Sleepwalking Defense in Triple Family Murder: Jared Ranguy’s Sentencing Under Review

Sleepwalking Defense in Triple Family Murder: Jared Ranguy’s Sentencing Under Review

Was sleepwalking a factor in the case of Jared Ranguy murdering three members of his family? That’s a question Justice Nigel Pilgrim will consider over the next two weeks as he contemplates Ranguy’s sentence. Ranguy appeared in the Belize High Court today for sentencing where his attorney, Senior Council Godfrey Smith submitted that he should receive a fixed term sentence rather than life in prison. Smith’s argument was on the grounds of the possibility of diminished responsibility. He explained that at the time Ranguy brutally murdered his mother, Karen Skeen; his stepfather, Robert Vellos, and his sister, Teena Skeen back in 2012, he may have been sleepwalking.

Godfrey Smith, Attorney at Law: “He already pled guilty. That has certain implications. At this stage of the proceedings, which is sentencing, you are entitled to put forward every circumstance to the judge that you believe is relevant to the justness of the sentence. We are saying that recognized international experts have raised it as a possibility. Their words were it cannot be ruled out. That combined with the fact that we weren’t able to corroborate that because of the absence of medical records so long afterwards is no fault of his. The state from the moment he raised sleepwalking, which was the very next day, we say, the state had an obligation to examine this. He had no forensic psychiatric report until we intervened. We’re not saying he’s not guilty. We’re saying when you look at all of that  it may not be the just thing to imprison him for life. And that is what we urged upon the court.”

Smith recommended that the court set Ranguy’s sentence at a fixed term of 37 years and deduct the 12 years he spent on remand at the Belize Central Prison, leaving him with 25 years to go. The prosecution rebutted Smith’s submission, saying that, given the severity of the crime, life in prison was the only suitable sentence. Crown Council Riis Cattouse said that Ranguy should not be given any discount on his sentence, as the aggravating factors outweighed anything presented in mitigation. Outside the courtroom, Ranguy’s family was disappointed that he would not be sentenced today but said they would keep returning to court until the matter is concluded. Family member Rene Skeen says he does not believe sleepwalking should be considered as a factor in sentencing and he has lost respect for Godfrey Smith for even presenting that possibility. Skeen did say, however, that Ranguy’s guilty plea leads him to believe that forgiveness may be possible at some point.

Rene Skeen, Relative of Deceased:We’ve been here as a family more than 25 times over the last almost 12 years. So the importance of being here today, honestly, we thought he would have been sentenced today. That’s what we were hoping but then again, the court system have to take its course. I don’t want to be rude, but I will be blunt. The little bit of respect I had for Godfrey Smith I lose it. You know why ? I will tell you why? Because a few months ago Jared pleaded guilty and he tried the case all over again talking about sleepwalking. You interviewed me, you guys interviewed me many, many times and this is always my defense about sleepwalking. The noise that one makes, I don’t care how much you sleepwalk or how deep you’re asleep you will wake up. Now you’re talking about what maybe seven, eight, nine shots ? You’re talking about taking a knife and stabbing your mom more than a dozen times and you’re sleepwalking ? I rest my case right there about Godfrey Smith. If we would have had to go to a trial we would have had to see, like I said, weapons, guns, bloody clothes, pictures, everything that would just bring back the sad memories again. So by him pleaded guilty, hence the reason I used to say I could never forgive him, but when he pleaded guilty, I said you know what, maybe one day I will. One day I probably will forgive him.”

After changing attorneys multiple times over the past 12 years, Ranguy pleaded guilty to three counts of murder on March 15.  The matter has seen three judges preside over the case since 2012.

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