Posted: Thursday, July 28, 2022. 8:40 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: Supreme Court Justice Ricardo O’Neal Sandcroft has issued a bench warrant and notice to the surety of Tracey Betancourt of San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye, after she failed to appear in court today to hear her verdict on a charge of murder.
Justice Sandcroft, hearing the case alone, found Amara Avenue, Belize City resident Leon Walford, 38, guilty of the murder of American businessman Lamont Edward “Monty” Lipka and will sentence him on September 30.
Betancourt is out on $50,000 Supreme Court bail.
Betancourt and Walford are jointly accused in the killing of Lipka, 49, originally from Texas and the manager of the Tropicana Restaurant and Bar on Coconut Drive in southern Ambergris Caye, in May of 2018.
Crown Counsel Riis Cattouse, prosecuting, assisted by Crown Counsel Robert Lord, submitted evidence to show that Walford committed the killing as captured by surveillance camera – he shot Lipka twice on entering the restaurant, then five more times after he fell to the floor before escaping.
Walford, defended by Darrell Bradley, gave an unsworn statement saying that he was at home on Amara Avenue at the time of the murder and called his mother as an alibi witness.
But testimony and cross-examination during the trial established that Walford walks with a limp, and he was identified both by a police officer and a witness that was previously accused of the crime and testified for the prosecution as the man seen committing the murder on surveillance. His mother denied that he has a limp but the judge said he did not believe her and that she “concocted” her story.
The court will deliver its verdict against Betancourt, defended by Anthony Sylvestre, when she is located and brought in.
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