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Jul 13, 2017

Doehms Back in Court on Child Cruelty Charge; D.P.P. Spars with Defense

David & Anke Doehm

David and Anke Doehm were escorted to the Magistrate Court in Belize this afternoon for arraignment. The American couple has been under investigation since last week after their adopted daughter Faye Lin Cannon was found dead in their apartment.  The thirteen-year-old died of compression to the chest, but there is additional information that the young girl lived a horrendous life of sexual and physical abuse and other forms of cruelty.  The Doehms walked into the court of Chief Magistrate Ann Marie Smith and were arraigned for “Cruelty to a Child,” even as they are the main suspects in an ongoing murder investigation.  The proceedings took less than an hour as the Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryl-Lynn Vidal presented strong objections while defense attorneys sought bail for the couple. But they were denied bail and for tonight, they are behind bars at the Central Prison. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.


Duane Moody, Reporting

Just before two-thirty this afternoon, personnel from the Crimes Investigation Branch brought to the courthouse, David and Anke Doehm. The couple was escorted to a holding cell where they met with their lawyers before they were paraded into the courtroom of Chief Magistrate Ann Marie Smith. The duo was arraigned for charges of Cruelty to a Child in the ongoing investigation into the murder of thirteen-year-old Faye Lin Cannon, their adopted daughter. According to the charge sheet, while the couple had custody of Faye Lin, they willingly neglected her which ultimately caused her death. Since the matter was on indictment, no plea was taken from either accused. Anke was represented by attorney Ellis Arnold and attorney Dickie Bradley appeared on behalf of David Doehm.


Dickie Bradley

Dickie Bradley, Attorney for David Doehm

“Myself and Mister Arnold discussed and said that given the nature of these very serious allegation that we had already gone ahead and prepared an application for the Supreme Court and which I know I will be filing in mines tomorrow and I am sure my colleague will also finalize his to file in. The law is that a person must satisfy the court that they have some ties to Belize; that they won’t just get up and leave the country. They have their children here, they have their business. There is a serious matter, a child has lost her life. They are not charged for that matter, they are charged for somehow neglecting…that is what is on the charge sheet…that due to the neglect of the child, which is an allegation against them. It is a serious matter, but it is an allegation.”


Attorneys Bradley and Arnold argued that bail should be granted on the grounds that the couple has permanent residency in Belize and own a store on San Pedro. They also suggested that the Chief Magistrate exercise her power and confiscate their travel documents and order that the accused check in with the police on a timely basis. But Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryl-Lynn Vidal, who appeared on behalf of the state, flatly rejected bail on numerous grounds, including that they are considered flight risks and that their only tie to Belize is Faye Lin’s three surviving siblings, among others.


Cheryl-Lynn Vidal, Director of Public Prosecutions

“The investigation was proceeding in relation to the actual killing of Faye Lin, but as the officers delved deeper, there were other aspects of the case that unfolded. We do not, unfortunately at this time, have sufficient evidence to charge anyone with actually causing the death of Faye Lin, but we didn’t think that it was appropriate for us to ignore other charges that could have possibly been laid and one of them is certainly cruelty of a child. And so we decided that while the investigation into the death was ongoing, we would nonetheless proceed with this one since we had sufficient evidence to prove this charge.”


After hearing arguments, Chief Magistrate Smith denied bail for both accused due to the seriousness of the charge. While not trying the case in the court of public opinion, D.P.P. Vidal says that the postmortem on Faye Lin’s body was a horrific read.


Cheryl-Lynn Vidal

“We don’t very often see this degree of criminality. The observation section of the postmortem report reads like a horror story and the doctor says, of course with the caveat that we don’t want to try the case here, but that he observed fresh injuries, old injuries and all of them significant injuries. When interviewed under caution, both persons admitted to knowing of injuries being sustained by the victim. We cannot at this stage say that they caused those injuries but they were aware of injuries. They were of the view that she was suffering from a certain illness. And in all that time, they never took her for any kind of medical treatment; in all that time, they never took her to a doctor to be diagnosed, instead they decided to administer valium to her and to perform some Japanese healing technique on her. And the extent and nature of the injuries I think definitely, in light of the fact that they were the persons responsible for taking care of the child, amount to tremendous neglect on their part.”


But are the Doehms being slapped with a ‘holding charge’ because there is insufficient evidence to lay charges for murder? The defense attorneys say yes, but Vidal has a very different take on that claim.


Faye Lin Cannon

Dickie Bradley

“The learned D.P.P. has also indicated that these allegations will not be tried in a magistrate court in Belize; that she is going to take it to a supreme court where there will be a jury and a judge and there is more chance of better ventilation of pros and cons of the matter. And you did hear Ellis Arnold kinda joked it off, but also made an issue of it; that the police are usually nowadays getting involved in putting a holding charge. We were saying that perhaps maybe they are trying to see if they can find information for a more serious charge and have brought this charge. And the reason why they are asking the court to hold on to them is in the hopes that perhaps they will be able to get some further information in their investigation.”


Cheryl-Lynn Vidal

“Because there is a primary investigation into the killing of a child it does not mean that if there is other evidence into the commission of an offense that the police are not going to act. Likewise, as I said before, there is evidence that substantiate this charge of cruelty to a child and should we say well because there is a big investigation we are not going to bother to lay a charge? We’ve laid the charge because there is evidence in support of it. And you didn’t hear either counsel in court today to the magistrate that we do not have any evidence to support the charge and therefore these persons should be granted bail.”


Duane Moody for News Five.

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