the forensic examination conducted.
But she provided enough information to convince the magistrate to have the alleged murderer locked up until at least May 19 when he will return to the Magistrate’s Court for the case to be mentioned.
The magistrate noted that the matter is indictable – meaning that it will be transferred to the High Court to be tried before a judge and a jury.
‘Considerable phone traffic’
The DPP told the court that, when Penn’s phone record was checked, it showed that, in the days leading up to the murder, there was ‘considerable phone traffic’ between the alleged murderer and Penn.
Penn called the accused a total 32 times, especially the day before he was murdered.
The alleged murderer, in the meantime, telephoned Penn some 51 times. The last of those calls was made just after 2am – a few hours before Penn’s body was found.
The DPP further told the court that, in a police interview, the accused admitted that he owns the telephone number that was involved in the ‘communication traffic’ with Penn.
He also admitted that he was the only one who used the said phone number and phone exclusively during the period when the calls were recorded.
Penn seen entering vehicle
The DPP then mentioned a CCTV footage captured at a business establishment near Penn’s residence.
It shows the alleged murderer in a vehicle waiting to pick Penn up on the night of the murder.
The video also allegedly shows Penn entering the vehicle driven by the alleged murderer shortly before 11pm on March 9.
Both men then left the area where the CCTV is located.
Furthermore, a CCTV footage obtained also shows the vehicle driven by the accused later exiting Joe’s Hill shortly after 3am on March 10. In other words, the alleged murderer was leaving the direction of Windy Hill where Penn was found dead.
Travel to Santo Domingo
The prosecution further stated that, hours after Penn’s body was discovered on March 10, the alleged murderer left the BVI for his homeland in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
He returned to the BVI on April 1 when he was nabbed by local police.
The DPP told the court that, in an initial interview conducted by cops, the alleged murderer denied knowing Penn, and also denied ever speaking with him.
He claimed that he only saw Penn around the territory.
Following that declaration, detectives showed the accused man the aforementioned CCTV footage, as well as the call traffic that had taken place between himself and Penn.
After viewing the pieces of evidence presented, the accused allegedly changed his earlier position, and admitted to knowing Penn.
The DPP said the accused further admitted that he picked up Penn in a vehicle on the night of the murder, but he denied being the murderer.
The accused also claimed that Penn was ‘fit and well’ when they last saw each other.
Wife in Dominican Republic
The DPP, in the meantime, told the court that, based on a number of factors, she does not think the alleged murderer should be allowed bail.
She claimed that he is a flight risk, partly considering that his wife and parents currently live in the Dominican Republic.
The court also heard that the accused has no fixed place of abode in the territory despite residing here for some eight years.
The DPP added that the alleged murderer had stated that he rented a room at Rudy’s Bar after he broke up with his girlfriend. However, that information had not been substantiated.
The court further heard that the alleged murderer, who was a construction worker, did not have a fixed job in the territory.
He also does not have any family ties here.
“If he is released on bail, he would leave the territory,” the DPP said, adding that the accused man is also likely to interfere with witnesses.
She noted that, according to the alleged murderer, the vehicle he was driving on the night of the crime belongs to a friend.
Get a lawyer, magistrate advises
Magistrate Baptiste-Dabreo, after listening to the prosecution’s arguments, told the Spanish-speaking accused – through an interpreter – that the matter is indictable, effectively meaning that it will be heard before a judge and jury in the High Court.
The magistrate also said the allegations are serious, adding that the accused should seriously consider obtaining legal representation.
“I do not believe that this matter is a matter you should handle on your own – not even at the paper committal stage,” Magistrate Baptiste-Dabreo told the alleged murderer, who maintained a calm demeanor throughout his first court appearance.
The magistrate, furthermore, outlined a number of reasons she has agreed with the DPP that the accused should not be granted bail.
In addition to the aforementioned factors mentioned by the DPP, the magistrate questioned the fact that the accused travelled to the Dominican Republic on the day Penn’s body was found.
“The court is not saying that he is guilty, but it (travel) gives the court cause,” Magistrate Baptiste-Dabreo further said.
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