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Accused Killers Could Face Trial in Summer

The V.I. Superior Court has moved five more murder suspects into the pipeline towards summer trials after completing a series of arraignments last week. The trial for a sixth suspect is set to begin on Monday.

The five suspects arraigned last week for three of the territory’s 22 homicides so far this year all plead ‘not guilty’ to the murder charges and attached weapons charges Thursday.

Jody Penn

Penn, 28, is accused of gunning down 26-year-old Dion Henry with an AK-47 assault rifle on a dead-end street in Anna’s Fancy on April 8. Tips from neighbors alerted police, and cooperative witnesses led to Penn’s swift arrest, police said at the time.

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At a probable cause hearing on April 9, Superior Court Judge Michael Dunston said Penn posed a serious threat to the community and was a flight risk and ordered Penn held on $200,000 cash bail, which he could not pay.

Judge Brenda Hollar, who presided over Penn’s arraignment Thursday, did not change the terms of bail and said the case would still be tried by Dunston sometime this summer. A separate bail hearing will be conducted on May 13, and any plea agreements have to be submitted by May 21, she said.

Dunston will set the date for a jury trial requested by Penn Thursday.

Jermaine Williams

Williams, a 27-year-old Vester Gade man, is accused of shooting 43-year-old Delano Dowe near Ulke Gade on the morning of Feb. 17. Dowe tried to save his own life, driving himself to a local fire station for help, but died later that day at Schneider Regional Medical Center.

Police arrested Williams on April 2. Bail was set at $250,000, which Williams was unable to pay and so remains in the custody of the BOC awaiting trial. His case has been assigned to Judge James Carroll III, who will set a date for trial.

Jamal Morton, Jevern Phillip, Maliek Oslalaza

Ostalaza, 21, and Philip, 23 – both from Tutu High Rise — and 28-year-old Jamal Morton of Savan, are accused of the March 6 murder of 26-year-old Kevin James in Hospital Ground. James was shot while he and others were sitting in a vehicle near the Hospital Ground Basketball Court shortly after leaving Jaguars Nightclub. Like Dowe, James died later at Schneider Regional Medical Center.

Police said community tips led them to the three St. Thomas men, two of whom were very easy to find. Ostalaza and Morton were already jailed by the BOC after being arrested on March 20 for possessing illegal weapons and ammunition. They were rearrested on March 26, with ‘murder, first-degree’ added to their charge sheet.

Police arrested Phillip “without incident” on March 27. Phillip had recently served some of a three-year sentence for another illegal weapons conviction in 2007, according to the V.I. Department of Justice.

The original judge in the case, Judge James Carroll III Carroll recused himself, as he said he has had occasion to do in past cases involving Morton, because he knows his mother – an officer with the VIPD Investigations Bureau.

On Thursday, Judge Hollar said she would preside over separate trials for all three suspects, each of whom is detained until trial. The final opportunity for a plea agreement is May 21, she said.

Jermaine Paris

On Monday, Paris is scheduled to appear in court for the first day of trial for the murder of off-duty police officer Ariel Frett in Hospital Ground on Feb. 8, 2007.

Originally, Paris and his younger brother, Basheem Ford, were charged for the killing and were to be tried in separate courts because Ford was a minor. The DOJ later combined their cases and charged them both with first-degree murder.

Through some controversial legal quarrels between then Superior Court Judge Leon Kendall and prosecutor Jesse Bethel, Paris and Ford have seen the charges drop to involuntary manslaughter, which they at one point agreed to, rise to voluntary manslaughter, which they also at one point agreed to, and then back to the original charge of murder.

After the V.I. Supreme Court intervened, and after the brothers reneged on the voluntary manslaughter plea and described the homicide as the unfortunate result of a street fight started by Frett, Kendall recused himself and wrote a blistering legal opinion in July that landed him in trouble with the high court on contempt charges of his own. After two days of Supreme Court hearings last week, Kendall awaits a decision in his case.

Ford was killed in the Market Square neighborhood later I July, leaving Paris to face the original murder charges alone.

A jury was selected on April 14 for Paris’ trial, which is set to begin at 9 a.m. Monday.

Williams, Penn, Phillip, Ostalaza and Morton all remain in custody of the BOC awaiting trial.

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The V.I. Superior Court has moved five more murder suspects into the pipeline towards summer trials after completing a series of arraignments last week. The trial for a sixth suspect is set to begin on Monday.

The five suspects arraigned last week for three of the territory’s 22 homicides so far this year all plead ‘not guilty’ to the murder charges and attached weapons charges Thursday.

Jody Penn

Penn, 28, is accused of gunning down 26-year-old Dion Henry with an AK-47 assault rifle on a dead-end street in Anna’s Fancy on April 8. Tips from neighbors alerted police, and cooperative witnesses led to Penn’s swift arrest, police said at the time.

At a probable cause hearing on April 9, Superior Court Judge Michael Dunston said Penn posed a serious threat to the community and was a flight risk and ordered Penn held on $200,000 cash bail, which he could not pay.

Judge Brenda Hollar, who presided over Penn’s arraignment Thursday, did not change the terms of bail and said the case would still be tried by Dunston sometime this summer. A separate bail hearing will be conducted on May 13, and any plea agreements have to be submitted by May 21, she said.

Dunston will set the date for a jury trial requested by Penn Thursday.

Jermaine Williams

Williams, a 27-year-old Vester Gade man, is accused of shooting 43-year-old Delano Dowe near Ulke Gade on the morning of Feb. 17. Dowe tried to save his own life, driving himself to a local fire station for help, but died later that day at Schneider Regional Medical Center.

Police arrested Williams on April 2. Bail was set at $250,000, which Williams was unable to pay and so remains in the custody of the BOC awaiting trial. His case has been assigned to Judge James Carroll III, who will set a date for trial.

Jamal Morton, Jevern Phillip, Maliek Oslalaza

Ostalaza, 21, and Philip, 23 – both from Tutu High Rise -- and 28-year-old Jamal Morton of Savan, are accused of the March 6 murder of 26-year-old Kevin James in Hospital Ground. James was shot while he and others were sitting in a vehicle near the Hospital Ground Basketball Court shortly after leaving Jaguars Nightclub. Like Dowe, James died later at Schneider Regional Medical Center.

Police said community tips led them to the three St. Thomas men, two of whom were very easy to find. Ostalaza and Morton were already jailed by the BOC after being arrested on March 20 for possessing illegal weapons and ammunition. They were rearrested on March 26, with ‘murder, first-degree’ added to their charge sheet.

Police arrested Phillip “without incident” on March 27. Phillip had recently served some of a three-year sentence for another illegal weapons conviction in 2007, according to the V.I. Department of Justice.

The original judge in the case, Judge James Carroll III Carroll recused himself, as he said he has had occasion to do in past cases involving Morton, because he knows his mother – an officer with the VIPD Investigations Bureau.

On Thursday, Judge Hollar said she would preside over separate trials for all three suspects, each of whom is detained until trial. The final opportunity for a plea agreement is May 21, she said.

Jermaine Paris

On Monday, Paris is scheduled to appear in court for the first day of trial for the murder of off-duty police officer Ariel Frett in Hospital Ground on Feb. 8, 2007.

Originally, Paris and his younger brother, Basheem Ford, were charged for the killing and were to be tried in separate courts because Ford was a minor. The DOJ later combined their cases and charged them both with first-degree murder.

Through some controversial legal quarrels between then Superior Court Judge Leon Kendall and prosecutor Jesse Bethel, Paris and Ford have seen the charges drop to involuntary manslaughter, which they at one point agreed to, rise to voluntary manslaughter, which they also at one point agreed to, and then back to the original charge of murder.

After the V.I. Supreme Court intervened, and after the brothers reneged on the voluntary manslaughter plea and described the homicide as the unfortunate result of a street fight started by Frett, Kendall recused himself and wrote a blistering legal opinion in July that landed him in trouble with the high court on contempt charges of his own. After two days of Supreme Court hearings last week, Kendall awaits a decision in his case.

Ford was killed in the Market Square neighborhood later I July, leaving Paris to face the original murder charges alone.

A jury was selected on April 14 for Paris’ trial, which is set to begin at 9 a.m. Monday.

Williams, Penn, Phillip, Ostalaza and Morton all remain in custody of the BOC awaiting trial.