Man gets 15 years for fatal burning of wife

Melroy Simpson

Melroy Simpson was yesterday afternoon sentenced to 15 years behind bars by Justice James Bovell-Drakes, for the killing of his reputed wife Carmelita Jones whom he burnt in 2012 after an argument over milk.

Initially indicted with the capital offence, Simpson earlier this month pleaded guilty to the lesser offence of manslaughter, thereby admitting to the unlawful killing of the mother of four on September 18th, 2012.

His sentence had been deferred for a probation report which was presented yesterday.

Carmelita Jones

In an apologetic address to the court, Simpson begged the judge for mercy, stating that he was truly sorry for what he had done, while adding that he was aware of the embarrassment he has caused both his, and Jones’ family.

Expressing regret for his actions, the 47-year-old man said he wants both his children and Jones’ mother to know how sorry he was for what he had done, and wished he could have reversed his actions which were responsible for taking her away from them.

As the man addressed the court, relatives on both sides quietly sobbed.

He told the judge that he has been constantly praying to God for forgiveness, mercy and pardon, even as he sought leniency from the judge in imposing sentence.

“I keep going to church and praying,” the man said.

Probation and Social Services Officer, Natasha Smith-Mansfield, by whom the probation report was read, said that in her interview with the offender, he had also expressed remorse and regret for his actions.

She said that the man who was emotional during the interview, had said that he could not remember what had happened on the day in question, but was sad about it all.

On this note, she said that while interviews conducted with residents in the Sophia area where Simpson lived revealed that he was of good character, some, including relatives of the deceased, had said that he would become very abusive when intoxicated.

She said there were mixed views from residents—some of whom expressed shock at Simpson’s action, noting that they never expected him to do what he did, especially since he was not known to be violent, nor had any previous brushes with the law.

Meanwhile, others, she said, were less surprised, describing the offender as abusive, once under the influence of alcohol.

Notwithstanding what might have been his drunken state when the crime was committed, however, the probation officer noted that the offender could not be absolved from taking full responsibility for his actions.

Against this background, Smith-Mansfield urged the court to execute its function in sentencing Simpson accordingly.

She had noted that prison officials had described him as being of impeccable character.

The officer said that relatives of the deceased are still distraught over her passing, especially her mother whom Smith-Mansfield said indicated to her that she had forgiven the offender, but still wanted justice.

The probation officer said that Jones’ family had indicated that Simpson’s family never reached out to them, nor his children who he has left motherless.

Meanwhile, in an impassioned plea for mercy on behalf of his client, attorney Keoma Griffith begged the court to consider that the man had thrown himself at the mercy of the court at the first given opportunity, thus saving considerable time in otherwise having a trial conducted.

He said that his client’s acceptance of responsibility and plea for forgiveness for what he had done, undoubtedly demonstrates his understanding of the impact his actions have had on both families, especially his children.

Counsel also asked the judge to consider his client’s expression of remorse, good behaviour in prison, and to make deductions for the six years he had spent on remand before his matter came up for hearing at the High Court.

Citing case law authorities which he said guides sentencing and circumstances for which discount is usually given, Griffith asked the judge to also consider that no weapon such as a gun had been used in the commission of the offence, it was not premeditated, nor was it highly organized.

In fact, Griffith submitted that the spontaneous nature of the crime, which attracted no degree of deliberation in the mind of his client, were also factors he begged the judge to consider in passing sentence.

The lawyer had also asked the court to consider, as the probation report revealed, the circumstances under which his client grew up, that being that he had lost his father at a tender age, had dropped out of school and in instances had to battle peer pressure.

He also asked the court to consider the socio-economic challenges of the man’s family.

Added to that, he asked the judge for a sentence which would enable his client to not only return to society to make meaningful contributions, but one that would afford him the opportunity of mending the relationship with his children.

Referencing findings from reports which he said revealed Guyana’s prisons to be the “worst in the Region,” Griffith opined that to sentence the offender to any excessive period would not be aiding his reform.

According to counsel, while coping with the loss of a loved one is difficult, his client was “truly sorry for his actions,” and on that point he renewed his request for mercy.

For her part, however, Prosecutor Tiffini Lyken advanced that while Jones did not die by the hand of a gun, she suffered for days before finally succumbing to her injuries. This, she said, was an aggravating factor the court needed to consider.

“Four children are now motherless because of your actions,” she told Simpson.

Citing the prevalence of domestic violence, Lyken said that a strong message of deterrence needed to be sent to potential offenders that such actions would not be tolerated.

“She (the deceased) was only doing her wifely duties when he (Simpson) did what he did, and so we can only conclude that his actions were wilful,” the prosecutor said; adding that it was bad too, that he had set the woman afire while their two youngest children were in the house.

Given what she said was the gruesome manner in which the deceased met her demise, Lyken begged the court to sentence Simpson accordingly.

Describing the killing as an unfortunate incident, the judge explained to the visibly distressed offender that after setting the woman alight, she suffered burns to 30% of her body.

Justice Bovell-Drakes said that having considered both the mitigating and aggravating circumstances, sentence will commence at a base of 50 years. Therefrom, he deducted 25 years, which he explained represented Jones’ age when she died.

An additional 10 years were then further deducted for Simpson’s guilty plea.

Sentencing the offender to 15 years behind bars, the judge expressed the hope that the relationship between Simpson and his children could one day be rekindled after his sentence would have expired.

To Jones’ family, the judge said that while her loss had to have been catastrophic for them, what has happened cannot be reversed, but said he hoped that they would find spiritual solace, while urging that it was important for the children to be able to forge a bond with their father.

Jones succumbed 10 days after being a patient at the Georgetown Public Hospital in the Burn Care Unit where she was nursing first and second degree burns to her entire body.

She was reportedly turned into a human torch, during the argument with Simpson.

Police had said that Simpson threw a flammable liquid on her while she was holding a lamp that was lit at the time.

In an interview with Stabroek News, the woman had said that her reputed husband of five years doused her with gasoline and then set her alight after allegations that she had received milk for their 5-month-old baby from a man.

The woman had described the tumultuous relationship she shared.

“He is always abuse me. He used to beat me with big wood, pot spoon, every lil thing he used to beat me with,” she had said.

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