Bail set at $1M for St. Croix murder suspect

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ST. CROIX - Just hours after being brought back to the territory in handcuffs to face murder charges, Juan Ilarraza made his initial court appearance before V.I. Superior Court Judge Harold Willocks on Friday morning.

Ilarraza, 24, was taken into custody by federal and local law enforcement officers in Florida almost two weeks ago on a warrant that implicates him in the Feb. 1 shooting death of Wellington Pennyfeather Jr. in Frederiksted.

Willocks advised Ilarraza on charges of first-degree murder; first-degree assault; third-degree assault; first-degree robbery; unauthorized possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence; failure to report firearms brought into the territory; possession of ammunition; first-degree reckless endangerment; and unauthorized possession of a firearm within 1,000 feet of a school zone.

Assistant Attorney General Cornelius Evans asked the court to set bail at $1 million, saying that because Ilarraza fled the territory, he should be considered a flight risk. Based on information provided to police, Evans said after the homicide, Ilarraza fled in a small boat bound for Vieques. Only after he left Vieques and flew to Florida was he ultimately arrested.

Assistant Public Defender Yolan Brow Ross told the court that her client did not have the funds necessary to post such high bond, or any other bond. Stating setting bail for Ilarraza would only serve as a punishment and financial detainer, Ross asked that he be released on an unsecured bond.

In setting bail at $1 million, Willocks noted the seriousness of the crime, coupled with the fact that Ilarraza fled.

Three weeks ago - on March 6 - Ronald "Indu" Bogan, 19, of William's Delight, made his initial court appearance in V.I. Superior Court after being arrested and extradited from Puerto Rico, also in connection with Pennyfeather's murder.

He was also advised of his rights by Willocks on charges identical to those of Ilarraza. Bogan entered a not-guilty plea to the charges and remains jailed, unable to post his $1 million bail.

The affidavit in support of the warrants remains under seal by court order, making details about the specifics of how the crime was carried out and who may be involved available only to defense and prosecuting attorneys.

At the time of Pennyfeather's murder, about 7:37 p.m. Feb. 1., V.I. Police spokeswoman Melody Rames said residents in Frederiksted reported hearing multiple gunshots.

When officers arrived on the scene, they found Pennyfeather's body laying in the road near the intersection of Market and Queen streets.

Rames said witnesses told police Pennyfeather got into an altercation with at least one other man, and when shots were fired, Pennyfeather attempted to flee by running south on Queen Street, but he was struck by a bullet and fell to the ground.

Rames said Thursday that police believe that at least one additional individual involved in the murder remains at large.

Anyone with information about the shooting can call detectives at 712-6030 or 712-6077 or call the Crime Stoppers USVI confidential tip line at 1-800-222-8477.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email

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