Demand 18 years against Son Latino murder suspect

POSTED: 10/10/13 12:12 PM

St. Maarten – The prosecution demanded 18 years imprisonment against 34-year-old Rodriguez W. yesterday for his involvement in the murders of Miquel Torres Cleman and Antoine McKinzie Whit on December 9 of last year near the Son Latino nightclub on Illidge Road. The defendant’s attorney  Shaira Bommel asked the court to acquit her client. The court renders its verdict on October 30.

According to statements made by prosecutor Tineke Kamps in court yesterday it appears that Whit was schizophrenic and that Cleman was mentally handicapped due to a fall from a staircase when he was just two years old.

“It appears that Whit (25) got an argument with the wrong people,” the prosecutor said. “Cleman (21) was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. He had nothing to do with the fight and was completely innocent.”

Both victims had gone on the evening of Saturday, December 8 of last year to the nightclub to watch a performance by Chimbala. In the club was a group of “Spanish men” from La Savanne and Grand Case on the French side. After Chimbala’s performance a fight broke out and shots were fired outside the club.

After the shooting, a white car drove off at high speed towards the French side of the island. Rodriguez W. was the driver of this car. He reported a day later to the police to make a statement but he was arrested as a suspect and has been detained ever since.

The defendant claimed his innocence in court, saying that he was about to drive home when the shooter forced his way into his car and forced him to drive towards the French side. While several witnesses stated that they had seen the defendant brandishing a firearm, W. denied this,

“I just drove to Grand Case. I did not ask any questions because I did not want to get shot,” he told the court. His passengers forced him to stop at the Cadisco gas station in Mont Vernon where they all left the car.

A 23-year-old witness who came to court to testify on behalf of the defense, said that he had been forced to step into the defendant’s car by a man who pointed a weapon at him and that he had been hit on his head with the gun when he entered the car. The witness also said that he had not seen that the defendant had a weapon.

In his fourth statement to the police however, W. confessed that he had had a weapon that night. Confronted with this statement by Judge Koos van de Veen, W. denied he had ever said this. He also denied that the initials placed on the statement were his. The court considered an adjournment of the case to hear the officers who wrote the statement, but later reconsidered and said that, if necessary, he could still decide to hear the officers.

In his fourth interrogation, W. stated according to prosecutor Kamps that he had lied in his previous statements, “because he feared for his life and that of his family members.” He also said that he had picked up a firearm from his car at the request of a man called Primo – the likely shooter – and that he had given the weapon to this man.

Whit was shot sitting in his car, while Cleman was beaten to death with the butt of a gun. The murder weapon has not been found by investigators.

Prosecutor Kamps concluded that W. was part of the group of “Spanish men” that were in Son Latino at the Chimbali concert, that he participated in the fight, that he had handled a firearm and that he had driven the getaway car. Two passengers in the car were ill-treated during their flight, because they had not contributed sufficiently to the fight.

The prosecution charged W. with two counts of complicity to murder and demanded 18 years of imprisonment.

Attorney Shaira Bommel noted that her client had reported voluntarily to the police station to make a statement. “Since that time the investigation has focused solely on my client.”

Bommel said that there are around thirty witness statements in the case file and that they all tell a different story. Among the witnesses are two off-duty police officers. “It is impossible to say that my client was involved any way in the death of the two victims. There is no legal and convincing evidence,” Bommel said.

She asked the court not only to acquit her client, but also to suspend or terminate his pretrial detention. Judge Van de Ven rejected both requests, citing serious objections.

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