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Dec 12, 2007

Suspect charged in murder of homeless man

Story PictureThe situation of the homeless population in Belize City is frequently cited as a serious societal problem, most often as an example of urban blight. But the old capital’s latest homicide demonstrates that lack of shelter is not the only challenge facing street people. News Five’s Marion Ali has the story.

Marion Ali, Reporting
The stabbing murder of a homeless Belize City car washer in the wee hours of this morning has left police shaking their heads at what appears to be a case of senseless brutality.

The incident occurred at around two a.m. while the victim, forty-seven year old Lionel Welcome, better known as “Sleepy”, was near Hofius Hardware Store on Albert Street. It appears that after Welcome was stabbed in the chest, he made his way across Albert Street where he collapsed near the Belize Bank. A police mobile patrol saw him lying face up with the stab wound and took him to the K.H.M.H., where he died while receiving treatment. Before expiring, the victim told police that a dark skinned man approached him and stabbed him for no apparent reason. That knifeman then reportedly rode off on a bicycle. By morning police had arrested and charged twenty-four year old Harrison Smith with Welcome’s murder. C.I.B Head, Superintendent Aaron Guzman, says it was the cooperation of witnesses that led to a quick arrest.

Superintendent Aaron Guzman, Officer Commanding C.I.B.
“As far as we know so far there was no confrontation. We don’t know that it’s gang-affiliated, we don’t know that it is a case of attempted robbery or robbery because Mr. Welcome is obviously a homeless person. So it leaves me to believe that it is just a senseless murder.”

“He hangs out in the area of the Supreme Court and the park on Albert Street and Belize Bank area and, yes, we have had some witnesses come forth and that has helped us tremendously. Thanks to those witnesses, we have detained the suspect.”

But the suspect, Harrison Smith, is no stranger to the system. He was acquitted on October twenty-sixth of the murder of Mango Creek villager Reynato Logan, who was shot four times in Taylor’s Alley on August eighth, 2006.

The killing came as a total shock to Miguel Lorenzo, who says he and Welcome were friends and that they were socialising only last night not far from where the murder occurred.

Miguel Lorenzo, Friend of Deceased
“I was with him last night drinking by the park over there. Now I heard this morning that they found somebody like Sleepy sleeping I don’t know where. So I want to know what cause that’s my buddy. He was with his bucket and then he just went away and gone.”

Marion Ali
“What time was this?”

Miguel Lorenzo
“That’s about nine or ten last night.”

Marion Ali
“He tell you if he had a beef with anybody?”

Miguel Lorenzo
“No, no, no. We left from the town clock over there and he came…I don’t know where he came and he said – because I am Miguel – he said Miguel I’ll see you tomorrow. But he washed a car over there and I said “Sleepy” I’ll see you tomorrow. He said ok Miguel.”

Another man who was surprised by the incident is security guard, Ralston McDonald, who is stationed at the courts. He said Welcome was always trying to earn his keep.

Ralston McDonald, Knew the Deceased
“He do errands for all of us out here you know, go to the store, make him a dollar or so, cause that the way he hustles. He doesn’t have a permanent job. He wash car or do whatever he can to try to make a dollar. He’s a good friend of ours out here. He will be missed by everybody out here.”

Because homeless people have been targeted before and are vulnerable to attacks, Superintendent Guzman advises their families to get involved.

Superintendent Aaron Guzman
“It would be in my mind the best thing for relatives to get their loved ones inside, get them into a warm bed or suggest to them, like we insist on our patrolling officers, suggest to these persons to go and use the shelters that are made available to them by the government. We have to be careful though that we might not be legally right to insist on them forcefully to be removed from the park so that is a technical situation there and we have to be careful of it.”

Marion Ali for News Five.

By our unofficial count the murder of Lionel Welcome is number eighty-three for the year. In all of 2006 there were a total of eighty-six homicides nationwide.

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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