St. Maarten – Public Prosecutor mr. Bart den Hartigh demanded life imprisonment against Curtley Allison R. and his partner in crime Sherwan R. for the Regatta-murders (so called because they occurred around the Heineken Regatta), rape, three armed robberies and a case of ill-treatment. The trial lasted from nine o’clock yesterday morning until six thirty last night and it is not done yet; this morning the defense has the floor in the court room to plead their clients’ cases.
The two defendants were brought in yesterday morning under heavy security. They remained shackled throughout the procedures under the watchful eye of members of the Police Arrest Team.
The defendants, who are both from Dominica, are charges with eight counts. The chronology of these events shows how the two men increased the violence they used against their victims step by step.
The Dominicans decided to start a criminal career because they were short of money. Curtley R., who drank two bottles of whisky a day, decided to pose as a gipsy cab driver to lure potential victims into his car, with Sherwan R. as his partner on the backseat.
The modus operandus for all crimes was identical: the two men lured people under false pretenses into their car, drove them to a remote location and robbed them. In one case, robbery turned into rape, and in three other cases, it turned into extremely violent murder.
On the evening of February 12, the defendants picked up Missoluny Jean Pierre around 9.30 p.m. near Mary’s Boon. The victim, who had just finished working as a security guard at the Karakter Beach Bar took a near fatal ride to town with them. Near Learning Unlimited, the men drove onto a rocky road, where Sherwan R. attempted to strangle him. In the end, the two robbers beat and hit their victim until he was unconscious, robbing him of $40, a cell phone and a bag containing several bread rolls and six Bibles.
A couple of hours later, in the early morning of February 13, the robbers found their next victim in a young woman whom they lured into their car in Simpson Bay. They take her to the same location where they robbed their first victim, robbed her of her money, ill-treated her, and violently raped her several times in ways too horrible to describe in a newspaper. Curtley R. suggested killing the woman, but Sherwan R. preferred to take the victim to her house to steal more money and other valuables from her. While this discussion was going on, the woman managed to escape. The robbers are left with some jewelry and $22 they took from their victim.
Then, four days later, the two get into an argument in the Esperanza Bar in Middle Region with a woman who rejected Curtley R.’s advances and who gave a hug to his buddy Sherwan R. instead. A fight erupted whereby both men turned on the woman by beating and kicking her. Curtley R. goes after the woman with a knife but bystanders manage to wrestle it away from him. The woman retaliated by throwing stones and bottles at her attackers. When the woman is on the ground and Sherwan R. is kicking her, Curtley R. screams, “kill her, kill her.”
The next day, when the victim wants to go to the police to file a complaint, both men are in front of her house, armed with a piece of wood and a machete.
Two days later, on February 19, the Dominicans are at it again when they pick up Steve Hubbard, who is waiting for a taxi outside the Hollywood Casino. Hubbard, a boat captain, has spent a pleasant evening at the poker tables, winning about $500. The men take their victim all the way to the French side in the vicinity of the Etang Aux Poissons.
Curtley R. drags the captain out of his car and starts a fight, but his victim gets the better of him. Only when Sherwan R. joins the fight and starts hitting Hubbard with a piece of wood the situation changes. The victim screams that he will give the men his stuff, the $500 and an iPhone if they stop fighting, but when they don’t listen he finally flees into the lagoon, where he stays for a couple of hours until he is certain that his attackers have left.
On February 23, Johnny Cerrano arrives at the airport at twenty minutes to ten in the evening. When he walks towards his hotel in Simpson Bay, Sherwan R. appears behind him, puts a weapon (which turns out to be a flare gun) against his head and forces him into the car Curtley R. is driving. They robbed the victim of his laptop and his cell phone, before kicking him out of the car.
This robbery is the Dominican’s downfall, though they will still manage to commit three murders before they are eventually arrested on April 7. Investigators tap the phone the robbers stole from Cerrano; this puts them on the trail of Joanne, one of Curtley R.’s girlfriends.
On February 25, the luxury yacht Cheetah Moon arrives in Simpson Bay. On board is among others chef Ludovic Guillevin. The crew goes out in the evening to Jimbo’s Bar and while everybody returns to the yacht after the establishment closes, Guillevin decides to have some more fun. When he walks in the direction of the airport, he is picked up by the two Dominicans. They force him into their car, and drive to the beach in Mullet Bay. There they drag their victim out of the car; they hit him, kick him, bash him on the head with a coconut and stab him sex times. Two of the stab wounds are potentially fatal. When their victim was unconscious, the Dominicans attempted to set his shirt on fire.
Sherwan R. told the court that Curtley R. was the one stabbing Guillevin, but to the police he admitted earlier that he had done some stabbing of his own: “I stabbed him where I could.”
Asked how he felt about the fact that Guillevin had died, Curtley R. Said, “I was not happy about it.” That did not stop the Dominicans from striking again in the early hours of March 4, when they picked up Eduardo Nova Valdez, who had done some work as an electrician at the Karakter Beach Bar the evening before. Until midnight he spent time at the Tropicana Casino in Simpson Bay. To go home, he took a gipsy cab to Dutch Quarter.
With Curtley R. behind the wheel and his partner Sherwan R. on the backseat, this would be Nova Valdez’ last ride. The robbers did not go to Dutch Quarter but they drove against the traffic up the Cakehouse Road. There they stabbed, kicked and ill-treated their victim in a most horrible way. Forensic evidence shows that Nova Valdez was stabbed 67 times; his face was unrecognizable because the two Dominicans had smashed it in with a heavy rock in such a forceful way that the impact made of five centimeter deep hole in the rocky underground.
The “reward” for their efforts was close to zero, because Nova Valdez had just $5 in his pockets and a cell phone.
And still it was not enough: on the evening of the same day, the Dominicans picked up Foidel Luis. The victim has come home around ten o’clock that evening from a very busy day. F cleaned a pool in Cupecoy, worked a full day as a driver from Prime Distributors and a shift as a security guard at Port de Plaisance. But at eleven o’clock that evening his night shift at L’Esperance hotel was about to start.
Foidel Luis never arrived at this last job, because Curtley R. and Sherwan R. picked him up for a ride. They took him too, to the remote location behind Learning Unlimited, where they stabbed him, beat and kicked him and threw stones at his head that burst open on impact. They threw gasoline on their victim but did not manage to find a lighter; otherwise they would have set him on fire as well.
The prosecution detailed all these crimes in court yesterday in every painful detail. mr. Bart den Hartigh held both defendants equally responsible. “Each count by itself warrants a long prison sentence within one week they took three lives. They committed a large number of very violent crimes within a short period of time, and they were only stopped because they were arrested.”
The prosecutor said that the defendants had used extreme cruelty. “I cannot begin to describe what they have done. They say they were in it for the money, but they used much more violence than is necessary for a robbery. They gained pleasure from the violence they used. We are dealing with madmen here.”
mr. Den Hartigh said that both defendants are a danger to society. “The risk that they repeat these crimes is one that a small society like St. Maarten cannot afford. To protect the community it is in our view urgently necessary that these defendants will not get a chance to get out of jail again.”
The life sentence the prosecution demanded against both defendants is not unique, but it is rare. In the past four years, the heaviest punishment was for Devon Otto, who was sentenced to 30 years for the murder of Stanley Gumbs.