In November 2018, High Court Judge Madam Justice Paula Gilford was forced to declare a mistrial in the gruesome March 2016 Brittney Baptiste Capital Murder case brought against her 50-year-old brother-in-law, Demlyn ‘Dumpling’ Murray, after a jury failed to reach a verdict in the face of the State Prosecution’s contention that he had killed the 15-year-old school girl, to avoid a rape charge she had filed against him in December 2015, for which he was awaiting trial.
Six (6) years after the teenager’s body was found buried under some bushes in the village of Good Hope, St. George, the matter finally concluded at the St. George’s No. 1 High Court last week Friday, with Madam Justice Gilford ordering Murray to spend the rest of his life behind bars at the Richmond Hill Prison, following his conviction at the end of his retrial in March of this year.
Murray, who was arrested and charged days after the body of Brittney, the sister of his former wife, was found within proximity to his matrimonial home, was also part of a search team that included family members and residents from the village of Good Hope that went out looking for her when she did not return home.
An autopsy carried out on the body revealed that the teenager, who the Court noted was last seen alive in the company of the then 48-year-old Murray close to the area where her body was recovered, died as a result of strangulation.
The convicted felon, who is a former hospital worker, and also worked as a garbage collector, was to be sentenced approximately two (2) weeks ago, however, Madam Justice Gilford had put it on hold based on information emanating from the social inquiry report, and had requested that psychiatric, and psychological assessments be conducted before proceeding with sentencing.
Although Madam Justice Gilford chose to not impose the maximum sentence of death by hanging, she did not concede to the request of Murray’s Attorney, Herricia Willis from the Law firm of H.L. Willis & Associates, to impose a “determinant sentence of between 30 – 50 years,” on Murray, who was “adamant” that he did not kill Brittney, even after the murder conviction.
“The Court had agreed (but) at the last moment aggravating factors were put forward (in the psychiatric, and psychological reports by a range of individuals), which caused the Court to raise the bar,” Attorney Willis said when contacted by THE NEW TODAY on Tuesday.
Despite Murray being an “exemplary employee,” and having “good interactions with people in authority,” Attorney Willis added that the Court also noted Murray’s poor “interactions and his behavior toward his family members before, and after the death of his sister-in-law,” as a major aggravating factor, “which raised the sentence significantly.”
Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Christopher Nelson QC, led the State’s case against Murray in the retrial, which commenced before Madam Justice Gilford in February, with assistance from Senior Crown Counsel Howard Pinnock, and a slate of 15 witnesses giving evidence to the Court.
Although she provided legal counsel for the convicted felon, Attorney Willis took issue with the fact that Murray was “bailed back into the family unit, (by the St. George’s Magistrate’s Court) even after being accused of rape by the now deceased teenager.
Noting that Murray and the deceased resided within proximity of each other, Attorney Willis emphasised that he should have never been bailed back into the family unit.
“That should never have occurred. This is something that is very noticeable. You have been accused of a crime, and they put you back into the situation. Move him away or even move her away but they should have never been in the same place. And, as you know cases don’t come to court very quickly,” added Attorney Willis, who cited the need for changes to be made to the new sentencing guidelines in this regard.
“This is a very unusual case, very heart-wrenching case because a young girl lost her life, and it’s a family member so, it sort of destroyed the family unit (and) has far-reaching consequences for the child’s mother, and other siblings, especially the fact that he intended to go to Court against the victim, who had brought an action against him, and he was bailed back into the family unit, which was, I would say, a wrong thing that should not have occurred, and perhaps guidelines can be put in for when individuals of this kind of action, especially, against young girls, which is prevalent in Grenada, which is unfortunate (and) I think some changes need to be made,” Attorney Willis told THE NEW TODAY.
An elder sister of the deceased teenager, who attended the Happy Hill Secondary School, and was on hand to witness last week Friday’s sentencing hearing, has expressed satisfaction with the life sentence that was handed down by the court, describing it as “a bittersweet moment.”
“It’s bitter because the sentence is not going to bring her back, and she had her whole life ahead of her and it was taken from her before time,” said the sister, who noted that the sentence “would bring some form of comfort, and security to the family knowing that we can move on and not hold on to him coming out and the possibilities of what he may do.”
The sister also expressed hope that the news would also bring some closure to their mother, whose mental disorder went downhill following Britney’s death.
“Right now, she spends most time in Mt. Gay, and she lost a lot of weight,” the sister confirmed, expressing hope that “this news can bring a little bit of peace and satisfaction so that she can get her health back on track…”
Murray’s conviction goes down in history as the second to occur since the concept of indictable Capital and Non-Capital Murder charges was introduced to the criminal landscape when the Criminal Code was revised in 2012.
In December 2019, a 12-member jury handed down a guilty verdict against 19-year-old Frequente teenager, Twely Joseph for the November 2017 brutal death of 8-year-old Ariel Bhola, days before her ninth birthday, when his trial concluded before Madam Justice Gilford in December 2019.
Sexual crimes against the under-aged have long been a scourge in Grenadian society, and have in recent years dominated the list of matters coming up for adjudication before the St. George’s High Court.