Vandyke “Dez” King, 35, the ex-cop who murdered his girlfriend, Mickiesha Gumbs, 26, in the presence of her children in Park Hill, on March 7, 2020, attempted to take a cutlass from a villager, before using knives to stab her about the neck.
This is according to the facts presented by Justice Bryan Cottle, at a sentencing hearing at High Court No. 1, in Kingstown, on Monday.
After hearing the 40-minute plea of mitigation from defence counsel Duane Daniel, the judge adjourned the sentencing to Tuesday morning, saying he needed some time to consider Daniel’s submission.
Daniel waxed poetic and cited literature, mythology and theatre as he urged the court not to grant the prosecution’s request to increase the starting point of the sentence.
King faces a lifetime in prison, a notional sentence of 30 years, which could be adjusted upward or downward depending on what the court considers to be aggravating or mitigating features of the offence and the offender.
In light of his guilty plea, King could be granted up to a one-third discount on any sentence that the court hands down.
‘fatalistic attraction to this one woman’
“This is clearly a crime of passion,” Daniel told the court after presenting King’s version of what led to his crime.
The lawyer said the slaying should be distinguished from a “murder for profit” — those committed with a serious degree of planning and premeditation.
He said that King was engaged in a rage, possibly, as his mother, Silma King, put it, “because he loved too much” and had a “fatalistic attraction to this one woman, for whom, quite possibly, he loved dearly and did a lot”.
Daniel said he was not saying that because King loved Gumbs and did so much for her he should have expected that love to be returned or that he had a right to take her life.
He said his comments were intended to recognise that “there were certain circumstances, which were acknowledged, at least with the fairer sex, the woman, that it is possible to be, over a period time, psychological, and physically, and emotionally abused and that can lead to a state of mind which creates, not in the context of defence but in the context of mitigation, some form of diminished responsibility”.
He said his arguments go to the starting point that the court establishes when deciding on a sentence for his client.
The prosecution has suggested a starting sentence of 30 years, within a range of 20 to 40 years, and has suggested that the starting point be increased because of the aggravating features of the offence.
But Daniel noted that there was no attempt to conduct a psychiatric evaluation of his client until five days after the incident.
He said such an evaluation close to the time of the incident, might have assisted the court greatly.
He said that King was not justified or excused in doing what he did, but was he giving an explanation, in the same way that Victor Hugo, in his celebrated play, Les Misérables, attempted to show that one can commit a crime for which one is wrong, but there can be an explanation that is understandable.
“We are prepared for a love story, we are not always prepared for the unrequited love,” Daniel said, adding, “History, mythology, literature is rife with the great deeds and misdeeds that men have done in the name of love and when love is unrequited…
“This was a woman, who, quite clearly, he loved to distraction, and his inability to have that love returned was quite possible, within his own context, enough to launch a thousand ships,” he said, referring to Helen of Troy.
On June 27, King, an aviation security officer at Argyle International Airport, pleaded guilty to a charge that on March 7, 2020, at Park Hill, he murdered Gumbs.
In presenting the facts, the judge said that the two shared in a common law union that produced a child, who was one year old when Gumbs was killed. Gumbs also had two older children from a previous relationship.
King and Gumbs’ relationship was tumultuous and he would inflict violence on her in public, Justice Cottle said.
On March 7, 2020 at about 5 p.m., Gumbs left her home in company of her three children and other children. She had been to pick up her youngest child.
Around the same time, King was in the Park Hill area and asked a resident to lend him a cutlass.
The resident refused and King attempted to take the cutlass from the resident but was unsuccessful.
Gumbs was a short distance away and King approached and began to quarrel with her, and demanded to know whose vehicle she had been in earlier.
Gumbs and her 9-year-old daughter both told King that they had travelled by van and later got a ride from a car from Colonarie to Park Hill.
King was noticeably upset and left the scene and Gumbs and another woman and several children continued on their way.
Another Park Hill resident observed King with two knives on his way back to the scene and told Gumbs about this.
King approached Gumbs and her party with an object wrapped in a yellow rag in his hand.
Gumbs tried to flee but tripped and fell in a flower garden and the other woman ran away calling for help.
King leapt on her and stabbed her several times in the area of the neck, in the presence of her 9-year-old daughter and other children.
King then left the area.
Defendant ‘contextualises’ the circumstances of his actions
In his mitigation, Daniel read to the court an interview he said he had done with King in prison, which he said contextualises the circumstances of the murder.
In the interview, King said he grew up in Park Hill and attended Georgetown Secondary, where he was head prefect and graduated, aged 18, with passes in five subjects.
He then worked in construction for a year before enlisting in the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force at age 21.
He worked at the Georgetown Police Station and the Rapid Response Unit and was discharged in 2018, after serving for seven to eight years.
King did not disclose the circumstances that led to his discharge from the constabulary.
King said he was 28 or 29 years old when he met Gumbs but they grew up in the same village so he knew her.
He said that their relationship was not a violent one and he was surprised when he read this in statements related to the case.
King said he and Gumbs had a good relationship, but they later began to get into a lot of arguments “over different guys”.
King said that a couple of months before the incident, Gumbs was pregnant and had an abortion and told him, after the fact.
King said Gumbs said she had the abortion because she was not sure who was the father of the child but gave the names of four possible fathers, not including King.
The names included that of a man whom they had argued about before. He said there was no physical altercation when she told him about the abortion and he just left and went to his mother’s house.
He said Gumbs had not told him that she was pregnant but he suspected it because she was vomiting and after the abortion, she was not moving around as normal.
Gumbs and King were not living together and he used to be back and forth at her place on Sundays.
King said Gumbs used to leave their 2-year-old daughter, saying she had to work on the weekend, but he went to her workplace and they told him that was not the case so he got suspicious.
He said she used to work at a pre-school and used to do promotions at Coreas.
King said Gumbs stabbed him “a couple of times” including to his belly and right arm, but he never reported it to the police, but told his mother.
“She used to accuse me of cheating on her a lot,” King said, adding that even if he just went down the road, she would accuse him.
He said Gumbs told him that because he was running around, that is why she was cheating.
King said that between 9 and 10 a.m. on the day of the incident, Gumbs told him she was going to town to buy stuff.
She asked him to ask his mother to babysit their daughter, and his mother agreed.
Gumbs was taking one of her other daughters with her to Kingstown.
King was working the afternoon shift, from 1 to 10 p.m. at AIA and Gumbs left home before him but he met her at the gap and they caught the same van.
He got to work sometime before 1 p.m. and was at work sometime between 2 and 3 p.m. when Gumbs telephoned saying he should come home to supervise his daughter because she was going out.
King said his mother, who had agreed to hold the child when Gumbs initially went to Kingstown, said, “Town again?” when told that Gumbs was going back into the city.
“She was suspicious, the same like me why she wanted to leave all the time,” King said, adding that he did not tell his mother about his suspicions.
King said that when Gumbs called, she was in Kingstown, and did not want to say where she was going, so he hung up the phone.
Shortly after, he received another call saying Gumbs was with someone.
“I got a name of the person she was with. It was one of the four names she had mentioned. It was the same one that I had been suspicious of.”
‘It was just like I was tripping off’
King said he does not have a good memory of what happened after the call.
“It was just like I was chipping off. All I remember was storming out of the building.”
He said people asked him where he was going but he did not respond.
He got a ride to Park Hill but does not remember what time.
He went home but can’t recall taking anything with him, but remembers leaving home and going back down the road. He said he thinks that he changed his clothes. He got a ride back down the road but cannot recall where Gumbs was at the time.
King said he came out of the vehicle. He was not sure if he was looking for anybody.
The person that Gumbs was with is not from Park Hill, he said.
He met Gumbs walking on the road but could not recall if he said anything to her, but the next thing he remembers was being at the station.
King said he did not say any of these things when he spoke to the psychiatrist.
He said that when the psychiatrist asked him about the incident, he told her that he was comfortable speaking about it because he was still very emotional.
He said that the psychiatrist did not make another appointment to see him, but he would be willing to see the psychiatrist.
He said that Gumbs’ family has their daughter and the last thing he heard was that the child was in Barbados but he is not allowed any contact with her.
‘Love and loss are said to be baffling’
Meanwhile, Daniel told the court that the history of suppression, of being stabbed and not reporting it to police are hallmarks that the generation after him couch in terms of “a toxic relationship”.
He said that in this context, sometimes it is not recognised that sometimes one has to let go and sometimes one is not the recipient of the love that one gives.
“Love and loss are said to be baffling and it was quite possible in his rage that he did what he did, actuated, motivated by his love for the victim,” Daniel told the court.
“In essence, she became his femme fatale, so I therefore ask not to accede to the request of the prosecution to increase the starting point.”
Daniel argued that an increase in the starting point will not achieve the aims of sentencing, namely, retribution, deterrence, adding that if the crime did, as the prosecution has stated, occur in a jealous rage, the perpetrator has an absence of reason.
“In order for a higher sentence to be a deterrent, it has to be one that is acting in accordance with reason,” Daniel said.
He said the same applied to prevention and rehabilitation, adding that it is hard to assume that King would find himself in a similar situation where he becomes a recidivist.
“This is a lesson learnt the hard way that any prison sentence would likely correct,” he said, adding that the affidavits submitted to the court show that King’s actions are out of character.