Chronology of delays Hearing set for today for boys charged in connection with William Hyde killing Virgin Islands law requires minors 14 and older be tried as adults for serious felonies
Published: January 22, 2013
Font size: [A] [A] [A]
ST. THOMAS - The territory's top prosecutor said his office still is developing its case against five boys arrested six weeks ago in connection with a brutal assault that claimed a man's life.
"I'm saying if I'm going to charge any kind of homicide from primarily what was an assault case, to kick it up to some type of murder or homicide at some level, I've got to take a second look at what I have," V.I. Attorney General Vincent Frazer told The Daily News on Friday. "And we have been taking a second look at what we have."
Prosecutors said after the last hearing, on Jan. 8, that another hearing is scheduled for today.
Police found the victim, 65-year-old William Hyde, badly beaten on Nov. 24 in a bathroom stall at Magens Bay beach.
Seventeen days later, on Dec. 10, "following an intensive investigation," police arrested four boys in connection with the case and arrested a fifth boy on Dec. 12, according to a press release issued by V.I. Police spokeswoman Melody Rames.
Police said one of the 16- and 17-year-old suspects knew Hyde and called him for a ride. When Hyde arrived in Anna's Retreat to pick the boy up, the suspect got into the truck and four other boys came out of the bush and got into the truck. The boys threatened Hyde with a BB gun, forced him into the back cab of the truck and took him to the beach, where they assaulted him, according to police.
The boys were charged with attempted murder; first-degree assault; kidnapping; grand larceny; unauthorized use of a vehicle; possession of stolen property; possession of a stolen vehicle; and two counts each of using a dangerous weapon during a crime of violence.
The suspects were advised of their rights in Family Court, then released to their parents or guardians pending further court action, police said.
Hyde died from his injuries on Dec. 17 after he was taken off of life support on Dec. 14 at a stateside hospital, according to police.
Since then, prosecutors repeatedly have promised an update in the charges against the five boys to reflect Hyde's death.
Frazer reiterated last week that the process still is ongoing.
"The delay in the case has been - you have, yes, you have the person died; you have an assault that took place; you had juveniles who were arrested for that," Frazer said. "We've reviewed, and we have decided to amend the charges that we levied in this case. We have to consider all of the factors in what we are charging, OK? So we have to make sure that we have the evidence that we need. We have to make sure that the evidence we have matches the statutory provision under which we will be charging. So we have that to do, so that requires the police officers getting us the information that satisfies us."
St. Thomas-St. John Police Chief Darren Foy said on Jan. 8: "Basically the investigation is completed."
'Nothing to do with it'
Some people familiar with the case have raised questions over the delay, pointing out that one of the suspects is the son of Franklin Francis, who appears on the government's 2012 salary list as an executive chauffeur in the office of Gov. John deJongh Jr.
"That have nothing to do with it, absolutely nothing to do with it," Frazer said. "I can tell you - absolutely nothing to do with it. That have nothing to do with it. I assure you, and I assure the public. You are the second person I heard say that. I don't know that for a fact. OK? I don't know that. You know who the juveniles are? And you know they're blood relatives? OK, I don't know. So it isn't a factor in my consideration, OK? It has nothing to do with it."
Government House spokesman Jean Greaux Jr. also responded to the same information and said it was not the first time that questions about Francis' link to the case had been raised.
"The only involvement the governor has had is to be regularly updated by the AG," Greaux said.
Greaux confirmed that Francis is employed by the governor's office but said he is "not a driver of the governor."
"The governor is very confident in what the Department of Justice is doing, and he is confident that at some time in the future, we will get to that point when the Department of Justice believes the case is solid," Greaux said. "The governor is quite comfortable and confident this will be resolved fairly and without delay and without interference from anyone."
The V.I. Code does not specifically define attempted murder, but it does define first-degree assault as any assault committed "with intent to commit murder."
Murder is defined as "the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought." First-degree murder includes, among other things, any murder perpetrated by means of "lying in wait" or committed in the perpetration of burglary, robbery or assault.
But while Frazer and his top prosecutors have continually pointed out that cases involving juveniles are treated differently under the law, it remains unclear why the boys in Hyde's case have not been transferred out of Family Court on the attempted murder charge, as required by law.
According to the law, if a juvenile is 14 or older at the time of the crime and Family Court finds probable cause for a charge of attempted murder, or certain other serious felonies, Family Court "shall transfer the person for proper criminal proceedings to a court of competent criminal jurisdiction."
Frazer confirmed that the suspects were formally charged with attempted murder and first-degree assault before V.I. Superior Court Judge Michael Dunston. Frazer said the transferring process can take a while.
"I don't have to just come up with - this is what I have, and simply say he died, so add this to it judge, that's it," Frazer said. "I need to do a little bit more than that."
However, he also said that the only legal distinction between an attempted murder and a murder charge is simply that the person died.
'Already in the system'
Frazer said that he did not find the delay in upgrading the charges troubling.
"Let me put it this way to you: If no arrest was made, and this happened, I would see finding a greater urgency to get this upgraded and get these people before the justice system," Frazer said. "But when I have a situation where I have the perpetrators already in the system, I don't think there is as great an urgency for me to simply amend the charges or upgrade the charges. I have them already in the system. And the system isn't going to, you know, they're not going anywhere. Who we have, they're not going anywhere."
Frazer said he did not feel it sent the wrong message to have the boys back in school shortly after their arrest, even considering the violent nature of the accused crime.
"I never got the impression that these were raging maniac juveniles going around terrorizing the community," Frazer said. "In that one incident. In one incident. I don't know what other incident they may have been involved in. I didn't get that impression, OK? Do they need to be recharged? Yes, they need to be recharged. There's no doubt about that. And we always intended to do so, from the time the man died. OK? But we have to make sure that our act is together."
Frazer said the judge has ordered the suspects not to leave the territory, so he does not think he needs to "hastily rush into the court" without being able to meet a probable cause burden for each charge against each suspect.
"There has been no deliberate delay," he said. "There has been no accidental delay. This case has been worked on. It may seem like a slam dunk; it's not. There is work that had to be done to be able to re-present this to the court. And that's what this period of time has been spent doing."
Frazer said an update in the case would be coming "very soon."
- Contact reporter Lou Mattei at 714-9124 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.The following is a timeline of events related to the fatal assault on St. Thomas resident William Hyde:
- Nov. 24, 2012: A resident finds Hyde badly beaten at 7 a.m. in a bathroom stall at Magens Bay beach. Hyde had no identification on him, and police asked for assistance from the public in determining his identity. Detectives said Hyde was in stable condition and "improving."
- Dec. 10-12, 2012: Police arrest five minors in connection with Hyde's beating. The minors are charged with attempted murder; first-degree assault; kidnapping; grand larceny; unauthorized use of a vehicle; possession of stolen property; possession of a stolen vehicle; and two counts each of using a dangerous weapon during a crime of violence. The boys are advised of their rights in Family Court, then released to their parents or guardians pending further court action.
- Dec. 14, 2012: Police report that Hyde has been taken off of life support at a stateside hospital but is "still hanging on."
- Dec. 17, 2012: Hyde, who had been hospitalized since the beating, dies. Police announce that detectives are communicating with the V.I. Attorney General's Office regarding the update in the case and that the Attorney General's Office will determine whether the charges against the suspects changes.
- Dec. 21, 2012: St. Thomas-St. John Criminal Division Chief Renee Gumbs-Carty says the case is "still going through the process of being investigated." She says the V.I. Justice Department has "already done most of the paperwork" for updating the charges, which she says she expects to happen within a week.
- Jan. 2, 2013: Chief Deputy Attorney General Wayne Anderson says the process of updating the charges still is ongoing. He says an update likely will occur by a Jan. 8 hearing in Family Court. "By then we should know where we're going," Anderson says.
- Jan. 8, 2013: Prosecutors ask for a continuance at the Family Court hearing. "We continued the matter for our own reasons that will be revealed at a later date," Anderson says.
- Jan. 18, 2013: V.I. Attorney General Vincent Frazer and Government House spokesman Jean Greaux Jr. deny that the delay in updating the charges has anything to do with one of the suspects being the son of an executive chauffeur for the office of Gov. John deJongh Jr. Frazer promises an update in the case "very soon."