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City Administrator’s daughter pleads guilty to manslaughter by negligence in co-worker’s death

Posted: Friday, June 14, 2024. 11:22 pm CST.

By Breaking Belize News Staff: Tehje Coren Hazel Vaughan, 25, daughter of the Belize City Administrator, Albert Vaughn, received her sentence after pleading guilty to manslaughter by negligence. This comes one year, one month, and three weeks after the tragic shooting and killing of her co-worker and friend, Cantun.

The incident occurred during a social gathering with friends in Belize City, where Vaughan, unfamiliar with firearms, accidentally discharged a gun, resulting in Cantun’s death. After a swift preliminary investigation and committal to the High Court, Vaughan’s trial was scheduled shortly after the case file was sent over in May.

On Wednesday, at 12:12 p.m., Vaughan entered her guilty plea, marking the first case to utilize the recent amendment to Section 116 of the Criminal Code, which allows for plea negotiations and sentencing discussions between the prosecution and defense.

During the proceedings, Vaughan’s attorney, Leeroy Banner, emphasized her immediate cooperation with the police and her intention to plead guilty from the outset. He described the incident as a tragic accident between close friends and colleagues at the Holy Redeemer Credit Union.

In a groundbreaking approach, the court, led by Justice Derick Sylvester, reached a non-custodial agreement. Citing a similar case involving Jasmine Hartin, Justice Sylvester considered both the mitigating and aggravating factors. While acknowledging the gravity of using a firearm and the resultant loss of life, he noted Vaughan’s remorse, lack of criminal intent, and her distress following the incident.

Justice Sylvester imposed a $15,000 fine on Vaughan, with $5,000 due to Cantun’s common-law wife, Shannon Bood, by Thursday, and the remaining $10,000 payable by September 2024. Vaughan was also ordered to maintain peace for two years, or face 12 months of imprisonment, and was disqualified from holding a firearm license for five years.

In his closing remarks, Justice Sylvester highlighted Vaughan’s immediate remorse, her unfamiliarity with firearms, and the tragic, unintended consequences of her actions. He recognized her family’s support, contrasting it with the often-lonely experiences of other defendants.

Outside the courtroom, Cantun’s family refrained from interviews, but his sister, Melli Cantun, shared her thoughts over the phone. “Justice comes from God. Sometimes we don’t understand His plans, but He will carry us through our loss. Nothing can replace our brother, and no amount of money can bring him back.”

As the case draws to a close, both families are left to navigate their grief, with Vaughan bearing the lifelong burden of her friend’s untimely death.

 

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