Man could serve 25 years in prison after pleading in rape, murder cases


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ST. THOMAS - A man charged with stabbing one woman to death and raping another could spend 25 years in prison under the terms of a plea deal approved Monday by V.I. Superior Court Judge James Carroll III.

Unlike many plea agreement hearings, in which defendants, as a matter of formality, answer questions about whether they have knowingly and voluntarily entered into the agreement, Carroll took deliberate care with defendant Kareem Mulrain on Monday after the 21-year-old told the judge he left school after ninth grade. When Carroll asked Mulrain whether he read and understood English, Mulrain said, "Not that well."

At one point, Carroll asked Mulrain whether he understood that he would be waiving his right to a jury trial by entering into the plea agreement. Mulrain said yes. Carroll then asked Mulrain whether he understood what a jury trial is.

"Not really," Mulrain said.

After Carroll explained the jury trial process, Mulrain said he understood, but Carroll continued to look skeptical from the bench as the defendant offered mostly monosyllabic, and barely audible, responses to the judge's questions.

One of Mulrain's defense attorneys, Paula Norkaitis, noted to the court that Mulrain had been declared competent to stand trial only after a "quite extensive" hearing in September before Judge Brenda Hollar. Norkaitis said the hearing left open the question of whether mental illness could be brought to bear on the case as a separate issue.

Mulrain's other attorney, Julie Smith Todman, said her client had been prescribed three different anti-psychotic drugs to treat adult schizophrenia.

Carroll asked Mulrain how the medications made him feel.

"No way," Mulrain said.

"What does that mean?" Carroll said.

"They make me feel all right," Mulrain said.

Mulrain initially faced charges of first-degree murder and second-degree rape, among other lesser charges, in connection with two separate incidents, according to court records.

The murder charge stemmed from the April 25 stabbing death of 64-year-old Ernestine Carty, who lived in the Tutu Hi-Rise housing community. According to statements in court Monday by Assistant Attorney General Sigrid Tejo-Sprotte, Carty was known to sell drinks and snacks from her apartment, which was in the same building as the apartment where Mulrain lived.

Mulrain, who was known by the nickname "Mad Max," had stopped by earlier in the day to buy a beer, the prosecutor said. When he returned later, Carty let Mulrain inside and he began attacking her; he later was seen disposing of a bloody T-shirt, Tejo-Sprotte said.

Mulrain's father brought him to the police station, where he admitted to stabbing Carty, Tejo-Sprotte said.

The rape charge followed a Jan. 15, 2011, incident in which police accused Mulrain of accosting a 48-year-old woman who was sunbathing topless at Lindquist Beach. Assistant Attorney General Judy Gomez told the court Monday that Mulrain struggled with the woman before running away. He was later identified by two eyewitnesses.

The government agreed to drop the more serious charges in exchange for Mulrain pleading guilty to second-degree murder and first-degree unlawful sexual contact, according to the plea deal proposed Oct. 10. The government said it would recommend sentences of 20 years and five years on the respective charges with the terms to be served consecutively.

Mulrain accepted the deal Oct. 16, and Carroll assented Monday. The judge scheduled Mulrain's sentencing for Jan. 11, 2013.

- Contact reporter Lou Mattei at 714-9124 or email lmattei@dailynews.vi.

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