[Trinidad Guardian] A Trinidad man has been found guilty of murder and his former common-law wife guilty of manslaughter over the death of his nine-month-old stepson, who was beaten to death in 2008.
Kelt Kirk and Sherry-Ann Lalloo were both initially charged with murdering Raheim Clarke but received mixed verdicts at the end of their recent judge-alone trial before Justice Gail Gonzales.
According to the evidence in the case, which was summarised by Justice Gonzales in her written reasons for her verdicts, baby Raheim occasionally stayed with Kirk and Lalloo after Kirk and his mother Melissa Clarke ended their relationship, as he (Kirk) believed the child was his son. Although baby Raheim’s mother found out Kirk was not his father one month prior to his eventual murder, she hid the fact from Kirk.
On July 2, 2008, Kirk took the unresponsive baby to the Mayaro District Hospital. Doctors were unable to resuscitate the baby, who had numerous marks of violence on his body. An autopsy revealed baby Raheim died of multiple blunt force injuries to his head, which caused bleeding in the brain. It also revealed Clarke had scars from previous physical abuse.
When he was initially interviewed by Homicide detectives led by then-Sgt Shaun Dhilpaul, Kirk claimed the baby was ill the night before and fell off the bed before being taken to the hospital.
Lalloo initially corroborated Clarke’s story but later claimed Kirk slapped baby Raheim and hit him on his hands and feet with a dabla (a wooden spatula for flipping roti). Kirk then claimed he lied to protect Lalloo, who he claimed actually inflicted the injuries on the baby.
In deciding the case, Justice Gonzales said she had to consider circumstantial evidence, as there was no direct evidence over who inflicted the injuries.
Justice Gonzales considered the medical evidence of the past abuse and Kirk’s admissions over them to find that he inflicted the fatal wounds on the baby.
“I found that Kirk was ill-treating Raheim during the period that he was at his home,” Justice Gonzales said.
“I found as a fact that as the evidence pointed to him being the person who struck Raheim, that he was the person who administered a blow to the side of his right face, with severe force causing the collapse shortly thereafter.”
While she found that Lalloo did not inflict the injuries, she ruled she was guilty of the lesser offence of manslaughter as she had a duty to intervene or call the police in the circumstances.
“Lalloo knew that if she did not intervene that Kirk could cause at least bodily harm to this defenceless, nine-month-old baby and she still did nothing,” Justice Gonzales said.
“I was sure that Lalloo’s intentional failure to intervene or register disapproval encouraged Kirk to continue his assault on Raheim in the sense that it facilitated the continued assault on Raheim which culminated in his demise.”
Based on the outcome of the case, Kirk received the mandatory death penalty. Lalloo is expected to return to court for sentencing in September.
Kirk was represented by Rekha Ramjit, while Selwyn Ramlal represented Lalloo. The case was prosecuted by Indira Chinebas and Kezia Gray-Burkette.