A 27-year-old woman has been jailed for strangling an 83-year-old man, who she said fondled her breasts and vagina as she showered at his house in Union Island, where she had been living for about a week.
The woman, Sheba Lenisha Charles, of Vermont/Union Island, who had lived a nomadic life and has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, will spend a total of six years and eight months in prison for her crime.
She had already spent two years, eight months and seven days on remand when Justice Rickie Burnett handed down his sentence at High Court. No. 2, in Kingstown on Friday.
This means that Charles has to spend a further three years, 11 months and 23 days in prison.
She was initially charged with murder in connection with the Nov. 26, 2020 death of Ulric Adolphus Hutchinson, who, prior to taking in Charles, lived alone at his home in an area of Ashton, Union Island known as “Valley”.
However, there was a break down in the attorney-client relationship as Charles and her then lawyer, Michael Wyllie seemed not to agree on whether Charles should continue with the trial or plead guilty to manslaughter, as offered by the Crown.
Charles asked the court to replace Wyllie with another lawyer under the legal aid arrangements and Jomo Thomas was appointed to represent her.
Crown Counsel Rose Ann Richardson and Maria Jackson- Richards appeared for the Crown.
Then, on May 15, Charles pleaded guilty to manslaughter and the court ordered a social inquiry report.
Bi-polar substance abuser
The report showed that Charles, a domestic, spent the first few years of her life in Vermont before migrating to England with her father for four years.
She then lived in Trinidad with an aunt for two years but was sent back because of her deviant behaviour.
On her return to St. Vincent, Charles was placed in the custody of her maternal grandmother as she had been estranged from her mother since childhood.
Charles went to school in England, Trinidad and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, leaving secondary school in form 4.
She did odd jobs in Union Island but generally depended on her former partner, family and friends.
The report said that Charles was being prescribed medication for bipolar disorder.
She was described as living a nomadic lifestyle and lived with Hutchinson for a few days before causing his death.
She was a substance abuser and consumed alcohol and expressed regret for Hutchinson’s death, describing him as a cool, easy going and helpful person.
Charles said that Hutchinson had become aggressive and she had to respond but she was reluctant to give details.
People in Union Island described her as helpful but said she drank, smoked, was aggressive, liked to fight and was vulgar and loud.”
In summarising the facts, Justice Burnett noted Charles was 25 years at the time of the killing and had known Hutchinson for about eight years.
He assisted her with meals and some of her financial needs on various occasions.
From houseguest to killer
A week before Nov. 26, 2020, Charles met Hutchinson and asked him to help her with accommodation, volunteering to cook and wash for him in return. Hutchinson offered his home to her for a few days.
Sometime afterwards, Hutchinson’s son, Kenvil Adam learnt that Charles was staying at his father’s home and on Nov. 23, 2020, he visited Hutchinson and expressed his displeasure with Charles living there.
Adams felt that Charles was not of good character and was a drug addict.
Then, on Nov. 25, 2020, Adams visited his father who complained to him that Charles had stolen $100 and a bottle of strong rum from his home. Hutchinson told his son that he no longer wisht for Charles to be in his home.
Adams later confronted Charles about the allegations and demanded that she leave his father’s home immediately. However, Charles asked Hutchinson to allow her to remain until Nov. 27, 2020 and he agreed.
Two days later, about 7 a.m. on Nov. 26, 2020, Adams telephoned to inquire after his father. Hutchinson told his son that he was fine but had not seen Charles for the morning.
However, about an hour later, Adams was on the lower-storey of his home when he heard his wife screaming upstairs, saying Charles had killed Hutchinson.
The Adamses and one of their daughters went to Hutchinson house and on their way, they saw Charles walking in the opposite direction, which leads to the police station.
Sometime earlier, one Lorna Forde was at the home of one of Hutchinson’s neighbours when she heard outside a loud commotion, sounding like a female voice.
Forde went outside and saw Charles walking down Hutchinson’s driveway.
Charles appeared agitated and kept saying she was going to the police.
Forde asked her what had happened and she said she was going to the police and that Hutchinson was “up there” and she has to go to the doctor.
On arrival at his father’s house, Adams met Hutchinson on his knees with his upper body slumped over on a couch in the living room.
Adams shook his father and checked for vitals but there was none. He placed Hutchinson in a lying position and the police were summoned.
In the meantime, Charles had gone to the police station and made a report, telling the officers that she had been staying with “Uncle”, who tried to sexually assault her.
She said they got into a fight and when she was about to leave the house, she heard him saying he can’t breathe.
The officer observed that Charles had what appeared to be injuries to her upper lip and right ear.
The District Medical Officer, Dr. Charles Grant pronounced Hutchinson dead around 9 a.m. that day.
Charles was medically examined by a physician.
Later, she was taken back to Hutchinson’s house as it was being processed by crime scene technicians and Justice of the Peace Kenneth Williams was summoned.
Detectives told Charles of their investigation.
Looking in the direction of Hutchinson’s home, where his relatives were, Charles said, “I didn’t kill your father; I am actually lucky he didn’t lick off my head.”
She declined the detective’s invitation to point out areas in relation to the crime scene and chose to remain silent thereafter.
Police conducted an electronic interview with Charles that night.
She told detectives that when she arrived at Hutchinson’s house that morning, having slept out that night, she was in the shower when Hutchinson came and began fondling her breasts and vagina telling her that “he got the pills”.
Charles said she told Hutchinson that she had to go to court and would have sex with him when she returned, but he persisted, pursuing her into the bedroom.
She said she went into the kitchen and as she was leaving the kitchen, he held on to her shoulder, she turned around and squeezed his neck but not for long and pushed him by his neck.
Charles said Hutchinson took up a small aluminium pot and struck her in her head, across her ear and on her lips causing her to bleed.
She said she went into the living room bending over a chair and the blood was dripping onto the sofa.
Hutchinson came and apologised but was still touching her.
She said she turned around, held him by the neck, pushed him hard, he fell back and fell on his knees and complained that he could not breathe.
Charles said she went back to the bedroom, dressed and came back outside, called and touched the deceased but he was unresponsive.
She said went outside and called out to some students in the road to call the police and she then proceeded to report the incident to the police.
Dr. Ronald Child conducted an autopsy that found multiple abrasions around Hutchinson’s neck and cheek. The pathologist concluded that Hutchinson died as a result of manual strangulation.
Strong mitigating features
In handing down his sentence, Justice Burnett noted the aims of criminal punishment, namely prevention, deterrence, retribution and rehabilitation.
The judge noted the sentencing guidelines and said he saw no reason to depart from them in the case.
He established a starting sentence of 12 years and identified the aggravating feature of the offences as Hutchinson’s vulnerability because of his age.
Mitigating was the lack of premeditation and the physical injuries that Charles suffered at the hands of Hutchinson.
The judge therefore reduced the sentence by one year.
The judge found no aggravating features of the offender and said mitigating factors were her cooperation with the police, her level of remorse, her age, and her nomadic lifestyle and its effect on her.
Justice Burnett concluded that these mitigating features warranted a further discount of one year, taking the sentence to10 years.
The judge granted her the full one-third discount for her guilty plea, saying that during the trial Charles indicated that she was not aware that a guilty plea to the lesser charge of manslaughter was available to her.
Justice Burnett said that in the circumstance, while the guilty plea came late in the trial, it was through no fault of Charles’.
The discount took the sentence down to six years and eight months before the time spent on remand was subtracted.