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Jul 30, 2020

Life in Prison for the Mason Five

Justice was served today in, without question, a most heinous and reprehensible crime and the family of Pastor Llewellyn Lucas can now find closure.  Having been convicted in December 2019 of the pastor’s beheading, William “Danny” Mason and four others are looking at another thirty-five years behind bars.  In the case of the youngest convict, Ernest Castillo, he is looking at a few years less before eligibility for parole.  Inside the courtroom, Justice Antoinette Moore delivered the appropriate sentence to fit the crime, which was committed four years ago, in July 2016.   Here is News Five’s Duane Moody with the sentencing.


Duane Moody, Reporting

Life in prison – that was the sentence handed down by Justice Antoinette Moore on William “Danny” Mason, Ernest Castillo, Ashton Vanegas and siblings Keiron and Terrence Fernandez for the brutal killing and beheading of Pastor Llewellyn Lucas.

Llewellyn Lucas

Today, the courtroom was filled to capacity with media, the defense attorneys as well as relatives of Pastor Lue and one of the convicted men, as the country held its collective breath – waiting for the sentencing. Less than an hour into her presentation, Justice Moore indicated that two of the three options within her purview could not be used. The death penalty was first to be struck out because the Director of Public Prosecution would have had to indicate that request prior to trial. And second, despite all defense attorneys asking for a fixed sentence, Justice Moore in her wisdom said she disagreed with that option given the aggravating factors of the case.

So, the third and only option left under the Criminal Justice Amendment Act 2017 was life sentence with a term for parole. In her ruling, the justice concluded that none of the convicted person, via mitigation hearings held over the past two days, expressed remorse, which is the first step of rehabilitation. And after looking at the four principles of retribution, prevention, deterrence and rehabilitation coupled with the court’s concern about public’s confidence in the justice system and the rule of law, Justice Moore handed down the sentences – from convict number one through to five.  Given the gruesome crime, the length of the sentences did not come as a surprise.


Bryan Neal

Bryan Neal, Attorney-at-law

“The crime was particularly heinous in terms of the beheading and the judge in her ruling a short while ago, made the point that she wants to send a message out in the society to try to quell the violence that we are seeing in our society. So I think that considering all that we know that transpired in this case, I think that it seems an appropriate sentence.”


Down the steps of the Supreme Court, shackled at the feet and hands, the Mason Five were escorted by Special Patrol officers into a waiting police van. They were taken back to the Belize Central Prison where they will spend the first night of their life sentences, with eligibility for parole after thirty-five years behind bars.  Ernest Castillo, the youngest of the killers, got parole at thirty years because he was twenty at the time of the murder and impressionable. He has also participated in a number of rehabilitation programmes by the Kolbe Foundation while on remand. As the men filed down the steps of the court, we tried to get comment from Mason.


Hipolito Novelo

“Sir do you have any words to say? Anything to say? Mister Mason, Mister Mason, you’ve been convicted, a murderer. You have anything to say?”


William “Danny” Mason, Convicted Murderer

“I have a lot to say right now, but…”


Hipolito Novelo

“Life sentence sir…”


William “Danny” Mason

“I’ll leave that to the lawyers.”


Hipolito Novelo

“You are going to appeal sir? Anything else you want to say sir? You can shout it out!  Mister Mason, what do you want to say?”


William “Danny” Mason

“They won’t allow me to speak to the media my friend.”


Bryan Neal

“The verdict was to my mind quite stiff. The sentence is thirty-five years eligibility for parole which is at the higher end of the sentences that I have seen in our jurisdiction.”


Duane Moody

“Was it anticipated sir?”


Bryan Neal

“It was. And I had prepared and advised my client adequately.”


Norman Rodriguez

Norman Rodriguez, Attorney-at-law

“The youngest one, Ernest Castillo got…all of them got life, but he will be eligible for parole in thirty years. The other four, including my client Ashton Vanegas got life, but they will be eligible for parole in thirty-five years. That’s basically what happened. The public now knows what the penalty is, at least for these five men, for having been convicted for the crime of murder.”


Of note is that the four years on remand will be deducted from the term before they are eligible for parole. Duane Moody for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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