A Superior Court jury on St Croix took 45 minutes to determine Wednesday that Enock Justin Cole and Avondale A. George, Jr. were guilty of murder, assault and robbery in the death of a 73-year-old man in 2015 in the vicinity of David Hamilton Jackson Park, Estate Grove Place, according to Attorney General Denise George.
Both men were found guilty of second-degree murder, first-degree assault, first degree robbery and unauthorized use of a vehicle stemming from the August 17, 2015, murder of the 73-year-old Bannis. Cole and George aided and abetted each other in the perpetration of a robbery, taking Bannis’s vehicle against his will, according to the news release from the Attorney General’s office.
On the day of his death Bannis left his home in Estate Upper Love and headed to the park. According to an affidavit, Officer Lawrence James stated that he arrived on scene and found Bannis laying on the ground face up with what appeared to be blood pooled in the collar of his shirt. EMTs transported Bannis to the Juan F. Luis Hospital, where he was listed as unconscious but in stable condition.
Bannis had been struck in the head and repeatedly kicked about the body, causing blunt head injury and his subsequent death on Oct. 19, 2015. He remained in a comatose state for two months before succumbing to his wounds at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.
Attorney General George said she was pleased both with the result and with her office’s efforts to get the conviction.
“Justice has been served and I commend our prosecution team, Assistant Attorneys General Eric Chancellor and Amie Simpson for their excellent work and dedication under particularly challenging circumstances,” George said. “After the untimely withdrawal of federal prosecutors previously handling the case, our prosecution team took on the case on short notice with the relentless determination to bring the perpetrators to justice. Much gratitude also to the witnesses who came forward. I hope this provides some degree of comfort and closure to Mr. Bannis’s loved ones”
Bannis had served as pastor of the First Baptist Church in Salisbury, Dominica, for 18 years before relocating to St. Croix, where he lived for 10 years. He was a deacon at the Calvary Baptist Church on St. Croix, teaching Sunday School, Bible school, mentoring the young and assisting the elderly.
His daughter, Jacqueline Zamore, said the father of six adopted and raised many other children along the years. She described him as a very affectionate, kindhearted husband and family man who never held a grudge, as he was known as the peace maker. She said the family was saddened when the crime occurred, but they will now focus on the good times.
“When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure; treasure the memories,” \Zamore said.
Sentencing for Cole and George is scheduled in February in the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands.