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Two men plead guilty to manslaughter while a third maintains his innocence Print E-mail
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Thursday, 20 September 2018 00:00

Three persons accused of the murder of 58-year-old Tsong Ming Liou were in court on Tuesday, September 18, 2018 for the start of their murder trial. They are Oscar Maldonado, Jewel Palma, and Jonathan Swazo.

In court, 2 of the 3 men, Maldonado and Palma, indicated to their attorneys, Leo Bradley and Kathleen Lewis, respectively, that they wanted to plead guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter. Their plea was accepted by the crown. Swazo maintained a not guilty plea and was willing to go to trial however, because the crown accepted Maldonado and Palma’s pleas, they will soon be read their new indictments before Justice Colin Williams.

This case stems from a report of murder in 2006. On Friday, March 6, 2009 at about 2:30 p.m., acting upon information received, CIB personnel visited Bachelor Inn Hotel in the West Landivar area of Belize City. Upon making checks, police found the body of Tsong Ming Liou, Taiwanese national, on the verandah of the third floor. Liou was lying in a pool of blood with what appeared to be stab wounds to the neck, chest, and back.

Investigation revealed that he was in his office when several men, under the pretence of conducting business, entered his office. They held him at knifepoint and a struggle ensued causing one of the men to fatally stab Liou. A post mortem conducted on Liou revealed that Liou died from trauma asphyxia due to stab wounds to the trachea.

According to police, Palma and Maldonado were both seen with cut wounds to their hands. Palma also had abrasions to the back.

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 September 2018 11:38
 
Aracely Cahueque to stand re-trial for decapitating murder of woman Print E-mail
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Thursday, 20 September 2018 00:00

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions has successfully appealed the Supreme Court acquittal of Belizean Aracely Cahueque. She will be re-tried on the charge of abetment to murder for the 2010 gruesome killing of Raylene Dyer.

Readers may remember the disturbing details of Dyer’s death. Police accused Cahueque of hiring 3 men to kill Dyer so that she, Cahueque, could keep Dyer’s 3-month-old baby. The men allegedly decapitated Dyer and threw her body into a river near a slaughterhouse in Valley of Peace, Cayo. After Dyer’s murder was discovered, there was a search for her baby, who was found at the home of Cahueque’s former boyfriend. She was allegedly attempting to convince her former boyfriend that the baby was hers.

The 3 men who were accused of actually committing the murder were all acquitted in a trial before Justice Denis Hanomansingh. Brandon Budna, one of those 3 who were accused and then acquitted, was the main witness against Cahueque. He gave a statement to police which disclosed that he and Cahueque were students of the University of Belize, and that Cahueque approached him on 3 separate occasions requesting that he murder Dyer.

In March of 2014, when it came time for Budna to testify against Cahueque as a prosecution witness, he refused to cooperate, and he was treated as a hostile witness. The prosecution attempted to get his statement to police admitted against Cahueque, but after the statement was tested, Justice Hanomansingh, the trial judge, ruled it inadmissible. Without that statement, there was no other evidence tying Cahueque to Dyer’s killing, and so her attorney made a no-case submission, which the judge upheld.

In his ruling on the statement, Justice Hanomansingh was critical of Director of Public Prosecution’s Cheryl-Lynn Vidal, calling her actions unethical. She visited Budna in jail requesting that he cooperate with the state in prosecuting Cahueque as the alleged mastermind. The conditions of this statement were that it would only be used to prosecute Cahueque, and that Budna would gain no favor from it, only the satisfaction that this was the right thing to do, and that Cahueque would face the consequences of Dyer’s death, just like Budna and the rest.

The judge said in his ruling,  “There was deliberate wrong doing and bad faith on the part of the Director of Public Prosecutions when she visited and interviewed the witness Budna without ensuring that he had some sort of advice especially in view of her undeniable authority and her qualifications as an attorney-at-law… because of the actions of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Investigating Officer, I will exercise my discretion and exclude the statement in these proceedings on the basis of bad faith, pressure, hope of expectation of advantage and unfairness.”

The appeal of the Cahueque’s acquittal happened in June of 2018, and Senior Crown Counsel Shanice Lovell argued before the Court of Appeal judges that Justice Hanomansingh did not have any sound reasoning to conclude that the statement from Budna was unethically received, or that there was bad faith, pressure, or hope of expected advantage, or unfairness.

Anthony Sylvestre, Cahueque’s court-appointed defense attorney, conceded with the prosecution that none of the judge’s conclusions applied in this case. He did forcefully argue, however, a retrial is not automatic in this case. He attempted to convince the court that too much time has passed, 8 years to be specific. He submitted to the court that the prosecution may have difficulty to get witnesses with the proper memory of all the important details of what happened. He also added that Cahueque, who he represents, is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree at a university in Costa Rica, and that she may not be able to properly conduct her defense and get alibi witnesses.

After months of consideration, the Court of Appeal returned a ruling on Friday, September 14th, in favor of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. Their appeal of Cahueque’s acquittal was allowed, and the Court ordered the retrial of Cahueque.

There was also vindication of the actions of DPP Cheryl-Lynn Vidal and her role in securing the statement from Budna, against Cahueque.

The court said, “There is absolutely no evidence of bad faith on the part of the Director [of Public Prosecutions]… It is the opinion of the Court, that the discretion of the trial judge was exercised improperly, and as a consequence, he erred in refusing to admit the statement of Budna.”

So, one of the most high-profile murder cases partially resets, and Cahueque, one of the accused persons, could be found guilty for Dyer’s killing in a retrial.

 


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