Prosecution rests on first day of second week
Published: February 4, 2014
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ST. CROIX - The V.I. Superior Court trial of the remaining three persons charged in the 2001 murder of veteran V.I. Police Cpl. Wendell "Lazee" Williams will continue today in its second week after the prosecution rested its case Monday and Senior Sitting Judge Darryl Donohue Sr. granted a motion to dismiss the case against two of the defendants.
Maximiliano Velasquez III; Jose Ventura and Jose Rivera Jr. still face charges of aiding and abetting each other in committing first-degree murder and could spend the rest of their natural lives in prison if convicted.
Jurors heard testimony last week from Theresa Coogle, the prosecution's key witness who said she was living on St. Croix and witnessed the murder.
The first prosecution witness called in the case Monday was Hector Davis, a convicted drug trafficker with an extensive criminal history, who currently is serving a federal sentence in Texas.
Assistant Attorney General Kip Roberson had said in his opening remarks that Davis was expected to come to court and testify about Rivera coming to him at his home one night and asking him to follow him somewhere to bring back his truck. He would testify that he followed Rivera to an area east of Enfield Green, where he saw Wendell Williams restrained at the wrists in the back of Rivera's truck, transferred to a second vehicle and begging for his life, Roberson said.
Roberson brought back FBI special agents Kimberly Quesinberry and Clifford Goodman, who testified that Davis had made multiple statements about those facts on different occasions. They testified that Davis told them that Rivera admitted to killing Williams and throwing his body out to sea.
However, when Davis took the stand, he testified that he could not remember making any of the statements to the federal agents. He said he had known the defendants but had never been friends with them. He said he did not remember having any conversations with Rivera, who he only knows as "PD," about a murder, did not remember seeing Williams tied up in the truck or begging for his life and did not remember picking up Rivera's truck.
Davis testified that since he has been incarcerated he has been highly medicated and has been under the influence of drugs for high blood pressure, depression and other ailments and has also suffered from psychosis where he has been hearing voices and seeing things.
After Goodman testified, Rivera's attorney, Gordon Rhea, questioned him about possible deals that Davis had tried to make with federal and local prosecutors to get a light sentence if he gave them information about the murder.
Goodman confirmed that those talks had occurred but was not sure whether any of the deals had been worked out. He said it had been determined in another case that Davis had committed perjury and was determined to not be a viable federal government witness.
Rhea asked whether during the investigation the federal agents ever checked to see whether Rivera drove a truck as described, whether they checked the lighting conditions at the location where Davis claimed to see the restrained officer or whether they ever took the time to interview Rivera about the allegations.
Goodman answered that they had not done any of those things.
When the defense began to present its case after lunch, Rhea submitted two documents stipulated to by Roberson that showed that Rivera had been shot in December 2000 and was hospitalized for three days with abdomen and shoulder wounds and was re-admitted for surgery because of complications from June 6-11 in 2001.
He presented two of Rivera's sisters - Gricel Rivera and Magali Roldan - who testified that he was in severe pain for weeks after the surgeries and had to be assisted just to walk or use the bathroom and could not drive. They testified that he had the 10 staples removed June 15, the day after Williams disappeared.
Mariela Velasquez took the stand and testified that she has known Coogle for some time because she had a daughter with her brother Maximiliano Velasquez. She testified that Coogle could not have been on St. Croix during the time of the murder because she was living with her in Miami.
Mariela Velasquez said they shared a bedroom and there was never even one night that Coogle did not come home during the time that she lived with her between March to October 2001.
Jury selection in the case began Jan. 21 and lasted a week. When testimony began last week the jury heard from Wendell Williams' sister and a friend who confirmed the dates that he last was seen and when he was reported missing.
They also have heard from Coogle, who testified that she saw the torture and murder specifically by Rivera, Ventura and other unknown individuals and that she and Clercent were ordered to clean up the blood after the disposal of Williams' body.
Jimmy Davis testified that federal agents tried to force him to lie about Rivera admitting to the kidnapping and murder.
V.I. Police Detective Frankie Ortiz and forensic technician George Felix have also testified.
- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.