Jose G. Ventura and Jose M. Rivera Jr. were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on Friday in Superior Court for the 2001 torture/murder of V.I. Police Officer Wendell "Lazee" Williams.
The two men were convicted Feb. 6 after a jury trial in which an eyewitness described their role in the murder.
Williams was 49 years old and an 18-year veteran of the police force when he went missing on June 13, 2001. He was last seen by his sister when they drove a relative to the airport.
In the weeks following his disappearance, police searched all over the island for Williams, but the only thing ever found was his car, which police discovered burned out in the bush near Castle Burke. Shell casings from a high-powered weapon were found nearby, causing police to upgrade the case from missing persons to homicide.
Five suspects, including Ventura and Rivera, were arrested in February 2012, a decade after his disappearance. The jury returned not guilty verdicts for the other three suspects.
Police Commissioner Rodney F. Querrard Sr. said the sentencing marks the end of a long road for the V.I. Police Department, as well as the family and friends of Cpl. Williams.
“Now the officers who were close to him as well as his family can find solace in knowing justice has finally been done. Officer Williams’s spirit can now rest in peace,” the commissioner said.
St. Croix Police Chief James Parris also acknowledged the guilty verdict, crediting the cold case squad for reopening the case and tracking down new evidence.
“The detectives put in more than two and a half years of extensive and detailed investigation into this case," Parris said. "At times their professionalism was put to the test as we were faced with the full knowledge and reality of the torture that was inflected on our brother officer in his last days on this earth.”
“This has been a difficult time for my officers but we can now lay this case to rest knowing we’ve done the best we could to find that long-awaited justice that Corporal Williams deserved," Parris said.