St. Croix man facing 2 life sentences in separate murders accepts plea offer


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ST. CROIX - Facing two lifetime prison sentences in connection with two separate murders, Edwin Encarnacion skirted those mandatory sentences Thursday by accepting a global plea offer from prosecutors allowing him to plead guilty to lesser included crimes in exchange for prosecutors dismissing all other charges.

Encarnacion, 33, faced first-degree murder charges in two separate cases: the Aug. 14, 2010, stabbing and burning of 45-year-old Jorge Parilla and the shooting death of 41-year-old David Martin a few weeks later on Sept. 21. He also faced attempted murder and other charges - all of which prosecutors also dismissed in exchange for the plea - in connection with a fight at Golden Grove Prison last year.

After Parilla was murdered, Encarnacion became the subject of an island-wide manhunt on St. Croix before he was captured by V.I. Police officers shortly after he killed Martin.

In the case involving Parilla's murder, Encarnacion faced charges of first-degree murder, first-degree arson, first- and third-degree assault, first-degree reckless endangerment and using a dangerous weapon during a violent crime.

In the plea agreement, prosecutors allowed him to plead guilty to a single charged of voluntary manslaughter, saying that the crime was not premeditated and happened during a sudden heated moment during an argument. Prosecutors dismissed the remaining charges in exchange for Encarnacion's plea.

Encarnacion was on the run from police from the time of the first murder until he was found late in the afternoon hiding under a bed in an abandoned house just hours after Martin's murder.

In connection with Martin's murder, Encarnacion faced charges of first-degree murder, first-degree robbery, first- and third-degree assault, first- and third-degree burglary, first-degree reckless endangerment, possession of an unlicensed firearm during a violent crime, unauthorized use of a vehicle and failure to report a firearm brought into the territory. He pleaded guilty to the lesser included charge of second-degree murder, and prosecutors dismissed the remaining charges.

Prosecutors also agreed to dismiss charges of promoting prison contraband, attempted murder and weapon possessions in connection with the May 12, 2011, knife fight at Golden Grove Correctional Facility that resulted in Encarnacion and inmate Dwayne Woodrup being seriously injured. Encarnacion, Woodrup and three other inmates were charged in connection with the fight.

According to police, Encarnacion was seen in the area of Parilla's home before flames erupted from the house, and later he was seen fleeing from the area as the fire consumed the building.

The criminal complaint states that Encarnacion stabbed Parilla multiple times in the chest before setting Parilla's body and Estate Whim home on fire.

Encarnacion was on the run in areas of Frederiksted for weeks, escaping near-captures by police by fleeing into thick bush in estates Concordia and La Grange, just north of Whim and east of Frederiksted.

Police said Encarnacion was inside David Martin's beverage van on Sept. 21, 2010, and when Martin opened the door about 11:30 a.m. and found Encarnacion there with a rusty revolver in his hand, Encarnacion opened fire.

Each of the three shots that rang out in Estate Campo Rico, just blocks from the Parilla murder scene, hit Martin - one in the head, another in the chest and a third in his groin, police said.

Encarnacion then took a vehicle from a motorist at gunpoint and fled toward Concordia. A resident returning home about 3 p.m. found Encarnacion inside the house, and Encarnacion held the resident at bay by gunpoint before leaving, according to police.

About 5 p.m. the same day, officers found Encarnacion in an abandoned house nearby, hiding under a bed. Police also found a .357-caliber revolver in the abandoned house, near where Encarnacion was hiding, according to court documents. Police said they also recovered a gold chain, which belonged to Martin, and other stolen items.

Encarnacion has remained in jail since his apprehension.

During Thursday's plea agreement hearing, V.I. Superior Court Judge Julio Brady said he will schedule Encarnacion's sentencing on the voluntary manslaughter and second-degree murder convictions for the first week of November.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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