Posted: Friday, July 5, 2019. 4:29 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: Their names are indelibly linked with one of the scariest episodes in the history of Belize City: on the night of June 18, 2002, Leslie Pipersburgh and Patrick Robateau, then employees of Bowen and Bowen Limited, allegedly held up their supervisor, Arthur Griffith, in the Bowen and Bowen Distribution Center compound on Slaughterhouse Road and are accused of killing security guards from KBH, Kevin Alvarez and Fidel Mai. A third guard, Karl Ventura, was also injured in the holdup. Ventura had come to escort the companies’ daily sales monies that were to be deposited. They then escaped in a Coca-Cola delivery truck with the money.
Then, it is alleged that in the Coral Grove area, the convicts had come upon and killed a couple, Cherry Tucker and David Flowers, before fleeing, leaving the truck with their weapons and some bags of coins behind.
Now, some 17 years later, 45 year old Pipersburgh and 42 year old Robateau are seeking another chance.
They were initially sentenced to the gallows for all four murders in 2004, but won on appeal at the Privy Council in 2008. In 2011 they were tried again and acquitted due to insufficient evidence in the murders of Flowers and Tucker, but convicted again in the deaths of Alvarez and Mai. Each was sentenced to life in prison after the Crown declined to again consider the death penalty.
However, due to changes in the structure of sentencing occasioned by the landmark ruling from the Court of Appeal in the case of Gregory August, a life sentence for a murder conviction is no longer automatic. Since both men have been serving life sentences they were given under the old rules of the court, they must now be given a new sentence.
Appearing today before Justice Collin Williams with attorney Hector Guerra, the pair sought the mercy and grace that their victims were not spared more than a decade ago.
Guerra argues for a fixed sentence of between 20 and 30 years in prison, citing their effort to become better citizens. The Crown, represented by Porsha Staine-Ferguson, is asking for 35 years minimum before eligibility for parole. The court can either maintain a life term with a fixed date of parole opportunity added, or set a fixed term of sentence.
Robateau addressed the court, mentioning that he had been just 25 years old when first jailed, and became a parent himself while behind bars. He cited his own family losses and made formal apology and a request for forgiveness from the families of the deceased, who were not present in court. The various rehabilitation programs at the Central Prison, he said, have made him see life differently and more able to take responsibility for what he did.
Likewise, Pipersburgh, a prison trustee with opportunities to work in the office on the compound and being the CEO’s handyman apologized for the pain he caused the family of the deceased. He mentioned that he constantly prayed, not only for himself, but for the families and especially children of the deceased, and thought about them every day.
But he has not tortured himself behind bars, working in different programs including as a counselor and trying to parent his own daughter, now studying to be a nurse.
The men will each learn their fates on September 18, 2019.
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