Four on trial for Maho manslaughter, armed robberies and burglaries

POSTED: 05/12/11 1:05 PM

Defendants tell unlikely stories about attack on Dutchman Romeijn

St. Maarten – The brother of manslaughter-victim Wouter-Jan Romeijn finally got to see three of the four suspects who were involved in the violent robbery on October 16 of last year in Maho that cost the Dutchman his life.  In the Court in First Instance, Romeijn followed the court proceedings about the crime against his sibling stone-faced.

He kept his eye on Alescio Elvio V. (21), Stevie Adolphus R. (24) and Julio Cesar E.V. (22). The man who got the blame for many of the crimes these defendants are accused of, was missing: Omar N., 20, aka Chucky, escaped from the Pointe Blanche prison on March 19.

The court spent the better part of the day to establish the facts of the long list of charges against the four defendants (Omar N. was tried in absentia). This morning prosecutor mr. M.L.P. Ridderbeks will formulate her demand and then the defense attorneys mr. G. Hatzmann and mr. Z.J. Bary will get the floor. Yesterday’s court sessions concluded shortly after five thirty.

Whatever the demand will be, it is clear that all defendants may count on serious sentence reductions, because of time they spent too long in a police cell. For every week, or part of a week defendants spend longer than ten days in a police cell, the court routinely grants a 1-month sentence reduction.

For Alescio V., who spent 82 days in a police cell, this means a sentence reduction of 11 months. For Julio Cesar E.-V., who spent 64 days at the police station, it means a sentence reduction of 8 months; Stevie R., spent 86 days at the police station and will also get an 11-month reduction.

The defendants stood accused of multiple burglaries in Guana Bay and Pointe Blanche, several armed robberies and car theft. But the charge that topped the list was the Maho-case.

Wouter-Jan Romeijn had visited a casino and was walking home that night when he encountered his robbers in Mullet Bay. From the myriad of questions Judge Keppels and prosecutor Ridderbeks posed to the defendants it appeared that initially Alescio V. and Stevie R. had approached Romeijn V. attacked the Dutchman with a “flying kick” that caused him to fall against their car, where Omar N. was waiting.

After the two robbed Romeijn of his credit cards and cell phone, the robbers drove off, only to return a little later when the thought hit them that they needed their victim’s pin code to access his bank accounts. They forced Romeijn into the trunk of their car.

But V. and R. maintained that Romeijn  had not put up any resistance and that it had been easy to put their victim in the trunk. They also claimed that he was drunk. But Romeijn was a sturdy man, measuring 1.90 meters, and nobody’s fool. He worked as a tent builder for Le Cirque du Soleil all over the world. He enjoyed a beer but according to his brother he never got drunk. That he would have let himself be stuffed in the trunk of a car without putting up a fight seems therefore highly unlikely, if not impossible.

The robbers managed to get Romeijn in the trunk anyway and then they drove off at high speed through Maho towards the French side. When they flew over a speed bump, the trunk popped open and Romeijn either jumped out, or he fell out of the car. The robbers fled the scene and went to Philipsburg where they made a failed attempt to withdraw money from Romeijn’s account: the Dutchman had given them a false PIN code.

Security cameras in Maho showed how the robbers sped with their car over the Friendly Island Boulevard, how the trunk popped open and how “something” fell out of the car. This happened at around two thirty in the morning on October 16. Witnesses who found Romeijn body stated that he was still alive at that moment, but by three o’clock he had passed away.

Initially the police thought that Romeijn  was the victim of a traffic accident, but the video footage ruled that out. “The victim’s clothing was clean, but there was a lot of blood on the back of his tee shirt,” Judge Keppels said.

A week after the robbery police found the car the robbers had used and that had been stolen during a violent robbery on the French side.  After the nabbed Omar N. and one of his partners in crime, Eddie Arrindell, the investigation got underway.

The autopsy showed that Romeijn had suffered a skull fracture without bruises. That type of injury fits better with a hard blow then with a fall from a driving vehicle, the report concluded.

Omar N. later told police that he had heard Stevie R. aka Scare, tell Romeijn  that he would kill him if he would not cooperate by getting into the car’s trunk. Prosecutor Keppels asked the defendants what had happened to the cars steering wheel lock. “Is that maybe the weapon you used to hit the victim?” she asked.

But the defendants denied knowing anything about the steering wheel lock; it was in the car when the vehicle was stolen, but after the robbery it has not been found.

The prelude to the Maho case was the violent theft of a Samsung SM3 car on the French side. Leading up to that crime, the defendants stole another car in French Cul de Sac. During the robbery of the Samsung, the defendants attacked the couple that drove the rental car, robbed the lady of her handbag, and injured her friend by hitting him on the head. When the manager of the apartment building came outside with a baseball bat after hearing the commotion, Omar N. fired a few shots in his direction that only did not hit their target because there was another car between the shooter and the apartment building manager.

The defendants kept putting most of the blame on the absent Omar N. Quizzed about other charges, like the robbery against a pizza deliveryman in Dutch Quarter, burglaries in Pointe Blanche and Guana Bay, and robbing a scooter from a boy in Dutch Quarter, the three defendants seemed to be suffering from collective memory-loss, and otherwise they simply went into denial.

Quite some of the crimes took place after the death of Wouter-Jan Romeijn. Prosecutor Ridderbeks asked the defendants why they continued with their criminal activities after Romeijn’s death. Alescio V. mumbled, “I had a lot of things to take care of,” meaning that he had bills to pay, and “I did not know what to do.”

“I cannot understand that way of thinking,” Ridderbeks snapped.

The four defendants are also charged with membership of a criminal organization.

When she went through the defendant’s personal circumstances, Judge Keppels remarked that Omar N. had been in custody since October 22 of last year. “But according to the papers this is no longer the case,” she said.

The trial continues this morning at nine o’clock with prosecutor Ridderbeks’ demand.


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