PHILIPSBURG–The Court of First Instance has found brothers Hashantley Fulgencio Martina (27) and Hensley Hilarion Martina (24) guilty of the murder of Francis W. Brunache in Hope Estate on January 24, 2017, and sentenced them both to 25 years in prison, on Wednesday.
Brunache was killed in his car, which was parked at Pica Shell Road, at 11:41pm. He was rattled by bullets fired from a semi-automatic weapon, in what the Prosecutor described as a “cold-blooded reckoning” in a residential area where bystanders could have easily become victims. The murder was possibly drug-related.
During the hearing of this case the Prosecutor’s Office requested 24 years for Hashantley and 22 years for his brother Hensley Martina.
An eyewitness said he heard “machine-gun fire,” he went to have a look and saw a jeep rolling back from out of the driveway. “I saw one person outside of the jeep, on the passenger side. He was riddling bullets in the jeep. When the jeep came to a stop, the person walked to the back of the jeep. He was still riddling bullets in the jeep – the gunfire never stopped – then he walked to the driver’s side of the jeep, while still firing shots. He opened the driver’s door. The driver of the jeep fell partially outside, then the person shot the driver again. This time with a different calibre gun. He shot him about three to four times,” the witness told the police.
In the verdict the Judge noted that by law prison time for murder starts at 18 years. The judge said this case involved the strategically, cold-blooded murder of Brunache on a public road in a densely-populated neighbourhood with a semi-automatic rifle. Therefore, a long prison sentence was justified, the Judge said.
The Court further pointed out that the high firearm possession in St. Maarten was also a determining factor in sentencing. Referring to a point that was also made by the Prosecutor’s Office, the Judge noted that gun violence in St. Maarten is 20 times higher than in the Netherlands.
The brothers denied their involvement in the gangland-style killing. Their lawyer Marije Vaders primarily built her clients’ defence on the mistake made by police investigator J.V.G.
In using wiretapped telephone conversations as evidence in this case the Prosecutor’s Office had established that Hashantley would have been in the car that was used in the killing. However, early October it emerged that a police detective had made a mistake in the voice recognition. The voice which was recorded minutes before the murder did not belong to Hashantley, who speaks with a Curaçaolenean accent, but to co-suspect Kathron Fortune, who hails from Grenada.
The detective in question had written 21 reports in the investigation, but these were unquestionably correct, the Prosecutor asserted. According to the Prosecutor, the detective had made an “honest mistake,” but only in one of the reports.
The lawyer disagreed and said the detective had done a sloppy job, which had mistakenly led the Prosecutor to believe that her clients had been involved. Therefore, she pleaded with the Court to declare the Prosecutor’s case against her clients inadmissible, as the defaulting police officer had “contaminated” the entire investigation.
However, the Court did not see any reason to exclude all reports that were written by the detective from the evidence, even though the Court shared the lawyer’s amazement about the fact that the detective had mixed up Hashantley’s and Fortune’s voices.
Vaders also said there was no direct evidence linking her clients to the alleged crimes, which include illegal firearm possession, and said the Prosecutor’s case was built on “assumptions.”
The Judge disagreed. For instance, a footprint of Hashantley’s shoe was found on Brunache’s T-shirt and glass particles found in the shoe came from one of the broken windows of the victim’s vehicle.
As the suspects themselves said they did not have any memories of the night in question, did not provide an alibi and did not give an explanation for the presence of the glass in the sole of Hashantley’s shoe, the Court of First Instance found convincing evidence of the defendants’ involvement in murdering Brunache.
In a press statement, the Prosecutor’s Office thanked the Police Force of St. Maarten for the “well-conducted investigation, which together with the Public Prosecutor’s Office was successfully completed in challenging circumstances and with limited investigative capacity.”
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/83577-brunache-killers-sent-to-prison-for-25-years