The William Danny Mason saga concluded today before Justice Antionette Moore in the Supreme Court. Danny Mason and his four associates, Ernest Castillo, Ashton Vanegas, Keiron, and Terrence Fernandez, will be spending life in prison with eligibility for parole. Castillo was sentenced to thirty years, while Mason, Vanegas, and the Fernandez brothers were sentenced to thirty-five years imprisonment before they are eligible for parole. Four years will be deducted from their sentences for the time they have already spent behind bars. Over the past two days, mitigation pleas were heard on behalf of the men but those seemingly had little effect on Moore’s judgment. All five men were convicted of the 2016 murder of Pastor Llewellyn Lucas whose severed head was found in Mason’s black pickup truck. Lucas’ family was present in court, and we were able to speak to his sister who noted that the family is satisfied with the outcome.
Chisve Usher, Sister of Deceased: “The impact has been large and wide. My mother being an elderly person she relives this murder of her son whenever there’s a death in our family she keeps speaking of Lew and his head being found in a bucket full of blood. For myself, my children we have definitely experienced grief which I cannot find the words to explain but certainly it has been extremely difficult.”
Reporter: Ma’am are you satisfied with the sentences ?
Chisve Usher, Sister of Deceased: “Yes I can say I am satisfied. Considering the fact that none of them accepted guilt for having participated in the crime that speaks volume. The first step toward rehabilitation is acceptance and none of them, not one of the five have accepted that they participated in my brother’s murder. Yes it does bring closure at this point. In the sentencing today while the judge said that the burnt remains were for a human before today we have never been told about the body and what has happened to the body so at least now I can say that well to a certain extent it has been confirmed that his body was burnt as we assumed so it does indeed give a sense of closure to the family.”
William Danny Mason was said to be the mastermind behind the gruesome murder of Lucas. To date, Mason still maintains his innocence as explained by his Lawyer Dexter Todd. He stated that they will be appealing the conviction and the sentence.
Dexter Todd, Criminal Attorney, William Mason: “I believe from a human social standpoint I believe it was quite discouraging for him. I mean he’s facing it but this is a situation where my client Mr.Mason has maintained from day one he has maintained his innocence in this matter and to know that I think the sad part of it is that the same thing happens in many of the common Caribbean countries in which sometimes the appeal takes a long time to come up you know and that’s because of administratively the appellate courts they have a lot of matters to deal with so I believe that is the concern that he feared more “I know okay I’m getting sentenced but really when is my appeal going to come up?” and we intend to be very aggressive behind the appellate court to really have an early hearing in this matter. I think it will do very well for the jurisprudence of Belize that we’re able to iron out a lot of the issues that I believe are still to be answered in that case. We cannot run from the fact that this is classified as a horrendous crime and so even where the court took certain things into consideration I believe I would not be naive in the way in which the court, any court would act in it and I think a hefty sentence was inevitable. But I believe if they’re able to get a very early hearing in their appeals and once their appeals are successful in which we hope that these appeals will be successful then they are going to be out in way shorter time.”
Like Mason, Vanegas intends to appeal his sentencing, but his attorney is advising that he take this time for reflection.
Norman Rodriguez, Attorney for Ashton Vengas: “My client has indicated that he wants to appeal. I believe that he should still take a little time to reflect on what has happened here and when he makes his final decision, he has the 21 days to file that notice and that is what we will do if that is his instruction to me.
Reporter: “So that 21 days starts from today?”
Norman Rodriguez, Attorney for Ashton Vengas: “Yes, that’s correct. Because they have already filed the notice of appeals for the conviction. They will do so now for the sentencing and that as you rightly said starts today, the 21 days. As a defense attorney you cannot preempt the court because at the end of the day justice allows the judge to decide what the penalty will be but as you asked if I expected that I can’t say that I expected it or did not expect it. It’s a possibility for us always and when it comes I can tell you that I am not surprised because the judge decides not me.”
Bryan Neal, Attorney for Keiron Hernandez, described the crime as heinous and stated that the judge did make an example out of these men.
Bryan Neal, Attorney for Kieron Fernandez: “The verdict was to my mind quite stiff. The sentence is 35 years eligibility for parole which is at the higher end of the sentences that I have seen in our jurisdiction.
Reporter: Was it anticipated sir?
Bryan Neal, Attorney for Kieron Fernandez:“It was it was and I had advised my client adequately. The crime was particularly heinous in terms of the beheading and the judge in her ruling a short while ago made the point that she wants to send a message out in the society to try to quell the violence that we’re seeing in our society. So I think that considering all that we know that transpired in this case I think it was, it seems, an appropriate sentence. However, I understand from the clients that they are dissatisfied with both the conviction on the sentence and they will shortly large an appeal and have lodged an appeal in terms of their conviction already.”
Justice Antionette Moore had initially explained that there are three options when carrying out a murder trial. These are the death penalty, a fixed-term sentence in which she stated was not fitting considering the circumstances of the crime, and a life sentence with eligibility for parole. We will continue to follow the case as three of the five men are expected to make appeals.