Vesuvius-suspects remain silent on first court day

POSTED: 10/16/12 1:20 PM

St. Maarten – The Vesuvius-trial was off to a speedy start yesterday because six of the seven defendants mostly retained their right to remain silent when Judge mr. Rick Smid confronted them with the crimes they are accused off. This enabled the court to go through all accusations in one day instead of the two that were scheduled for it. On Thursday, prosecutors mrs. Gonda van der Wulp and Bart den Hartigh will present their case and formulate their demands. Next week Monday and Tuesday the attorneys will plead for their clients.

Security measures at the Belair Community Center were tight yesterday. According to police spokesman Inspector Ricardo Henson 30 officers were taken off their regular duties to secure the temporary courthouse.

The seven defendants were brought into the courtroom from the back of the building and they remained handcuffed until Judge Smid ordered them removed. Members of the arrest team stood guard over the suspects.

Chief Prosecutor mr. Hans Mos attended the morning session with staff of his office. The public tribune remained mostly empty, but in the morning Erno Labega was there to follow the procedures concerning his namesake son.

Omar J. and Carlos R. are accused of being involved in the murders of Hector Miguel Arrindell on May 25 of last year, Rodolfo Arrindell on July 7, and Eric Lake and Kevin Gumbs on August 17.
Ekran M. is accused of involvement in the Hector Arrindell murder and in a shooting that took place on April 20 near the (now former) Tan Tan supermarket in Dutch Quarter where Omar J. was reportedly out for revenge after the murder of his brother Amador Jones four days earlier. J. fired shots at the alleged killer, Omax Bye from St. Kitts, but his target escaped with his life because he was wearing a bullet proof vest and because J.’s weapon jammed. Kennedy Fergus, who was with Omax Bye that day, sustained a bullet wound to his leg.

Andrew D. denied his involvement with the gang. While his name is linked to the murders of Eric Lake and Kevin Gumbs, D. told the court that he was shopping at Le Grand Marché at that time, and that he has a receipt from the store to prove it.

D. later also denied the charge of weapons possession, saying that a bag containing them had been placed at his house by Omar J. and that he had urged him to no avail to take them away.

Carlos R. posted incriminating statements on his Facebook page on May 26, the day after the Hector Miguel Arrindell murder, but he refused to comment on them yesterday.

Yesterday, his Facebook page contained a picture taking off a receipt from St. Maarten Laboratory services accompanies by some expletives. The receipts prove that R. tested negative for HIV and chlamydia on July 21 of last year. Another picture on his page shows an icon with the text Stop snitching.

All seven defendants stand accused of firearm possession. Ekron M. and Erno L. denied the charge, Charles F., Carlos R., Omar J. and Doniel Th. opted to exercise their right to remain silent. Forensic evidence showed DNA-trace evidence matching the profile of Andrew D. on one pistol. A conversation between Erno L. and Charles F. caught on tape in a police car while they were detained in Aruba suggests L. talked about a gun he had hidden somewhere and that the police had not found it. “If they did not find it I did not have it,” L. said.

The seven defendants are furthermore accused of membership of a criminal organization of which prosecutors believe Omar J. was the leader. Only Andrew D. commented on this charge and he denied the existence of such an organization. According to the prosecution, the organization was involved in the drugs business, weapons possession, murder and car theft.

Carlos R.’s name came up in the Stanley Gumbs murder trial, when it appeared that the eventual killer, Devon Otto, had mistaken Gumbs for Carlos R. when he fatally shot him on March 31, 2008. According to the court, R. has a 2-year prison sentence to his name from 2009. Omar J. has a 2005-conviction for ill-treatment, while Doniel Th. has a string of brushes with the law to his name from 2006 to 2008 – amongst others for theft with the use of violence, armed robbery, burglary and making threats. Charles F. told the court that there are some convictions “for minor stuff” in his past without getting specific. Subcontractor Andrew D. and body mechanic Ekron M. have a clean record, while the status of barber Erno L. in this respect is unclear.

The prosecution will present the records of each defendant at a later moment during the trial.

While Ekron M. does not have a criminal record, prosecutor mr. Bart den Hartigh did find something odd in his personal circumstances. “You were building a house, were you not? It was quite a big house and I wonder how you financed that as a body mechanic.”

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