Valentine’s Day Murder Trial
On the morning of Saturday February 14, 2009, Saint Lucia recorded the homicide of a young man, Dwayne Hazel James, aka Chubby, of Maynard Hill Marchand. That same day Jonathan St. Rose, popularly known as Ninja Dan, a local celebrity, was detained for questioning in relation to the death.
The following week, two other men Lyndenn Blasse and Marvin Terry Nelson were also arrested in connection with the February 14 incident.The three were later charge with the death of James.
James died from multiple stab wounds. An autopsy revealed he had suffered several stab wounds, one of which had punctured his lungs. The accused were denied bail. Last December a trial date was set for February 2, 2015.
On Monday five men and nine women were selected as the jury. The actual trial got underway the following day at the Castries High Court. The crowd outside the courthouse was sparse; a far cry from the circus and mayhem that had ensued when the three first appeared in court six years ago. On Tuesday, St. Rose wore a black shirt and jeans with his dreadlocks wrapped around his head, like a turban. Blasse, now also sporting dreadlocks, wore a blue and white plaid shirt. Also dreadlocked, Nelson wore a green shirt.
The case got underway shortly before noon on Tuesday with the wooden benches remaining by and large empty save for about half a dozen family members.
Representing the crown was the Director of Public Prosecutions Victoria Charles Clarke. The defendants St. Rose, Blasse and Nelson were represented by Dasdean Green, Leslie Mondesir and Andy George respectively. Justice Francis Cumberbatch presided.
The first witness was the victim’s mother. She testified to having identified her son’s body on the morning of February 14, 2009. She acknowledged her presence at her son’s autopsy. The next witness described himself as a close friend of the deceased; they partied regularly together. He testified that on the night in question he had spoken with James, who was with a female, at the Late Train Bar at Marchand in Castries. Under cross-examination he said he had no idea of James’ relation with his female companion, although he had often seen them together. He could not recall what the deceased wore on the night of February 14, 2009.
Two first respondents from the Saint Lucia Fire Service also gave evidence Tuesday. The first had received a call about an incident at Maynard Hill, Marchand shortly after 2 am. Upon arrival, he told the court, he saw James slouched over in a chair with blood all around him. He was unresponsive, showing no vital signs.
Day one of the trial concluded with the DPP calling pathologist Stephen King. He confirmed that he had conducted an autopsy on Dwayne James and proceeded to read from his notes what he had observed during the autopsy. He spoke of wounds to the victim’s legs and thighs with one intrusion having severed a vein, causing much loss of blood. According to King there were also wounds to the upper buttocks and upper right back—a wound he testified had punctured James’ lung. He said a sharp object had caused the wounds.
On Wednesday, police officer Lamontagne testified that he and St. Rose were friends; St. Rose was his wife’s cousin. The witness recalled that on the morning of the incident he was parked outside the home of Marvin Nelson, with whom he was familiar. He described Nelson as an introvert whose grandmother was like a mother to the witness.
Lamontagne testified that at about 1:30 am he received a call from St. Rose who said his child’s mother had requested his assistance as someone was beating her. The witness testified that he had detected a sense of urgency in the voice of St. Rose who said he was on his way to Maynard Hill where the mother of his child lived. St. Rose also told the officer his son had seen what had happened.
The witness testified that he drove to Maynard Hill from Sans Soucis, a ten to fifteen minute drive. At Maynard Hill he saw St. Rose and Marvin Nelson seated on a step near the roadside. St. Rose approached him and repeated his earlier statement, that a man had his child’s mother in her house, but by the time St. Rose arrived at the scene the attacker had fled. He said a group of men from the area had chased after him.
The witness went on to explain that St. Rose accompanied him to the balcony of a house and introduced him to a woman who confirmed that while she was in the house a man she knew had entered and started beating her. The officer said he tried to further question the woman but she would not answer. He noticed she was trembling. He said he then advised her and also St. Rose to make a report.
Upon leaving the scene, the officer testified, he came into contact with officer Cools of the SSU who told him he was responding to a call about an incident down the road. He told the court he had heard Cools speaking to St. Rose, and heard the sound of an ambulance. The vehicle eventually stopped behind his vehicle.
Soon after the witness entered his own vehicle and drove off. He said he called St. Rose to remind him to make a report. Later that morning he said he had another phone conversation with St. Rose who indicated that the man who had attacked his child’s mother had “died down the road.”
The witness said he asked St. Rose whether he was sure that he did not hit the man. St. Rose said he had not.
Following the lunch adjournment that day Officer Cools was called to the witness stand. He testified that he knew St. Rose, having provided security for him at events.
Under cross-examination Corporal Cools recalled the morning of February 14, 2009 when he received the call about an incident at Maynard Hill. Upon arrival he said he spoke to St. Rose. The witness denied speaking to Officer Lamontagne at the scene. He was asked whether he had made a written statement on the day in question. He said he had not. He was then shown a statement, written October, that bore his name. The witness acknowledged it was his signature. There was a back and forth between the DPP and the defense team during the testimony of this particular witness, at which point the court was cleared.
One final witness was called before the matter was adjourned shortly before 5 pm on that day. The trial continues on Monday.
The trial of Johnathan St. Rose, Lyndenn Blasse and Marvin Terry Nelson into the death of Dwayne Hazel James commenced in the High Court here on Monday.