Two former police officers entered the courtroom of Justice Colin Williams earlier today as handcuffed criminals. A short while later they exited the courthouse as free men. Leonard Nunez and Hallet King were found guilty of manslaughter in the death of 18-year-old, Hilberto Sotz who was killed whilst in police custody in Caye Caulker back in June 2015. The officers were arraigned on a murder charge on June 10, 2015 and were remanded to the Belize Central Prison; that charge, however, was downgraded to manslaughter on October 19, 2016 and they were given bail of three thousand dollars each. The trial carried on, and on July 15, 2019 the duo was found guilty of manslaughter and remanded once again. Justice Colin Williams handed down a 9-month sentence today, declaring it as time served since Nunez and King had spent one year, five months and nine days incarcerated. The mother of the deceased, Carmelina Sotz, was at the courthouse and was distraught after she heard the outcome.
Carmelina Sotz – Mother of Deceased: “So who am I? I am not a human being like them. If they were the ones in my shoes, what would they do? How would they feel? Yes, I have another son I am pushing in school and he is going to third form this year. Do you know how hard I have to work to give my children what they need. This is the way how the Government, the police that we call for help, they are destroying our lives on this earth. This is not fair but one day they will be in my shoes, one day they will be in my shoes.”
Justice Colin Williams did not make an order for compensation to the family and so they will be seeking to file a civil suit against Nunez and King. During the trial several witnesses were called including Pathologist, Dr Mario Estradabran who noted that Hilberto Sotz died of vascular shock, meaning that trauma to the head led to blood clotting and subsequently a heart attack. Estradabran added that the head injury had to have been inflicted two hours prior to death and it could have been from a blunt object or a fall. Prior to sentencing today, mitigation pleas were heard from several individuals including Nunez’ common-law-wife. Hilberto was arrested on June 8, 2015 as a suspect in a series of burglaries that occurred in the village. According to Sotz’ father, the teenager had only just arrived on the island that day for a visit as he was residing in Belmopan, Cayo District.