Prosecution demands 14 years against two suspects – Mega drug deal behind Gaston Gumbs murder

POSTED: 07/5/13 11:43 AM

Stevenson Pinder

Stevenson P. enters the courthouse for the Gaston Gumbs murder trial. Photo Today / Leo Brown

St. Maarten – The prosecution demanded yesterday 14 years of imprisonment against Stevenson P. and the escaped suspect Sobiesky Parrondo for the November 10, 2012 murder on Gaston Ambroise Gumbs. The Court in First Instance will pronounce its verdict on July 24.

The trial lasted four hours flat yesterday and that was in part because Parrondo did not appear in court. Judge Tamara Tijhuis took the other defendant, 39-year-old Stevenson P. through a thorough review of the way he had spent his day on November 10. If the defendant is to be believed he hopped around the island from French Quarter to the Casablanca brothel, Philipsburg, Arch Road, Middle Region, back to French Quarter and then on to Marigot and Sandy Ground before returning to the barbershop near the roundabout in Dutch Quarter.

In the morning, the defendant met with Gaston Gumbs in French Quarter. The later victim asked P. how he could get “some drugs” and the defendant reportedly told him that he did not know.

Every time Judge Tijhuis pressed the defendant for details about whom he met on his trek around the island and what the phone conversations were about he P.’s answers were evasive or vague at best. He used expressions a lot like “to be honest,” “I don’t remember exactly” and “I know for sure.” In the end he knew one thing for certain: “I am not a drug dealer.”

But when prosecutor Gonda van der Wulp laid out her case before the court, a different picture emerged.

On the evening of Saturday, November 10, the fire brigade received a report about a fire in Hope Estate around 10.47 p.m. Firefighters found a body in the flames, that later on, based on fingerprint evidence, turned out to be Gaston Gumbs. The next morning at 8 a.m. the victim’s son Maradona filed a missing persons report. He told police that his father was meeting two people near Guana Bay but that he had not returned from this meeting.

An autopsy revealed that Gumbs had been seriously ill-treated and that he had lost a lot of blood. He was killed with two shots to the neck with a semi-automatic 9 mm pistol, probably a Glock.

“This case has been solved due to excellent detective work by the local police force,” Van der Wulp said. “It was a tough case that was tackled by a small but determined team.”

The team cooperated with the French gendarmerie and the French prosecutor’s office.

The prosecutor said that financial trouble was the motive for the murder. Gumbs, aka Brasi, sought contact with Stevenson P. for a drug deal involving 25 kilos of cocaine at $8,500 a kilo. Stevenson P. later stated to the police that he told Gumbs he did not have that kind of drugs.

Later in the day, the defendant involved Sobiesky P. in his scheme: he was to tell Gumbs that he had the drugs but that the deal had to go down on the Dutch side.

Maradona Gumbs told the police that his father had loaned his car to Stevenson P. – reason why he had driven his father to Sucker Garden. Video footage obtained from the cigar Lounge (at the corner of the Guana Bay Road and the Sucker Garden Road – shows Gumbs sitting on a wall that evening. One of the witnesses that saw him there was none other than former Minister of Economic Affairs Franklin Meyers. When Gumbs did not return home Maradona went to his father’s house and searched it, according to the prosecutor. What he found was a black bag full of money. According to Sobiesky Parrondo’s attorney Geert Hatzmann he later gave that bag to three men who came to the house.

The Criminal Intelligence Department provided investigators with a vital clue: it identified the “Steve” with whom Gumbs had been involved on the day of his disappearance as “Stevenson P., born January 19 in Dominica.” When detectives searched Facebook for Stevenson P. they found a business card on his page of a company called Witco. The phone number matched a number Gumbs contacted in the last phone call of his life on November 10 at 7.32 p.m. This led investigators to Stevenson P. as a suspect in the murder.

The prosecution also holds that both suspects were near the murder scene because both their phones sent signals to the same transmission mast in that vicinity. Both suspects have declared that they never lend their phones to others, but they have also denied being at the crime scene. The prosecution considers these latter statements incorrect.

The two suspects arrived around ten o’clock at the DP gas station in Dutch Quarter where Parrondo bought cigarettes and a lighter. Parrondo told investigators he did this at P.’s request, but both suspects are non-smokers.

When the men later traveled to Galis Bay to burn down Gumbs’ car, Stevenson P. reportedly told Parrondo: “If you talk about this with anyone I will know and something bad will happen to your family.”

The prosecution furthermore established, based on statements from Stevenson P. that this suspect had been robbed of 2 kilos of cocaine. “This cocaine possibly belonged to Angelo Blijden, a man from Curacao,” prosecutor van der Wulp said. “In the weeks prior to the Gumbs murder Blijden has put Stevenson P, under pressure to make up for the loss of the cocaine.” On his Facebook-page, Stevenson P. lists Willemstad as his place of residence.

The suspects did not give any insight to investigators in the roles they have played in the crime, though it seems clear that Parrondo made the agreement for the delivery of 25 kilos of cocaine with the victim.

“It may be so that the victim was not such a darling, but nobody deserves to be killed this way,” the prosecutor concluded.

Attorney Shaira Bommel told the court that her client denies he is involved in the murder in any way. “He says he has not been near Gumbs that evening. The witness-statements do not match. Everybody has a different story.”

The attorney said that the victim’s son Maradona “has quite a lot to explain” and that he knows more than he pretends. She added that it is odd that the son went to his father’s house when he did not return and that he “gave the bag with money he found to three men that stood in front of the house.” mr. Bommel also asked the court to exclude a statement from an anonymous caller from evidence because it is not possible to establish the reliability of these statements. She also contested the reliability of statements made by her client’s absent co-defendant. “The information that has been presented to the court is full of uncertainties. I contest that there is proof and I ask the court to acquit my client.”

Parrondo’s attorney Geert Hatzmann however, noted that the presentation made by the public prosecutor was “mostly correct.” He pointed out that his client did not have a single role in the drug deal with Brasi. “What has been established is that they have set fire to the body together, but there is no premeditation. They did this only two hours afterwards. I think the situation escalated beyond their control and that they panicked. That is manslaughter, not murder, and my client is not an accomplice.”

mr. Hatzmann asked the court for an acquittal of the murder or manslaughter charge. “There is proof for burning the body and for firearm possession, two years is enough for that.”

Prosecutor Van der Wulp responded that Parrondo had not given any insight in the role both men had played and that she therefore sticks to considering him as an accomplice.

In his last word, Stevenson P. – a father of eleven children with six different mothers – told the court that he did not kill Gumbs and that he did not have a gun either.

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