Prosecution demands 15 years for 2008 hairdresser stabbingPOSTED: 02/11/11 11:54 AM
St. Maarten – Fifteen years in prison or free to go? For the next three weeks, that’s the question that will occupy the mind of Calniff M.C.W., 34, who stood trial yesterday for the manslaughter on Basilio Bruno, better known as hairdresser Eddy, on December 21, 2008. On March 2, Judge Mr. M. Keppels will pronounce her verdict in the case. The prosecution demands fifteen years, the defense has pleaded acquittal for lack of motive and convincing evidence.
The defendant arrived from Canada on the island towards the end of November 2008. He says that he met the victim, and started talking with him about a job. In the meantime, he made plans to return to Canada before Christmas.
But on that fateful day in December 2008, four days before Christmas, Bruno was brutally slaughtered, as prosecutor Mr. M.L.P. Keppels expressed it in court. The killer stabbed the man she described as a friendly, generous and hardworking hairdresser eighteen times in his home at the Manzanillasteeg in Philipsburg.
Calniff W. denied the charges. “Murdering someone is not in my character,” he told the court.
But prosecutor Ridderbeks linked two phone calls the defendant made to the victim on the day of the murder – minutes apart. Witnesses heard Bruno say that he would be home soon – giving the impression that someone was waiting for him at home. The last phone call between the defendant and the victim was recorded at 17.44; the report about the stabbing reached central dispatch at 17.55.
In between, witnesses saw Bruno stumble out of his house bleeding profusely. Shortly afterwards several witnesses saw a man flee the victim’s home via Cannegieterstreet towards Longwall Road. The witnesses described clothing and characteristics that fit the defendant, though later witnesses failed to recognize him in a photo-line-up.
Ridderbeks said this was due to the defendant’s changed hairstyle and the fact that a longtime had elapsed between the day of the stabbing and the confrontation.
The prosecutor said that she had not been able to establish a motive for the brutal murder, but that there is enough evidence in the case file that points to the defendant as the killer. There was, for instance, a statement from the girlfriend of W.’s cousin – at whose house he was staying – that the defendant had come running home shortly after the time of the stabbing.
“He left his shoes outside and dumped all his clothes, including his cell phone, in a bucket of water and went to take a shower,” Ridderbeks learned from that statement.
W. also sold some jewelry on the night of the murder. A few days after Christmas, he took a flight back to Canada, where he was initially arrested upon arrival, because his fingerprint did not match the identity displayed on his real passport. Ridderbeks said that the defendant had been living in Canada for years under a different name.
The Canadian authorities released him, only to re-arrest him on April 9th. It took until December 10th before there was an order to extradite him to St. Maarten, where he arrived on March 20th, 2010. In Canada, W. had a police record for sexual assault with a weapon, robbery and theft.
Ridderbeks said that there was enough evidence to convict the defendant. “But is it murder or manslaughter? The lack of a motive makes this a complicated question. The defendant was waiting for the victim at his home and he killed him with a large number of knife stabs. Bruno was no match for so much aggression and violence.”
The prosecutor said that it is not plausible that there was a fight that went out of control, given the short time between the last phone call and the report to central dispatch. She asked the court to acquit W. of the murder charge and to sentence him to 15 years for manslaughter.
Defense attorney Mr. G. Hatzmann admitted that things did not look good for his client, but that there is still reasonable doubt about his guilt. “He called the victim a couple of times shortly before his death, someone saw him running home and reported that he started washing his clothes, and he allegedly sold jewelry that belonged to the victim. He also appeared to have left St. Maarten in a hurry.”
But Hatzmann said that, though his client seems to be “the ideal suspect,” there are other explanations that put the defendant in a different light. He contested the recognition of the jewelry by a witness who claimed that a ring had belonged to the victim. “Two other witnesses have seen my client a couple of weeks after his arrival with a gold chain and rings. That takes away the motive for robbery. If there is no motive, it weakens the status of my client as a suspect.”
Hatzmann also pointed out that his client had made plans to return to Canada already shortly after his arrival, and that witnesses failed to recognize him in the photo confrontation. “That leaves the statement by his cousin’s girlfriend, but that can only be used as supporting evidence. She did not see blood on the clothes that he started washing. This is not a hard story; there is room for the benefit of the doubt. I ask the court for acquittal.”
Given the last word before Judge Keppels closed the investigation, the defendant told the court, “I know where Bruno’s shop was but I did not even know where he lived. I know I did not kill anybody.”