Murder trial opening statements paint vastly different pictures of Lorraine Village shooting
Published: February 12, 2014
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ST. CROIX - Attorneys on both sides in the V.I. Superior Court murder case against Leo Lubrin Jr. presented their opening statements Tuesday.
Lubrin, 23, faces charges of first-degree murder; first-degree reckless endangerment; unauthorized use of a firearm during a violent crime; using a dangerous weapon during a violent crime; and failure to report a firearm brought into the Virgin Islands in connection with the Aug. 11, 2011, shooting death of Christopher Rice.
Jury selection in the case being heard by Judge Douglas Brady took place Monday.
Assistant Attorney General Joseph Ponteen told the jurors Tuesday that the case is about two young men who gambled and lost. Ponteen said he plans to present witnesses who include the case agent, V.I. Police Detective Kirk Fieulleteau, a patrol officer who responded to the scene, a forensic technician who collected evidence, the medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Rice and three other witnesses who were present at the time of the shooting.
According to Fieulleteau's police report, six men - including Rice and Lubrin - were gambling between Buildings 5 and 6 at Lorraine Village when an argument began.
According to witness accounts, shortly before 11 p.m., Lubrin became upset with the outcome of one of the games and began shouting, with at least one person saying they heard him yell: "You all better get from here because somebody go'n' be dead tonight."
Lubrin then ran to his nearby apartment and returned a short time later with a gun, according to police.
Most of the other men had run off from the area, but Rice, 19, was standing on the walkway between the buildings holding onto his bike when Lubrin began firing, according to Fieulleteau's affidavit. Most witnesses estimated that Lubrin fired five or six gunshots, and Rice was struck twice in the chest, according to the affidavit.
Rice was unresponsive by the time responders arrived, police said.
Based on reports, investigators were quickly led to Lubrin and he surrendered to police for questioning later that night after his mother informed him that police were looking for him. He later was arrested.
Lubrin's attorney, Michael Joseph, said the prosecution would not be able to bring enough evidence to remove the cloak of innocence. Joseph said he plans to bring three generations of witnesses to talk about Lubrin's calm demeanor and who all agree that Lubrin is a peacemaker and is wrongfully accused of the murder.
"He is charged with the most serious crime - taking the life of another," Joseph said. "Listen to what comes from the witness stand, not from the melee that comes out after such a tragedy."
Joseph said the prosecution will call witnesses to prove that Rice was killed and that it not in dispute, but the witnesses and the other evidence will certainly not prove that Lubrin was the one who did it so he must be found not guilty.
Another man who had been involved in the dice game, 23-year-old Shevron Percival, was arrested and charged with withholding evidence in the case.
Percival was in custody at Golden Grove Adult Correctional Facility when officers arrested him, and he had been held since Aug. 29, 2011, in connection with an armed robbery in Lorraine Village on May 10, 2011.
When police contacted Percival about Rice's murder, he told them he had been at the scene of the crime and saw what happened but would not cooperate, Fieulleteau said.
Percival maintained his silence and was convicted in April 2013 of concealing knowledge of a felony.
If Lubrin is convicted, he could spend the rest of his natural life in prison on the first-degree murder charge alone.
At the time of his arrest, Lubrin had been held on $1 million bail. However, that bail has since been reduced to $20,000 to allow his family to post sufficient property.
Lubrin remains released on bail to a third-party custodian on 24-hour house arrest with the use of an electronic and GPS monitoring device.
- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.