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Nov 27, 2003

Key witness in murder trial killed after testimony

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At around this same time last night shots rang out on the south side of Belize City and within minutes word was out that a young man, no stranger to police and the press, was dead. News 5′s Jacqueline Woods has the story.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting

Twenty-six year old Marlon Budd has had his problems with the law, but his family contends he was not murdered for any past misdeeds, but simply because he was the key witness in the murder trial of Denver “Fish” Hamilton. Shermaine Budd says in April 2002 her brother saw when twenty-two year old George Matthews killed Hamilton on Central American Boulevard.

Shermaine Budd, Sister of the Deceased

“Marlon was the witness in this case because while they were shooting “Fish” on this side of the boulevard, he was on the other side of the boulevard in his car coming.”

“As he the come from church that dah weh he meet up to. Anyway, Marlon chased the young man from boulevard, up this street, down Gibnut Street. This is when the infrastructure was going on so he couldn’t passed there.”

Jacqueline Woods

“So he got a good look at this guy?”

Shermaine Budd

“He got a very look because he was chasing him in his car.”

Last week, Budd testified in Supreme Court and Matthews was found guilty of murder. On Wednesday night Budd was riding his bicycle with two dogs on a leash on Curassow Street when two men approached him. One pulled out a gun and fired several shots.

Shermaine Budd

“Marlon was shot in the left temple, a shot here that punctured his lungs and one shot here at the rib on his right side.”

Budd says her brother always feared that he would be killed if he told police who had murdered Hamilton, but decided to go ahead after an attempt was made on his life and his family asked him to speak with authorities. But she claims that was probably a mistake because she after Budd gave his statement to the police, she received calls that suggest someone may have leaked the source of the information.

Shermaine Budd

“My father tell him if you want to show the public or show the policemen that you are changing, give a statement, do what is right. He said, “But Cal, if I do that, nobody will protect me, dah dead I dead.” Anyway, Marlon went and gave the statement. I think it was not even half an hour after Marlon gave that statement it was on the streets of Belize because I get calls that Marlon had given a statement against Matthews at the police station and the exact words of the statement. I told my father when he came in, see the same policeman them bring it out.”

Police Press Officer G. Michael Reid admits it is a serious allegation but can only say that it’s a rule of thumb that all statements given to the police are kept confidential.

G. Michael Reid, Police Press Officer

“The unfortunate thing is that when witnesses go to the court then they have to testify in an open court. There are ways that are being looked at, in particular now with the advent of more forensic expertise and equipment available to pursue it from that angle that less emphasis will be placed on eyewitnesses, and as far as that is concerned, people having to go to court and confronting the accused. So until that point, however, to get a conviction there still has to be someone who will stand up in court and say, “Yes, this is the individual who did it.”

Jacqueline Woods

“Do the police believe Budd was killed because he was the key witness in the Hamilton case?”

G. Michael Reid

“We have no evidence to suggest that that is the case. As a matter of fact, as might have know, this young man was living dangerously for quite some time, and in fact, several attempts had been made on his life prior to this successful attempt. We think that it was just a matter of one of those attempts succeeding. Unfortunately, many of these young men live out there as if they believe they are invincible. And when this occurs it causes much anguish to their family and friends. It’s unfortunate, but at this point nothing is being ruled out and the police are looking at all aspects.”

A number of persons witnessed Budd’s murder and it did not take long for the police to detain two suspects: nineteen-year-old Brenton Smith Lewis and twenty-year-old Kelvin Young.

Jacqueline Woods

Do they have enough evidence to convict both guys?”

G. Michael Reid

“That is difficult to ascertain and that is normally left up to the courts. Certainly, even the arrest of these individuals will depend upon what the D.P.P. thinks of the evidence at hand. So far, it would seem that yes there are eyewitness accounts and that indeed there is some evidence to suggest that these two individuals might have somehow been involved.”

Budd says her family has had a lot to endure following threats against her brother’s life and her mother’s recent bout with cancer, but she says as much as she will miss Marlon, last night was the first time she has seen her brother at peace in a long time.

Shermaine Budd

“Because of all the troubles, now when I looked at him last night he was looking as he was looking just like he was sleeping, he was so peaceful.”

Jacqueline Woods for News 5.

On Friday morning, George Matthews will be sentenced at the Supreme Court. Viewers may recall that on November first Calbert Budd Sr., Marlon’s father, won the Lotto jackpot of one hundred and twenty-two thousand, five hundred dollars.

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