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Central Prison CEO says Collin Francis moved from Special Care Unit to rehab program pending decision on competency to be tried for murder and attempted murder

Posted: Saturday, February 3, 2024. 3:51 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: High Court Justice Nigel Pilgrim on Friday heard testimony from CEO of Kolbe Foundation and Director of Belize Central Prison Virgilio Murillo in the competency hearing for Collin Francis Jr, accused of murder and attempted murder.

Francis, 32, is charged for the murder of Nestor Vasquez Jr., 60, and attempted murder of nurse Augustina Elijio, occurring within days of each other in June of 2019.

On June 6, 2019, Vasquez Jr., and Francis Jr., were both being held at the Queen Street Police Station in Belize City where the on-duty police officer removed Vasquez from a holding cell with minors and placed him alone in a cell with Francis. He was later found unconscious and bleeding from his face and died two days later in hospital.

Justice Pilgrim said he needed to hear what place there is at the Kolbe Foundation to house Francis in the event he rules he is unfit to be tried, as he will then have to make sure he is kept in a safe place and he must be able to determine where will be that safe place.

Meanwhile, the defense is hoping the court rules in their favour, finds that Francis is not fit to stand trial, and sends him home to be cared for by his parents.

But when Justice Pilgrim asked CEO Murillo whether Francis is in the Prison’s Special Care Unit, he said no, not at this moment. He was held there until November 2022 when he was moved to the Remand and Rehabilitation Center, which caters for prisoners who have been charged and are awaiting trial but have not yet been convicted.

According to CEO Murillo, Francis had expressed interest in the program and based on the doctor’s report and psychiatrist evaluation they found him suitable to take part in the program.

The court agreed to defense counsel Bryan Neal’s suggestion that a visit be made to the area.

CEO Murillo also told the court that the Special Care Unit of the Prison houses prisoners who have any sort of disability or mental issues. The building is located immediately below the Prison Medical Center for quicker access in case of an emergency.

Prisoners’ feeding, hygiene and administering of their prescribed medication are conducted at intervals by either the Psychiatrist or Prison Medical Officer. The prisoners are visited once a week by the Government Psychiatrist.

The court had previously heard from Francis’ mother, who had testified in December about her son’s behavior, giving the court an idea of the challenges his family faced when dealing with him prior to him being sent to prison for murder and attempted murder.

Doctor Alejandro Matus of the Ministry of Health testified at the time that Francis has schizophrenia, a serious mental illness that affects how a person, thinks, feels and behaves, and in his case, he has lost touch with reality. The disease is lifelong and has no cure and Francis remains a threat to society even with ongoing treatment in Dr Matus’ view.


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