Avondale A. George Jr. was sentenced on Friday to 35 years for his conviction of murder, assault and robbery charges for the 2015 murder of 73-year-old Augustus Bannis in the vicinity of David Hamilton Jackson Park, St. Croix, V.I. Attorney General Denise George announced.
The 22-year-old Avondale George was sentenced by V.I. Superior Court Judge Harold Willocks.
George had been found guilty of second-degree murder, first-degree robbery, first-degree assault and unauthorized use of a vehicle. The various charges drew a total of 65 years in prison, but Willocks directed that the sentence be served concurrently.
DOJ Assistant Attorneys General Eric Chancellor and his co-counsel Amie Simpson prosecuted the case.
A St. Croix jury returned the guilty verdicts on Dec. 4 after deliberating for 45 minutes.
George was tried with a co-defendant, Enock Justin Cole, who also was convicted and will face a later sentencing date.
According to court records, George and Cole aided and abetted each other in the perpetration of the robbery, taking Bannis’ vehicle against his will and brutally beating him in the process.
On the day the incident took place, Bannis left his home in Estate Upper Love and headed to the park.
The court record says George and Cole struck Bannis in the head and repeatedly kicked him about the body, causing a blunt head injury.
According to an affidavit, an officer said he arrived on the 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 Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital, where he was listed as unconscious but in stable condition. He remained in a comatose state and two months later, on Oct. 19, he succumbed to his wounds at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.
He died as a result of “delayed complications of blunt head injury,” according to the hospital.
George and Cole were arrested in November 2015. Cole is scheduled is to be sentenced at a later date. Two other accomplices have not been tried in court. At the sentencing, due to COVID-19 the victims did not present Victim Impact Statements. However, Chancellor read portions of prepared statements from family members including Bannis’ wife and daughter.
“He was not only my husband but my other half, my best friend, my soulmate, my one and only true love, my children’s father, my breadwinner and more. His life was centered on his family and he loved many, for he was a loving and caring man,” said the statement from, Maria Bannis, the wife of the victim.
Jackie Zamore, Bannis’ daughter, said in her statement, “He was taken prematurely in the cruelest fashion; was beaten without any provocation and left for dead like an animal on the street.”
Bannis was a former pastor of the First Baptist Church in Salisbury, Dominica, for 18 years before relocating to St. Croix for 10 years. He served as a deacon at the Calvary Baptist Church on St. Croix where he taught Sunday School, Bible school, mentored the young and assisted the elderly.