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Jan 17, 2002

Testimony continues in gang rape trial

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Four witnesses for the prosecution testified today in the case of James Pelayo, Amir Sutherland, Melvin Guzman and Ricardo Alamilla, accused of the rape, maim and attempted murder of a thirty-eight year old Ladyville woman on May seventh, 2000. News 5′s Ann-Marie Williams was once again in the courtroom.

Ann-Marie Williams, Reporting

Cuban doctor Rodriguez Reyes told the court via an interpreter that he attended to the victim at K.H.M.H. on May eighth 2000, when she was admitted. He said “She had lots of wounds. Two in the head, three on the left side of the face, two large wounds on the neck and a small one in the hand.”

During cross-examination, defence counsel Lutchman Sooknandan put it to Dr. Reyes that it’s inadequate for him to make a classification of the victim’s marks as consistent with dangerous harm. Reyes told Sooknandan that because of his qualifications as a general surgeon, it’s easy to see that the wounds would lead to permanent deformation of her features.

The prosecution called its second witness for the day, Celso Salazar. Salazar is forty-two years old, and he was the gas truck driver who picked up the witness. He told the court that he was driving between miles thirty-six and thirty-five on the Northern Highway when he noticed a figure in the road. Upon closer examination, he saw that it was woman. He opened the passenger side of his vehicle, took her in and saw that she was partially naked, wearing only a piece of blouse and that she was covered in what appeared to be blood. He told the court that she asked to be taken to either the Orange Walk Hospital, Belize City hospital or to the police station. He said he drove, made a telephone call and took her to the police station.

Upon cross-examination of Salazar, defence counsel for Pelayo and Alamilla, Lutchman Sooknandan, put it to Salazar that the witness did not say anything to him when he took her in the vehicle. Salazar replied, “She did. She said that she was hurt by four men.”

Raul Pelayo Jr. was one of the teenagers who was in the pickup at the time the victim was being taken to the feeder road near the Haulover Bridge. Pelayo, a fifteen-year-old student at that time, told the court several different accounts of the same story, ranging from he didn’t know the woman was inside the vehicle when they went through the feeder road, to him hitching a ride to go home to Orange Walk, all in an effort to leave his crowd of friends who were drinking. Jury foreman Joseph Matura also asked questions of Pelayo to clarify his testimony.

The trial continues Friday in Justice John Gonzalez’s courtroom. Ann-Marie Williams for News 5.

In another courtroom not far away, a second high profile trial is drawing to a close. Attorneys for appellant George Meerabux concluded their presentation today and the team representing the Attorney General takes its turn on Friday. Meerabux, the former Supreme Court Justice who was removed from the bench by the Belize Advisory Council for misbehaviour, has sought redress from the high court on the grounds that the process used to oust him was a violation of his constitutional rights.

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