Eustace Abrams, the 34-year-old father of four who was found guilty of manslaughter, was on Monday sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment by High Court Judge Brassington Reynolds. Last month, Abrams was indicted for the capital offence of murder. Following a trial at the Demerara High Court, he was found guilty on the lesser offence of manslaughter.
On June 15, 2017, at Jack and Vieira Backdam, North West District (NWD), Abrams unlawfully killed 40-year-old Orlando La Cruz. It was reported that on the day in question, La Cruz was lying in a hammock at his mining camp when Abrams and another man, Joseph Kerr, visited. They began consuming alcohol. It was reported that shortly after, Kerr asked the now dead man to perform oral sex on him.
However, when he refused, they got into an argument during which Abrams gave Kerr the cartridge to load a shotgun. Kerr shot La Cruz to the neck after which he and Abrams made good their escape. La Cruz was later discovered in the hammock bleeding. He was rushed to the Matthews Ridge District Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
After four years on the run, Kerr was arrested and charged with La Cruz’s murder earlier this month. Following an appearance at the Matthews Ridge Magistrate’s Court, the murder accused was remanded.
During a sentencing hearing on Monday, it was revealed through a probation report, that Abrams, a pork-knocker of Matthews Ridge, is the sole breadwinner for his family.
Although he was found guilty of the offence, the probation officer said that Abrams continues to maintain his innocence, stating that he did not shoot the man. Notwithstanding, the probation officer said that Abrams has expressed regret for the loss of a life.
The convicted killer told the probation officer that he and La Cruz were friends and he had no grievance with him. The probation officer also told the court that residents in Abrams’ community and prison officials described him as being very quiet.
While the probation officer noted that this was Abrams’ first encounter with the law and that he shows good prospects of being rehabilitated into society, he urged the court to impose a sentence that reflects the serious nature of the crime.
According to the probation officer, his investigations revealed that La Cruz had a fondness for imbibing alcohol and misbehaving but this never led to physical altercations. Relatives of the deceased told the probation officer that they are pleading for justice to be served.
For his part, Justice Reynolds told Abrams that he recognises that he does not fully understand the nature of the offence for which he was found guilty by the jury. “While you were not the trigger man, and while you did not fire the weapon on that day. You were properly indicted by the State for your participation in the commissioning of that offence,” Justice Reynolds explained to him.
Like many others in the riverine and interior districts, the Judge further told the convicted killer, “you have had a challenging childhood. But I say this, you get no credit for drinking yourself to a point where your judgement becomes seriously impaired. But for your passing of that cartridge to your workmate that day, we would not have been here today. And that I say is the sad truth that confronts us in several districts in the riverine and interior community and as well disturbingly so, on the coastland.”
According to the High Court Judge, Guyanese men in large measure find it necessary to drink themselves to stupor for hours at a time. “And we as a nation have come to accept this as normal, and that is the sad reality for all Guyana.”
Considering Abrams’ relatively young age, his domestic circumstances, and the favourable probation report, Justice Reynolds said to him, “there is a real prospect of rehabilitation in your circumstances.”
The Judge, in sentencing the killer, considered the mitigating factors in his favour and the fact that he was not the trigger man. The Judge also considered that a deadly weapon was used during the commissioning of the offence. In the end, Justice Reynolds urged Abrams to use his time in prison to rethink, detox, and ween himself off of the excessive use of alcohol.
The prison authority was ordered to deduct the time Abrams spent in pre-trial custody from his sentence. State Counsel Seeta Bishundial appeared on behalf of the prosecution in this matter, while Attorney-at-Law Rachael Bakker represented Abrams. [Guyana Times]