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Duo Walked from Murder Charge

24-year-old Albert Valentine and a 17-year-old boy, charged with the murder of 64-year-old taxi driver Antonio “Sapote” Rodriguez, were acquitted of the charge in a judgment given today by Justice Denis Hanomansingh. Rodriguez, a resident of Eldridgeville, Toledo, was killed on December 15, 2015. His body, with multiple stab wounds, was found on a feeder road near to Joe Taylor Bridge just outside of Punta Gorda. The Isuzu Trooper he was driving was about 10 to 15 yards away. His licensed nine-millimeter pistol was next to him. The Crown, represented by Senior Crown Counsel Christelle Wilson, had relied mainly on a caution statement Valentine gave to the police. But after a viore dire was held, the statement was ruled inadmissible by Justice Hanomansingh because it was determined that Valentine was beaten by the police to give the statement. When Valentine and the minor were arraigned at Punta Gorda Magistrate’s Court, Valentine brought it to the attention of Magistrate Emmerson Banner that he was beaten by the police and he showed the bruises on his body as proof. Valentine’s attorney, Dickie Bradley obtained a copy of the medico-legal form Valentine was given and submitted it to the court. A police officer, one of the witnesses at the voire dire, said that Valentine received the injuries when he was fighting with the minor in the cell block at Punta Gorda Police Station. But the police officer who was in charge of the cell block at the time testified that there are three cells and Valentine and the minor were in separate cells. The Crown called several witnesses at the main trial but they did not testify to anything that was of help to the Crown’s case. After the Crown indicated it was going to close its case, a notice of additional evidence was given. The Crown introduced two new witnesses, Horace Arnold and Assistant Superintendent of Police Clement Cacho. Arnold testified that he gave a statement that was recorded by Cacho. In the statement, he said that while he was in the cell at Punta Gorda Police Station he heard the minor say that the ring on his finger was from Rodriguez. Arnold said he gave the statement because he heard that Valentine and the minor were going to “walk”. Cacho testified that he recorded the statement. But that did not help the Crown’s case and Arnold’s statement was deemed as false. After the Crown closed its case Valentine and the minor chose to remain silent. The trial, that was without a jury, began on October 15 in Dangriga Supreme Court and concluded two weeks later. But although Valentine and the minor were found not guilty, only the minor was set free. Valentine has another charge of murder for which trial is still pending. It is for 19-year-old Jarrel Pop whose decomposing body was found in a well in Punta Gorda about one week after Rodriguez was killed. The minor was also charged with Pop’s murder but the charge was withdrawn from him at a preliminary inquiry. The minor was represented by attorney Audrey Matura.