Tuesday 7 July, 2020

SIBLING TRAGEDIES: Brothers, sisters in the realm of disasters locally

Over the years, some Jamaican households have experienced overwhelming tragedies among its members, ranging from siblings murdering each other, being murderously attacked together, siblings dying as a result of injuries sustained together in motor vehicle crashes, and some being allegedly caught in major criminal activities together.

Overtime, these tragedies have tended to rip apart the very fabric of love that build family structures, and create painful scars that last perhaps a lifetime.

Several such family members have used grief counselling and their religious faith as avenues to minimise the heartaches, disappointment, disbelief and sadness they experience from these situations. But for some, the developments are simply too tragic to be forgotten.

The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) has reported on several tragic cases in which siblings have featured at the heart of the matters, which have left citizens heartbroken and stupefied.

The act of killing one's own sister is known as sororicide, while fratricide is the act of a person killing his or her brother.

According to studies, there have been a number of examples of sororicide and fratricide in adolescents, even pre-adolescents, where sibling rivalry and the resulting physical aggression can get out of hand and lead to the death of one of them, particularly when a potent weapon is available or one of the siblings is significantly older than the other and misjudges his or her own strength.

In Jamaica, the police have reported on several instances of siblings violently turning against each other, which ended in tragedies. One of the recent cases of fratricide occurred earlier this month when 55-year-old Michael Crooks of Fair Close in Spanish Town, St Catherine was reportedly killed by his brother during a dispute.

The details of the incident remain sketchy, but preliminary reports indicated that the brothers were in their community when they had an argument, which escalated into a fight. A single knife was allegedly used by both brothers to inflict wounds to each other.

The siblings were later found on a roadway, and were assisted to a hospital, where Crooks died. The police have since launched a probe into that incident.

 Last month while the island was at the heights of the COVID-19 fight, a Clarendon family had the challenge of copping with a reported case of fratricide after a man allegedly shot and killed his brother at their home in May Pen, Clarendon.

To date, the police have not detailed the perceived motive behind the shocking killing.

The accused, 24-year-old Romario Jones, alias ‘Davi’, of Canaan Heights in May Pen, is charged with the murder of 25-year-old Nicholas Jones of the same address.

The police also charged the accused with illegal possession of firearm and illegal possession of ammunition.

According to reports, on Saturday, April 18 at about 12.15 pm, both brothers were at home when explosions were heard. The police were summoned and Nicholas was seen with a gunshot wound to his upper body. He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

That killing which was reported on by Loop News, pricked the emotions of several social media users who were left in a state of disbelief.

"This is really, really sad. Brother killing brother. End of times," one social media user commented.

On March 25 this year, a man believed to be mentally challenged, Alton Shippy, alias 'Doctor', reportedly killed his older brother, 57-year-old farmer, Dalton Shippy, in their quiet rural community of Success in Hanover.

The killing sent shock waves throughout the community as residents there said the accused killer was not known to be a troublemaker.

Both brothers lived in a small household.

Reports from the Lucea police were that about 10am, residents overheard an uproar at the house which was occupied by both siblings, and went to the location. On their arrival, the older brother was seen lying in a pool of blood with his head bashed in, while his younger brother, Alton, was seen with a blood-stained sledgehammer.

The wounded man was pronounced dead at hospital, and Alton was arrested and charged.

In another fratricide that grabbed national attention, 33-year-old Kevin McLeod allegedly chopped his brother, 28-year-old Dale Hylton, after accusing him of sexually molesting his goats in Croatia Mountain in Roehamption, St James on September 18, 2019.

The Anchovy police reported that about 8.30 am, both brothers, who resided in separate houses, got involved in an argument. Family members intervened, but the argument continued. McLeod then reportedly went for a machete, which he used to chop Hylton in the neck, resulting in him dying on the spot.

The machete... so often the choice of material to settle disputes.

McLeod, who was also facing a charge of illegal possession of firearm at the time, initially fled the scene, but subsequently turned himself over to the police. He was additionally slapped with a murder charge.

And the cases involving brothers maiming their brothers over relatively simple disagreements have been further reported throughout the years. For example, a St Andrew farmer, 65-year-old Paul Williams, was charged with killing his brother, 61-year-old Noel Williams, who had accused him of cooking a piece of pork at their Corporate Area home on August 2, 2015. Following a daytime argument between the two brothers over the pork, Paul reportedly returned in the night and used a piece of board to hit his brother several times, resulting in him dying on the spot.

The police have also reported on cases of sisters killing sisters (sororicide).

In one of the more recent cases that occurred in Trelawny, 23-year-old Osheen Crawford allegedly killed her 19-year-old sister, Kimberley Crawford, during a dispute.

Allegations are that about 9am on Saturday, February 3, 2018, the elder sister and her sibling got into an argument that escalated into a fight. The younger sister allegedly smashed a mirror and used a piece of the shattered glass to attack her sister. A knife was subsequently brought into play, which was used to stab the 19-year-old in the neck. She was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

The elder sister, who initially fled the scene, reportedly went to a clergyman who handed her over to the Ulster Spring police.

Osheen pleaded guilty to her sister's murder later that year, and was subsequently sentenced, but it is unclear what sentence was handed down.

Four years prior, Susan Smith, a 38-year-old labourer of Portmore, St Catherine, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in relation to the killing of her sister, 32-year-old Stacey-Ann Smith, on February 6, 2012.

While it is unclear what sentence she received, the police alleged in relation to the incident, that residents smelt a foul order coming from Smith's Portsmouth home in Portmore, which she suggested was caused by dead rats.

But residents did not buy into that story, and the police were subsequently alerted.

On their arrival, law enforcers found the body of Stacey-Ann Smith in a shallow grave in an unfinished section of the house which she shared with her sister.

A motive for the killing had not been revealed, but the deceased woman had shortly before returned from the Cayman Islands. Investigators said that based on statements the convict gave, she and her sister were engaged in an argument when she used a blunt object to hit Stacey-Ann to the head, killing her on spot. She was then buried in the shallow grave by her sister.

While the cases of sibling killings are evident, brothers and sisters have also been the victims of deadly murders in Jamaica.

One such killing that brought the nation to tears and outrage was the murder of three siblings in the rural St Mary community of Killoncholly. On the night of January 27, 2005, Jeffrey Perry climbed through a window and mercilessly stabbed to death 15-year-old Dwayne Davidson and his sisters, 13-year-old Sue Ann Gordon and four-year-old Shadice Williams, while they slept.

Perry said that voices told him to kill his cousin's children, who were among four youngsters who were left at home while their mother attended church. The fourth child escaped unhurt.

The killings sent shockwaves throughout the country at the time. In a release issued shortly after the heinous act, then Prime Minister, PJ Patterson, described the development as a "tragedy of unspeakable proportion".

He added that "The killings of Sue-Ann, Dwayne and four-year old Shanice in Killoncholly, St Mary is a stark reminder that there are those in our midst who have resorted to the highest levels of brutality. It is a tragedy of unspeakable proportion," the statement from Patterson said.

"This is not an isolated incident and follows on what is becoming a trend of vicious attacks against our nation’s children. I warn again that no country can tolerate this level of violence that is being perpetrated against its people, including our women and the elderly," Patterson further said, adding his condolences to the parents on their tragic loss.

Perry was convicted of the murders of the three siblings in 2008, and was initially sentenced to the death penalty. However, the Court of Appeal later quashed the sentence and instead sentenced Perry to life imprisonment. The Appeal Court ordered that he should serve 45 years behind bars before becoming eligible for parole consideration.

At the appeal hearing, Perry's attorney, Ravi Golding, asked for 42 years, claiming that his client was mentally unstable when he killed the three children. 

Golding argued that the murders were brutal, but said they were not premeditated.

According to the attorney, the psychiatric report that was submitted at the trial showed that Perry suffered from obsessive compulsive disorder. Additionally, he said Perry had impulses and urges which were difficult to control, and this led him to kill the children. 

Other murders of siblings in Jamaica have been recorded during last decade. In 2016, for example, two brothers, 67-year-old farmer, Desmond McKenzie, and 50-year-old mechanic, Cecil McKenzie, otherwise called ‘Dean’, were chopped to death by their nephew in Pennants, Clarendon.

It was alleged that on the day of the incident, the nephew removed furniture from a family house. While he was in the process of driving out with the items, his uncles and two other family members drove up in a car. The men reportedly alighted from the car and attacked the nephew, who retaliated by chopping them with a machete. The uncles were later pronounced dead at the Chapelton Hospital.

The nephew was subsequently apprehended and charged in relation to the deaths.

On Sunday, June 9, 2019, the nation was rocked by the execution-style killing of two sisters by gunmen at their home on Keats Avenue in Duhaney Park, St Andrew.

The deceased were identified as 33-year-old Salami Plumber, a teacher employed to Inswood High School in St Catherine, and 35-year-old Simona Plumber, a recruiter of an employment agency in Kingston.

It was reported that the sisters were at home when men posing as workmen for a utility company entered the house. The sisters were then shot several times, and were pronounced dead at hospital.

Jamaican siblings have also tragically died from severe injuries which they sustained in motor vehicle crashes on the nation's roadways, resulting in severe emotional trauma for their families.

One such incident occurred on Tuesday, March 24 this year, when brothers, 30-year-old bus driver, Adrian Williams, and 29-year-old security guard, Orlando Williams, alias 'Lando', died as a result of injuries they sustained when a motorcycle on which they were travelling, collided with a motorcar along the Golden Grove to Hordley main road in St Thomas.

(From left) Adrian and Orlando Williams

Both brothers were from Wheelersfield in the parish.

Reports were that sometime after 8pm, Adrian was driving the motorcycle towards Golden Grove with his brother as a pillion passenger.

On reaching a section of the roadway, the driver lost control of the motorcycle, which collided with a Toyota Rav 4 SUV that was travelling in the opposite direction.

The Williams brothers who received multiple injuries, died at the scene, while the driver of the SUV was assisted to a hospital, where he was treated.

Similarly, two Portland brothers were among four men who died in a motor vehicle crash on the Hague main road in Trelawny on Sunday, January 19.

The four deceased were identified as brothers Omar and Omroy Russell, 23-year-old Dayton McLeary, and 22-year-old Everton James, all of Portland addresses.

Anika Walters, a 39-year-old single mother of six from London, Ontario in Canada, was the lone survivor of the crash, but she sustained multiple injuries. She was able to return home to Canada for treatment after receiving monetary assistance to defray he medical expenses, including rehabilitation.

Walters who was on her way to the Sangster International Airport (SIA) in Montego Bay, and the Russell brothers, were among five persons travelling in a Nissan March motorcar when it collided with an Island Route tour bus.

Indications are that shortly after 10am, the motorcar was heading towards Montego Bay when the driver overtook a line of traffic and collided with the bus which was being driven in the opposite direction.

The five occupants of the car and the bus driver sustained injuries. Three of the injured men travelling in the car died on the spot, while the other man later died at a hospital.

In the neigbouring parish of St Ann, two sisters were among four people who died as a result of injuries they sustained in a collision on the Queen’s Highway outside Discovery Bay on Monday, December 23 last year.

The deceased were sisters, Lekeshia and Neka Harris, and 36-year-old Wendy McKain, all of Steer Town in St Ann, and 39-year-old Andre Bogle of Lucea, Hanover.

All three women died on the day of the crash, while Bogle, who was the driver of the ill-fated car, died at hospital the following day while being treated.

Reports are that about 5pm, the four persons were travelling in a Nissan Sunny motorcar heading towards Runaway Bay, when Bogle attempted to overtake another vehicle. The Sunny motorcar then reportedly collided with a Land Rover that was being driven in the opposite direction.

The police were alerted and the four persons in the Sunny were taken to a hospital, where the three females were pronounced dead and Bogle was admitted, but later died.

But amid siblings being the victims of murders by their own, or at the hands of hoodlums, and unfortunate victims of road crashes, some have figured on the wrong side of the law and being numbered as conspirators behind major criminal acts.

For example, siblings Jamelia and Javone Leslie, who pleaded guilty to the gruesome murder of a woman and her two young children in Mavis Bank, St Andrew in July of 2018, were sentenced to a total of 88 years in prison last year.

According to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP), the siblings were sentenced on May 31 to 36 years for the murder of Kasheif Jackson; 21 years for the murder of Jackson’s two-year-old child, Aviere Williams; 21 years for the murder of seven-day-old Aranza Williams; and 10 years for arson.

The sentences are to run concurrently, the ODPP further reported.

Additionally, Supreme Court Judge, Justice Lorna Shelly Williams, remarked at the sentencing hearing that the case was one of the worst that she had seen, the ODPP added.

Allegations were that on July 18, 2018, at about 10.15 am, Jackson and her two children were found dead inside their home, covered with evidence of burning and soot. There was no sign of forced entry to the house.

A post-mortem examination revealed that the deceased woman received several stab wounds to the face, chest, abdomen, arms and neck. The causes of her death was established to have been wounds inflicted to the neck and smoke inhalation.

The cause of the deaths of the two deceased’s children was determined to be smoke inhalation, added the ODPP.

At the time of the murders, Jamelia Leslie was a 27-year-old quality control inspector and mother to a four-year-old child, while the woman she conspired with her brother to kill was a 29-year-old mother of four.

The two children who died and the now convicted woman’s child shared the same father, Arnel Williams, prosecutors revealed.

Both Jamelia Leslie and Jackson were in intimate relationships with Williams, a 42-year-old farmer, up to the time of the incident.

Williams, in his statement, admitted that he knew about threats from Leslie to Jackson, and also jealousy. He also stated that Leslie was financially supporting him and the children he shared with Jackson.

The police, acting on intelligence, conducted an operation in the Guava Ridge, Mavis Bank community in St Andrew, where the siblings were picked up at their home. During a search of Javone Leslie’s room, the police found a lime green T-shirt with what appeared to be blood stains and two knives.

In another case, two brothers benefited from scientific evidence that cleared them of involvement after they were implicated in the rape of five females, including an eight-year-old girl, in Irwin Point, St James.

According to the police, about 10.34 pm on September 24, 2012, two armed men entered the victims’ house in the Irwin Point community, and took the five female occupants to nearby bushes and raped them at gunpoint.

Four of the five victims were later treated at a medical facility, while the eight-year-old underwent emergency surgery.

The incident drew widespread condemnation across the island, and the brothers were jointly charged with burglary, robbery with aggravation, illegal possession of firearm, abduction, assault at common law, rape and grievous sexual assault. Additionally, one of the accused was charged with buggery and sexual touching.

But the brothers denied ever being at the scene of the crime and in 2013, they were exonerated by DNA evidence which did not link them to the rape of the women. They were subsequently freed of all the charges against them.

The police went on to charge another individual, Patrick Green, for the rape of the women, and after pleading guilty, he was sentenced to 40 years in prison when he appeared in the Western Regional Gun Court in March of 2015.

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