After three trials over the past eight years, five men were yesterday acquitted of murdering San Juan businesswoman Samdaye Rampersad in 2005.
But despite being spared the mandatory death sentence, Phillip “The Boss” Boodram, Roger Mootoo, Ricky Singh, Kervin Williams and Aaron “Arc Eye” Grappie did not leave the Port-of-Spain High Court as free men, after a 12-member jury sitting in the Sixth Criminal Court unanimously decided they were guilty of the lesser offence of manslaughter.
The jury took over seven hours to return the verdicts for the accused, after they requested more time to deliberate after the four-hour period reserved for them had expired.
However, High Court Judge Norton Jack could not immediately sentence the group as their attorneys, Evans Welch and Wayne Sturge, requested an adjournment to prepare their mitigation pleas for sentencing.
During the trial, which lasted almost a year, the court heard that Rampersad was kidnapped by masked men while standing in front her Petit Bourg, San Juan home on November 25, 2005. Her body was found 41 days later in a shallow grave in a cashew field at Carolina Village, Claxton Bay.
Rampersad’s brother, Mervyn, was contacted several times after his sister’s kidnapping by a man, who demanded a $2 million ransom for her safe release although at that time she was already dead.
Nine men were initially charged for Rampersad’s murder, with three-Vivian Clarke, Steven McGilvery and Pernell Martin - being convicted on manslaughter and sentenced to 30 years in prison in the first trial in 2009. Another accused, Bobby Sankar, was acquitted during that trial. The five remaining accused were put on trial again in 2012.
The group is expected to be sentenced on April 7.