Jackee Burns breaks the status quo “silence” by: Aria Lightfoot


Jackee Burns- Picture taken a day before her violent rape

Belize has a well-known secret that is an uncomfortable truth to talk about.  Many women are victims of child sexual predators and rape. It is estimated that one in four women are victims of sexual abuse.  After writing my piece about Jasmine Lowe, several people shared their personal abuse experiences with me.  Fayemarie shared her personal experience on Twocanview.armchair-psychologists-why-he-is-not-a-monster-by-fayemarie-anderson-carter-ma

The nameless and faceless victims shared stories of well-respected men in the society who fondled and abused them. They shared stories of family members, neighbors, shopkeepers and strangers who were never brought to light or prosecuted for their deviancy because they either never came forward or when they did, those who should protect them preferred to pretend the abuse never happened.   Belize has unknowingly and unfortunately created an inviting culture for vultures and predators to thrive while sexual abuse becomes taboo and shameful for the victim.  Every night in Belize some child has “dark shadows” lurking in their bedrooms.

My story today is a powerful survivor named Jackee Burns, a teacher in Belmopan.  She shared her traumatic and chilling experiences first as a child and then as an adult victim of a violent rape.  She finally opened up to her mother knowing she was telling me this story.  She feels that each time she shares her story, a part of her continues to heal within.

Jackee Burns is a respected teacher and has a compelling story to tell.  She in her own way is fighting the status quo of silence and emerging as a trusted entity for victims. Jackee endured two traumatic experiences in her life, one as a five year old child who was unable to articulate her experiences when she was violated by her very own uncle and another violent rape as a young adult charting out in her new life.

At the age of five years old, Jackee’s dad moved in his younger 13 year brother into his home.  The house was a modest house with three bedrooms and a family of seven.  Jackee’s teenage uncle slept in the living room on a cot. He did not stay there all the time, but when he did, she recalls a dark shadow entering her bedroom and lifting up her dress and fondling her.  As a young child she could not express what was happening to her and would not even open her eyes during the experience.  She recalls crying and the shadow would disappear.   She also has broken memories of being locked in a bedroom with her teenage uncle and remembering white substances on the sheet of the bed which she now knows was semen.

Jackee started complaining to her parents of a ghost that would come touch her from under her bed and so her father started to check in on her to make sure she would be okay. He would come in and make sure she fell asleep.   One fateful night, her uncle entered her room and was caught in the act by her father. Her father severely beat up his brother as Jackee recalls blood on the wall, and kicked him out the house.  Her father protected her by avoiding family members and never putting her in the situation again, however, it was never discussed. She was never asked the details of what happened.  Her own grandmother to this day refuses to believe the story.

Years later, Jackee viewed sex with shame. She recalls her first voluntary sexual experience and learning she was not a virgin. It was a devastating experience because it confirmed to her that at the tender age of five years old, Jackee was in fact raped by her uncle. In the U.S he would still be prosecutable. In Belize I am not sure how a victim can reclaim her power over her perpetrator.  We do not know if he is a child predator today. We do not know what deviancy continues to linger within him. He represents one of maybe hundreds of deviants walking around.  What became of this troubled young man?  He became a respected and published author who places himself in Jackee’s home as a teenager in his book. I perused his Facebook page and saw one picture with a young child in bathing suit. It concerns me when I see such predators in positions of trust around children.

Most children are resilient and many block such traumatic experiences.  Jackie I am sure completely pushed her abuse into the back of her mind.  It is the resiliency and survivorship of the human spirit that allows us to function in the face of very distressing experiences in our lives.  It is this spirit that Jackie carries within her as she is introduced to another type of predator, a predator that is violent, deadly and unforgiving.

Jackee decided to pursue a career in teaching. At the age of 21 years old, Jackee was now living in Corozal and was a popular teacher and enjoying her career.  On October 13, 2000 she met Peter Augustine for the first time. Peter Augustine was a well-known criminal and was only released from prison a week before.

In Jackee’s own words:

“I never knew Peter Augustine before, never even seen him ever. I lived in Corozal and was a very popular high school teacher at Corozal Community.  This was my forth year up there. I had a sweet lil house and prior to this year I had always had roommates.  Anyway, the morning of October 13, 2000, I got up and did some laundry. I got up around 5:30am. By 6:30 I went to the back door to put out the clothes. I had a bucket on the side porch.  I was pinning out one piece at a time and returning to the bucket for every new piece of clothing.  I wasn’t there very long and the back door near where I stood was ajar.

It seems that Peter Augustine hopped over the verandah and went inside when my back was turned.  When I went inside, he approached me. At first, I thought I was imagining him. I could not understand why a stranger was in my house.  I screamed and he placed a knife at my throat. I told him he could take whatever he wanted, just please don’t hurt me.  He didn’t answer me.  He started to pull me towards the bedroom and I understood what his intentions were.  I started to fight him, I bit him. I got cut in my hand as I held on to the knife fighting him. He punched me on my left cheek and I still continued to fight. He choked me by placing his thumbs on my neck. I started to lose consciousness and I eventually saw black and passed out.

When I woke up it was to the sound of my bed sheets being torn. He used it to tie my hands behind my back and blindfold me.  At this time I was having my period and that didn’t stop him.  He got on top of me and was having sex with me.  Even though I was blind folded, I saw a nipple ring on him. I disassociated from what was happening to me. I felt like I was watching him doing this to someone else. I mentally blocked out what was happening to me.  I believed he was in my home for about an hour.  When he was through, he took my jewelry. I thought he was going to kill me.   A student who lived behind my house came to the door and called my name repeatedly.  She saw my bathroom lights on and thought I was in the shower.  I pretended to be passed out so that he would not find it necessary to kill me. I heard the footsteps on the ground, he unlocked my door, which he had to have locked and he left.  When I was sure he was gone, I went to the front door with my hands still tied behind my back.  I had to open the door with my hands tied, I shouted to the student to run and I ran to my neighbor, an old couple in only t-shirts and they called the police.

Peter Augustine was arrested a few minutes after I arrived at the hospital in possession of my jewelry, with the bite mark on his shoulder and my blood all over him. My face was badly beaten and even today it still hurts. My lip has a permanent scar.”

Unfortunately, Jackee’s horrifying experience does not end there.  She relocated to her hometown of Belmopan.  A year later, she had to endure the criminal trial, which was done publicly.  She had to recount her story to a packed courtroom. She was crossed examined by the defendant. She said every time he said her name, she hated him more. She had to recount her entire sexual history in front of curious strangers; she also had to reveal her physical address to the court and defendant.  She was emotionally distraught by the entire ordeal.  She could not bear to stay for the outcome of the trial and later learned he was given 15 years in prison.  He only has three more years left on his 15 year sentence.

Peter Augustine escaped from prison after his incarceration which caused Jackee to fall to pieces because her address was publicly announced in the court case.   Peter Augustine was eventually recaptured in a village near Chetumal.  In that same village a girl was found raped and murdered however, he was never connected to the crime even though he was the only stranger in the village at the time.  There are no denying Jackee lives in fear knowing Peter Augustine will be released in three short years.  She says he gloats to people about raping a teacher and is rumored to have sodomized his cell mate in prison.

Jackee wants other victims to know that there is nothing wrong with them and they will survive.  It took Jackee a while to overcome her abuse and confront it.  She speaks to her students and tries to formulate support groups for rape victims but notes most people want to forget and move on. She sits with numerous rape victims who confide their pain in her.  One girl confided in her that she hated Christmas because she must associate with the men in her family that raped her.  Jackee welcomes anyone who wishes to discuss their personal pain with her.

There are many people who remain uncomfortable with this subject.  Jackee urges parents to speak openly to kids about sex. Teach them good and bad touches. Be a source for your children to run to. However it doesn’t end there. Our system must find a better way to protect the citizens of Belize. There must be a sexual predator website that tracks these predators when they are unleashed back into society.  Victims must be accommodated to tell their story. Their addressese should remain confidential. Our society must remove the shame placed on victims and reassign the shame to the perpetrator.  Our society need to start seriously monitoring men dating children under 18 years of age, even communities who have traditionalized pedophilia.

We must create a safe society for all our citizens especially our children and we must develop a social conscience and be protectors.  How can anyone ever truly claim to be a survivor when the society keeps people in victim status?  Unfortunately I was unable to find a picture of Peter Augustine, but be very uneasy that in three years a violent predator will be released back into society and there is no law stopping it and no picture to show you who he is!

Jackee’s Poems:

Pervert

He wrote about a time

I had long since buried

Six feet under

My sad horrific memories

His writing exumed

Buried memories

From the depths of hell

Where I thought

They coud never be dug up

But he resurrected

The stomach churning evil

That he did to me

He lifted my skirt

When I was a baby

And spoke adult language

To my innocent mind

In his dirty nasty language

Making his ugly body

Reveal itself

To my horrified eyes

His breath insulted my cheek

His smell chafed my stomach

His touch burnt my skin

How could this man be my kin

He hushed my objections

And covered my frightened eyes

With his huge hands

That covered my entire face

He ripped away

The pure white lace

And tore me to shreds

Now he is that monster

That vile monster

Who I cannot even

Look in the face

And now he dare writes

With enthusiasm and fun

About a time when

He lived in my daddie’s home

As if he does not recall

The ghastly deeds

He has done

I hate him

I have buried him

And I dont want him

Anywhere around me

 

Unwanted and uninvited

Bang! Bang!

The judge registered

Finality with his gavel

Pounding the end

Of the hearing i had to endure

15 years he got

15 years of free food

A guaranteed bed

He doesnt have to worry

His stomach will be fed

While I, his victim

Am traumatized and haunted

With a lifetime of nightmares

A lifetime of him

Haunting my days and my nights

Coming into my home

Unwanted and uninvited

Icy cold stares

In his strange eyes

Told me his temptations

And as my piercing scream

Eminated in goosebumps

All over my skin

And registered the

Metal blade

He palced at my throbbing throat

I saw my life

In flashes in front of

My scared eyes

Yes, I fought him

I sunk my teeth

In his steel muscles

And with all my fear

I bit in wid all my life

But he retaliated

And I saw stars

And felt the trickle

Of sticky blood ooze

Before darkness crept

Over me and wrapped me

In its tight bondage

Then gone I was

From my conscious self

As he invaded me

Entering unwanted and uninvited

I took back myself

I took back my power

And said he cannot

Have any part of me

That I am unwilling to offer

So as he entered flesh

In and out

My mind shut him out

Though I felt emotional distate

I looked from afar

As he hurt a body

But could not touch a soul

 

Phillip James Tremblay: “What a Day” Album Release Date June 28th, 2012


Phillip James Tremblay

Phil from the memories of your cousin Aria:

I would like to introduce you to my “little” cousin Phillip James Tremblay. Phillip is the son of my Mother’s younger sister, Ethel. His mother is Belizean and father is French Canadian. He is one of my youngest cousins and as a kid, he was extremely competitive. He did not like losing. In fact I remember we would play Chinese Checkers, a game my grand parents passed down to all of us grandkids, and he would beat me every time we played (or so he thought!).

My memories of visiting Canada is filled with great memories of hanging out with my cousins. Phil, the baby, is deathly allergic to milk and all milk products and asthmatic. We were taught to separate all our food products from his as kids. He could not rough house with the kids at times when his asthma was acting up. As a very young child he had to be responsible for his own health. He had to learn to ask about food products and be careful what he ate and he even knew when to take his asthma treatments. He spent many days in the hospital because of close calls with his allergies. I also remember my aunt saying she would want to live in Belize if it wasnt for his allergies. As many deep talented artist, Phil experienced personal pain and tragedy at a very young age.

In 1992 my aunt’s Cancer recurred after being in remission for about two years and in 1993 my aunt lost her battle to breast cancer on Mother’s Day. Phil was only about 9 years old at the time. I remember when my aunt was sick, she told me once that she felt Phil could relate to her the most because of all the days he spent in the hospital being prodded with needles. Phil wrote a song in memory of my aunt that still touches my heart and brings tears to my eyes every time I listen to it. I did not even realize the level of his artistic talent. He can draw, sing, write music, produce. He has definitely been blessed with many talents and his soul is deeply entwined in his music. Phil released his first album on 2.2.2011 called Intropection as an Independent artist. My favorite song “Mom” can be bought on Itunes and several other sites. Phil’s website is : http://www.pjtmusic.ca/home.html. Please be sure to visit it. Also here is my favourite song: MOM

On June 28th, 2012 Phil will debut his new album called: ” What a day”. I ask you to support my cousin in his venture as an independent artist.

Here is Phil’s story:

My name is Phillip James Tremblay(PJT) and I am a producer, writer, singer, rapper, engineer, graphic designer, programmer, performer, actor, director, painter, sculpter, sketch artist, athlete and mental health worker. I was born and raised in Ontario, Canada and I am currently 28 years old.

My style of music is a unique blend of pop/hip-hop with hints of every other genre. An interest in making music came late in my life – roughly at age 18. Approx. one decade later – after substantial self-teaching, personal development, and learning from various famous and underground musicians – my debut album is NOW available, and it compromises a compilation of songs over the last 4 years. Those 4 years also mark a time of significant personal life changes.
A devastating epiphany that my life – course and identity – was not my own, struck me with an unprecedented demand for starting over. I needed to undo the people-pleasing, self-denying, beliefs I forced on myself (and sometimes on others), and learn how to have a personal connection with my choices. Though I lived like it, I was never fully convinced of my own genuineness. Now, I finally have that surety. If this is your first encounter of me as a musician and/or a person, your timing is perfect.

Great Opportunity for a Belizean Journalist! Please share!


Commonwealth News Internship

Location: London, UK Duration: September 2012 to January 2013 (approximately 5 months) Closing Date: 9  Jul  2012

The Communications and Public Affairs Division of the Commonwealth Secretariat is seeking a young journalist from one of the following countries in Europe or the Americas to undertake an approximate five month attachment with the Secretariat in London from September 2012 to January 2013. The candidate must be a citizen of one of the following countries:

· Belize

· Canada

· Cyprus

· Guyana

· Malta

· United Kingdom

The attachment provides an opportunity to gain work experience and training in the production and dissemination of written articles for our websites and publications, social media platforms, general publicity materials and our e-mail news bulletin, Commonwealth News. The internship is rotated among the regions of the Commonwealth every 5-6 months.

Requirements:

1. The candidate should:

· be under 35 years of age;

· be a journalist with between three and five years experience working with an English-language newspaper, news agency or national information agency. Recent graduates in journalism or a related discipline, who have less than three years experience but show promise and ability as a news or features writer, will also be considered;

· have experience of using social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter;

· be computer literate, including experience using Microsoft Word and database and e-mailing software;

· preferably have a knowledge of the Commonwealth and of development issues; and

· preferably have lived in or visited a developing Commonwealth country.

The Attachment:

The successful candidate will be working at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London and will be paid an allowance to cover expenses. This includes a fixed monthly allowance to cover accommodation and a fixed daily allowance for living expenses. The total allowance amounts to approximately £1,800 per month (before taxes and deductions). A return air ticket (economy class) will be provided, as will additional reimbursements for some transportation and short-term accommodation expenses and visa costs.

If the successful candidate is in full-time employment, his or her employer will be requested to provide a guarantee that the candidate will be able to return to his/her job after the attachment is completed. While working at the Secretariat, the intern will have the opportunity to report on Commonwealth events for their news organisation, after having fulfilled his/her daily duties as required by the internship.

How to apply:

A résumé, covering letter (including full address, country of citizenship and contact details), and a copy of your passport page featuring your photo should be sent via e-mail to the Online Editor at p.cooke@commonwealth.int no later than Monday, 9 July 2012 (1700GMT).

Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.

Shortlisted candidates will be asked to write an assessment and provide samples of their published writing. The final stage will be a phone interview.

Link to website: http://thecommonwealth.org/job/191203/167709/248050/cnis_intern_sept_12_feb_13.htm

 

News Intern Job Description Sept 2012 to Jan 2013

Made in Belize by: Aria Lightfoot


Bert Vasquez aka Haylock suspected murderer of Jasmine Lowe

On June 20, 2012, the situation in Cayo reached a fever pitch point as a weary society felt powerless by ineffective laws and tormented by prevalent crime. Hundreds displayed their discontentment with Jasmine’s death by demanding vigilante justice. The crowd chanted, made speeches, cheered, jeered and made rope nooses. Their actions made authorities nervous and the riot police was called in the event of pandemonium.  Facebook lit up as people posted pictures and repeated rumors of notorious stories of this allegedly cold and callous individual.  Many are not feeling confident that the system will be able to prosecute this “monster” as people classify him as a well- connected criminal that has been operating mostly undeterred for many years.   One rumor said the police have always suspected he was Jack because of compromising situations with children and his repeated violent arrests. However, due to feeling indimitated by family connections, further investigation and prosecution became impossible.

So who do we blame for this alleged monster who has fed off the innocence of our children for so many years?  Let’s start with the family, because growth begins at home.  The family has tolerated, defended, enabled and excused the behavior of

 

this individual for years. Did they know what he was capable of? If they did, they are as culpable as the monster they raised.

Why would I blame the family you would ask? We can start by examining the first public record of his violent behavior.   We do not know at what point he started to exhibit wanton and reckless violent behavior but the first time he made the news was in May 2008 after an altercation with a taxi driver where Vasquez pulled a gun on him due to road rage. According to News 7 story http://www.7newsbelize.com/sstory.php?nid=11081  the victim states “This guy had all intentions. Why he didn’t use the gun, I don’t know but he went wherever he went and he got his mother and his mother gave him a gun to come after me and she accompanied him.”  And like a “good” mother Debbie Vasquez stands and defends her son’s actions as justified. According to an interview with Debbie Vasquez she stated: “I did have my licensed gun on me and at no time did my son touch my gun or I touched my gun.”   (See http://www.7newsbelize.com/sstory.php?nid=11082).  Think about this. Who would have more reasons to lie in this incident? And if Vasquez never held the gun, how would the victim even know a gun existed if it was never showed to him?  So we have an enabling mother who excuses away her son’s bad deeds instead of teaching him to be a social human being who respects rules. There was of course no follow up story on this incident, and we do not know what the outcome was of this case.

Second on the blame list is our courts. Our courts have also tolerated his bad behavior by not recognizing his repeat offences were growing more violent and by repeatedly offering him bail,  especially after offending while on bail for the first offence.    In February 2011, Vasquez was arrested for allegedly imprisoning a young woman and holding her at knife point while sexually assaulting her. (See: http://edition.channel5belize.com/archives/48840  or http://www.7newsbelize.com/sstory.php?nid=18942&frmsrch=1). At that time the prosecutor submitted he was convicted of a similar offence and bail was denied. Anyway, at some point he received bail so that in three short months later, May 2011, (see http://www.7newsbelize.com/sstory.php?nid=19714&frmsrch=1 or http://amandala.com.bz/index.php?id=11505 ) Vasquez was out of jail again so he could allegedly assault a new 16 year old victim. This victim claimed Vasquez pistol whipped her and attempted to kill her but the gun misfired. I am surprised he was not charged for attempted murder.  However, the police did add additional charges to the initial charge and then there was nothing more from the media regarding Bert Vasquez.  We do not get an update from the media as to what happened to him in the legal system but we do know he was once again released on bail.

Jasmine Lowe, who went missing and  found dead two days later, allegedly crossed path with Vasquez. Vasquez was allegedly caught with another minor and allegedly engaged in another violent sexual assault for which charges may be pending. Jasmine’s ring was said to be found on his possession which police feels ties him to the Jasmine’s case. (See http://www.7newsbelize.com/sstory.php?nid=22742&frmsrch=1). Yesterday Vasquez was formally charged for the murder of Jasmine and police claims there may be about 11 other girls that have come forward to make claims that Vasquez attempted to solicit them in some way. Charges may are also be pending on those claims.  If Vasquez committed all these acts (whether or not we can prove him guilty), he is one mentally disturbed individual and could be the very “Jack” who plagued Belize society for over a decade.

The media did a very poor job following up on this alleged predator, knowing children were falling victims to an unknown predator. The media must develop a sense of social purpose outside sensationalism. They need to assign writers to stories and task themselves to follow a story to the end. Maybe if the media had followed up on Bert Vasquez and asked the relevant questions,  the public would have been more familiar with his face and wary of his presence.

According to Asa DeMatteo a clinical psychologist who has testified in similar matters in the US, he stated after a review of the news stories regarding Bert Vasquez:  “I have done a few forensic evaluations of these characters for the courts, and Vasquez follows a typical pattern: compulsion to commit these crimes in ritualistic sexual acts, with increasing frequency usually ending in a frenzy of killings that end up giving them away. They are deeply disturbed pathological narcissists on the edge of psychotic. There is nothing to do with them but remove them from society.”

So who else is left in the blame game? What about his friends? I skimmed Bert Vasquez’s friends’ list on Facebook. He is friends with Patrick Jones (probably to keep updated with this case and revel in his work). He is also friends with several politicians and prominent society members who undoubtedly interacted with him and may even have been privy to his violent tendencies.  The friends of Vasquez, who knew his sordid history, saw no need to develop a social conscience over this individual. BTW, is his mother the same Debbie Vasquez who ran on PUP city council ticket in 2003? Is his uncle the prominent news man Ramon?  Is his father the well-known custom officer Haylock?  I could not verify but I bring it up to signal something that is also pervasive and corruptive in our society. The law is neither blind nor balanced in Belize!

For too long, these well connected spoiled brats have been making a mockery out of our legal system, with the help of the police, attorneys, magistrates and family members.  I have personally witnessed brat after brat get off for their misdeeds because of their family connections and with the help of politicians and and some prominent bar members. On the other end of the spectrum, the court system throws the book at the “nobody” petty offender or scapegoats them into a stiff penalty. When I left prosecution in Belize I was disgusted with the level of corruption I personally witnessed. There was no accountability in the system.  The failure of the “justice” system, until it is remedied, will contribute to our spiraling crime rate and chaotic society.

We definitely need to blame the Bar Association of Belize. There are way too many attorneys in both parties to have such an archaic criminal legal system (both PUP and UDP are led by prominent attorneys). The Bar Association in Belize is inept.  We need to demand more from our Bar Association. Tax payers have spent millions educating most of them into a cushy lifestyle.  How many today are financially benefitting from technicalities in the criminal legal system? How many rushes to defend notorious criminals and use the weaknesses and loopholes to give criminals a free reign in society? How many have you heard trying to change the system? Not even the political attorneys have attempted to effectively tackle this issue and they claim to have our best interest at heart.  One attorney admittedly didn’t even pay taxes last year and claims it is a protest on how his taxes are spent. Oh the irony!  Can the average tax payer protest against our wasted taxes and demand back their educational fees? Thanks to the generosity of tax payers, they owe no one anything (or so they think).  They mock our system, they adhere to no social responsibility and they are not held accountable.

Finally, where do we leave ourselves as individuals?  We in the society pretend there is no blatant inequality in Belize system. We turn a blind eye to the mistreatment of  the vulnerable while we defend and befriend individuals because of who they are related to or which political party they are affiliated with. We do not give a damn of how corrupted or evil some people we associatewith truly are. And let me not forget those people fighting for the defendant’s rights without any thought of weighing the victims’ rights. The ones among us that tell us things like creating a sexual offenders website would infringe on the reputation of the defendant, failing to see that these predators enjoy a lax criminal environment while they tear our children’s innocence to shreds.   Ultimately many more monsters exist and will emerge in this broken criminal friendly system.

Children are the most vulnerable in our society because they are dependent on us; they are defenseless; their voices are small; we tell them to shut up; we regret them; we do not listen to their concerns, and they cannot vote. So if you think a politician will solve this crisis, think again. The will of the politician must come from the people. Our children are becoming casualties of a corrupted system.  Bert Vasquez is a product of all of us in Belize. We all contributed to this alleged “monster”.  We had to power to stop him from the first offense. His mother had many opportunities to show him corrective behavior but instead defended his violent tendencies. We allowed this monster to grow among us and possibly kill many innocent lives.  Shame on us all! Let’s start rebuilding Belize and demanding the needed reforms for the sake of our children!

Another Missing Child in Cayo District – Please share


Michaela Parham- MISSING

Missing :  Michaela Parham of Santa Elena Town

Description: 4 feet 3 inches tall, Long black hair wearing black T-Shirt and khaki shorts
Age: Reported around 13-15 years old
Last Seen:  around 9am on the morning of Monday June 18, 2012 in Benque Viejo Del Carmen
Please Call: 665-7898 or 624-1599  parents or 911 for the police department

Belize is worth fighting for by: Aria Lightfoot


Map of Belize

Jasmine Lowe is affectionately known as JLowe by her family and friends. She has only been gone for ten days; however the Belize news is so inundated with murder, mayhem, sexual predators and shootings that her memory is already fading in some people’s mind.  Unfortunately, victims in most cases do not get more than two days of air time. There is no mechanism in place to follow the progression of investigations by the police;  except  two years later in a failed court trial when most people hardly remember the circumstances of crime or the names of the victims, a final epitaph stating “Two more get away with murder of X”.

The news presented to Belizeans are poorly researched stories with catchy headlines and just enough information to tell you what happened, without actually explaining what or why it is happening. The media creates a disconnection with the victims by reporting their situation in a clinical statistical manner. “Three shot this weekend” while desensitizing the populace  with explicit images of dead blood ridden bodies or decomposing bodies. Ultimately people tune out crime news and express hopelessness in finding solutions.  The victims’ families are left powerless and many times faceless and voiceless except for the two days of initial coverage.

Just a couple days ago the Prime Minister of Belize opened himself up to the media and the questions were wanting. The media houses are heavily dependent on Jules Vasquez to ask the tough questions while they feed off his questions to present their stories.  When individually given the opportunity, they shy away from asking the tough necessary questions to help Belizeans understand what is happening in Belize. One person commented on our blog that the Prime Minister is insulting or vindictive. So what? That is a challenge of being a reporter. Ask the questions and stop taking things so damn personal.  If you cannot handle the heat, get out the fire and make way for someone who will.  (See Faye’s daily dingle berry: https://twocanview.com/2012/06/15/daily-dingleberry-06-15-12-why-uno-fraid-fi-dean-barrow/ ). The media must remember that they are a very important function of democracy. They have an obligation to present accurate unbiased information, ask the tough questions, research their stories and follow up and keep us apprised of the state of the country’s affairs.

As a people, we the citizens of Belize are also failing to be effective and productive citizens. Brent Toombs wrote an excellent article why we are failing as a society. (https://twocanview.com/2012/06/13/we-need-tougher-laws-but-not-for-me-by-brent-toombs/ ).   We are too caught up in our personal narcissistic ways to contribute to the success of Belize. We say we want change, but we expect the government to implement changes as long as the changes don’t affect us personally.  We vote for representatives, but we only claim that representative if he is from our political party. We fight; quarrel, point fingers; question people’s agenda; categorize them; and call people names. We lack basic respect for each other’s opinion.  As a  people, we are left blaming everyone  and failing to see our own role in socieity.  Ultimately, we will sink or swim as a nation.

So back to JLowe.  I have been following this story very closely.  Only thing I am sure of is that there is a deviant sexual predator that lurks out there. One that will attack more victims until he is caught and prosecuted or die of natural causes. I have been asking questions from attorneys, doctors and police officers. I am very interested to know about the investigative process. I want to know why so many of the court cases are failing. I want to understand so I can explain it to you.  We need to understand what ails us as a society so we can undergo the process of healing our society

Jasmine Lowe- Murdered victim

Here is what I found out as an avid follower of JLowe’s investigation:

  1. According to Belize law, we do not need a forensic pathologist to examine a murdered body, just a medical doctor, therefore, Dr. Estradaban do not need to investigate death, just certify it.  I was additionally told cause of death is not necessarily important to present a murder case. I personally find that very hard to believe because reasonable doubt is immediately created when the state cannot prove cause of death.
  2. Belize do not have the facilities to handle decomposing bodies, so many autopsies are done on the site.  According to one doctor I spoke to here in the U.S., crucial evidence could be lost performing autopsies in the field. Autopsies should be done in a lab setting.  Unfortunately, until we have the facilities to handle decomposing bodies, as a health safety procedure, bodies will continue to be handled in this manner.
  3. I was flabbergasted when I found out the crime scene was burned. The reporter only reported the scene was burned; but had he done some more digging rather than just report this fact, it would have negated a lot of speculations from the public.   I sought the counsel of an old teacher who is now a criminal defense attorney for the State of Texas. I asked him if burning the crime scene of a decomposing body was protocol in the cases he dealt with in the U.S. He stated that he has never heard anything like that and wondered why the doctor would order such a thing.  Well here is the answer. According to Clyde Williams, investigator in JLowe’s case, Belize does not have the necessary equipment to sterilize these crime scenes and because it is human remains and there is blood, it creates a hazardous environment, so burning the scene after evidence collection is protocol.
  4. I was also interested in knowing why cases fail in our court system.  According to Anthony Sylvester, the Irish Parliament did a review of their criminal justice system in 2006 (a system similar to ours) and found out that the justice system is skewed in favor of the defendant because in the past many people could not afford a defense attorney. Unfortunately, many laws are implemented in our system in an ad hoc manner without an evaluation of the justice system itself. So in other words we are implementing laws when we should actually be conducting a serious review of our legal system and restructuring our criminal laws. Belize is attempting to fight 2012 criminals with outdated, ineffective and poorly written laws. I think the Bar Association could play a vital role in addressing this issue.

There are some positives resulting from our dire situation in Belize. Mary Cariddi has successfully lobbied the government to have a ‘Jasmine Taxi Law’. The government is now in the process of changing the taxi laws and implementing an identification mechanism and background checks to register taxi drivers.  This is necessary because we trust that taxis will take us to our destination without harm.  The state will be providing safety procedures to ensure they can be held accountable and they are safe drivers.

Also, a group of interested citizens are creating a system called “Jasmine alert” to quickly update the public with information for missing children. The system will be a database that will keep people informed of when and where children go missing, their picture and background information. The idea is to galvanize the public into quick action to help locate vulnerable children before any harm befall them.

The First Lady of Belize, Mrs. Kim Simplis Barrow, has additionally indicated that the laws involving children are being revamped and we should see stiffer sentences and more protections for child victims. As it is right now, children are at a disadvantage in the court system and because of their innocence, they are many times re-victimized through the testimony requirement of the court system making prosecutions difficult.

The society seems mobilized against criminals as the theme “enough is enough” is being resonated by law abiding tax paying citizens.   Citizens are realizing the limitations and difficulties the police face when investigating crime. People are trying to find ways to assist them.  The time is now to become part of the movement to influence the changes we want in our society.  This is not a political issue Belizeans, this is a Belizean issue.

Until Belizeans know what need to be changed and lobby their leaders effectively, we will continue in a downward spiral until we have no other choice but to suspend our all our laws and start over from scratch. In such a scenario, many innocent lives will be lost.  I appeal to the media to stop with the half ass reporting and begin to dig deep. Research your cases and explain to the Belize people why things are the way it is. You are the watchdogs of our society. I also appeal to my fellow Belizeans to become proactive citizens and become part of the movement for your children’s sake.  I implore Belizeans abroad to network and find ways to donate to Belize to improve our society.  We are all Belizeans and Belize is worth fighting for!

Belizean Flag

We need tougher laws. But not for me by: Brent Toombs


Jasmine Lowe – murdered

Another young girl is dead.  The country is momentarily galvanized by outrage and grief.  Another vigil will be held.  People are calling for protest marches.  “Enough is enough!” we cry.  And ultimately what will change in Belize? 

Absolutely nothing.

 

I hope to God I am wrong.  I really hope I am underestimating the people of my nation.  I hope that one day soon we will look back at the tragic events of this week and remember Jasmine Lowe as not just another unsolved mystery, but as an angel sent to bring real change to our beleaguered country.  That her death was the tipping point when society finally moved to take real concrete action and accept the burden required for change.  That in the wake of this young girl’s murder, Belizeans finally decided they would become part of the process required to return our country the “tranquil haven” we love to sing about.

 

Unfortunately, recent history has shown that once the emotions subside we will not only return to our apathetic ways, but we will actively resist any attempt to improve the situation.

 

I remember attending a vigil and rally for the victims of “Jack”, five young girls who were sexually assaulted and murdered in a short period between 1998 and 1999.  The murders of those children remain unsolved.  But back on that day the most recent murder was still fresh in our minds and the emotions were raw.  When one of the speakers called for the “immediate ban on heavily tinted vehicles” the crowd roared back with its support for such a simple measure that would be one very small step towards making the streets safer for women and children.

 

Over a decade later, when government finally brought in legislation to limit the level of tint the majority of Belizeans balked.  The talk shows lit up with callers complaining that they should be allowed to tint their vehicles as dark as they please.  The opposition party openly ridiculed the government and dismissed this regulation as useless whimsy.  People, as they are prone to do in our country, simply thumbed their nose at yet another attempt to regulate anything in our society.

 

Now I am not suggesting Jasmine Lowe would be alive today if people complied with the law on vehicle tinting.  It’s not that simple.  But it is a perfect example of how we seem to resist every attempt to regulate society as soon as those regulations impede in the slightest on our own personal freedoms.

 

It’s absolutely useless to demand change and march in protest if we then turn around and fight the very authorities we call upon to change things.  We all want proper enforcement of laws and regulation, but we don’t want to actually comply ourselves.  How can any central authority be expected to effectively manage society if we resist every effort to impose regulations on us as individuals?

 

It’s time to face the fact that many of us are part of the problem.  It’s time to admit that everyone of us who disregards the simplest effort to bring order to chaos contributes to the wider problem of crime and violence.  Every time we expect to be exempted from the rules that govern our society, every time we resist additional regulations we undermine the entire system of law and order in Belize.

 

The police put up a checkpoint and we grumble about the 3-minute delay in our commute.  The law says we can’t serve alcohol to minors but we let the teenage girl drink in our bar or restaurant because the men buying her drinks are good (or well connected) customers.  The government says we must pay our taxes and duties yet we hide our transactions or use our connections to avoid contributing our fair share.  Most destructively of all, we turn a blind eye to those around us who operate outside of the law.

 

Every person in Belize seems to have a justification for why the rules are for everyone except themselves.  Political affiliation, economic status, family lineage, social network, race, gender, attitude, even level of attractiveness and physical prowess all seem to be legitimate exemptions to the laws and regulations that only ever apply to someone else.

 

You say you want to live in a safer society.  You want the government and law enforcement agencies to crack down on law-breakers.  You demand change.  But are you willing to play your part in that process?  Will you abide by increased regulation and enforcement efforts, or will you push back as soon as law and order becomes inconvenient for you?  Will you help pay the cost of public security or will you continue to work outside the system in order to benefit yourself?  Will you use your ballots to elect people of integrity to manage the affairs of our nation, or will you sell your vote to the candidate who offers you special favours?

 

A good friend of mine once described Belize as a “wonderful balance of order and anarchy”.  The problem now is the scale has tipped way too far in favour of anarchy.  It’s not just the gang-bangers, and drug dealers, and sexual predators who are destroying Belize.  We are all part of the problem whether we actively contribute to crime and disorder, passively resist attempts to improve the situation, or simply stick our heads in the sand.  Belize is broken. It’s seriously f*cked up.  There is nothing unpatriotic about saying that out loud.  The first step is always admitting you have a problem.

 

Yes, it’s a long and dotted line that connects the cyclist who rides against traffic, the bar owner or shopkeeper who does not abide by the condition of their liquor license, and the business person who cheats on their taxes, to the animal who would kill 13-year old Jasmine Lowe.  But how can we expect a society that cannot even adhere to the most basic tenants of order and governance, to protect our most vulnerable citizens?

 

I am encouraged to see Belizeans come together in this moment of national grief.  I am comforted by the fact that despite the overwhelming amount of senseless crime and violence we are exposed to daily, something can still touch our collective soul.  By all means, please take to the streets to march in protest.  Hold vigils in remembrance.  Flood the talk shows with angry pleas for justice and improved security.

 

Then take a moment to look inward and ask yourself, will you work to improve our society or resist those efforts once they become inconvenient for you as an individual?

More Questions as the Investigation into Jasmine’s Death Continues by: Aria Lightfoot


Jamine Lowe-murdered

Today marks only eight days since little Jasmine has been gone and the country is plagued with so many other homicides that Jasmine’s may become a fading memory to some.  The trail has seemingly gone cold as the entire investigation seemed focused on a white taxi that turned out to be a dead end maybe. Rumors are swirling of a new focus in the investigation. Could the police be pulling at straws?  Additionally, according to Plus TV, someone burned the area where the body was found undoubtedly burning away crucial evidence in Jasmine’s case, especially if some expert decided to go back and restart the process.  However, I want to go back and review the information that we actually know.Jasmine went missing on June 4, 2012 at around 2 pm.

Jasmine body was discovered on June 6, 2012 in an advanced stage of decomposition.

The fact that her decomposition was described as advanced after only two days have my brain in knots.   I did some research online and found some information from a forensic research lab called the body farm.  The research facility is geared at creating a body atlas for law enforcement to help them determine the time of death based on decomposition of the body.   See more at http://www.environmentalgraffiti.com/chemistry/news-afterlife-human-corpse-stages-decomposition?image=0  (Be warned the graphics are graphic).

Here are some questions I have regarding the investigation.

  1. What hour was Jasmine actually last seen by her parents?  Did mom check to see if she was at home before she left for the day?  Many times parents walk out assuming the child is safely and soundly sleeping.
  2. Did anyone see Jasmine leave home?
  3. Did Jasmine actually leave her home and walk the path described, or was she just supposed to walk that path?
  4. Is it possible she was offered her a ride to her destination and she was picked up at home?
  5. Is it possible she took a different path that day?
  6. Could she have stopped to visit a “friend” along her journey?
  7. Did she ever complain of getting unwanted attention from some adult?
  8. The people who claim to have seen her that day; could they be mistaken with the time of day?
  9. Is it possible she died earlier than stated?
  10. How long was she away from all supervision?
  11. Is it possible that the abductor rode around with her in the trunk while creating an alibi?
  12. Did anyone check her phone records?
  13. Did the police walk the same path she was supposed to take and take note of the regular faces along her path and question all the potential witnesses that would see her take that route the day?
  14. Will the police get any international expert help in this case?

I realize that the police are overwhelmed by the deteriorating crime situation in Belize and they have limited resources.  I also appreciate that we have limited facilities to help aid with this investigation; however, the life of a child is gone. There is a predator out there.  If we create a chart with all the missing young girls and the areas along the western highway where their bodies were dumped, maybe a pattern will start emerging of a possible serial killer who moves with invisible dangerous stealth along the highway looking for a moment to strike at a vulnerable young victim. We need to start asking, who among us can move and pick up young girls without creating an air of suspicion?

Consider this serial killer in Columbia, who after this story was written, was released from prison and remains at large today.  Get an insider view as to how a serial killer hunts their victims:  http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/serial_killers/notorious/pedro_lopez/1.html

The Mishandling of Jasmine Lowe’ Investigation Part 2 by: Aria Lightfoot


Jasmine Lowe

I spoke to my source close to the investigation last night to get a feel of what is happening now. The pathologist (not forensic pathologist) could not determine a cause of death.  Not surprising, he is not an expert in that field of forensics, so I learned last night.  And BTW, Belize law does not require a forensic specialist to examine murdered bodies; only a medical doctor is needed. Meaning, he was never trained to determine cause of death that is not obvious. I feel like my head is spinning. I feel like screaming WTF.  Can this murder even be solved, if they cannot establish a murder even happened? Everything following that evaluation seems to be a big waste of time.

According to my source, the police are looking for blood and fingerprinting evidence in the car they impounded to find clues that may link little Jasmine presence in the taxi.  Sounds good right? WRONG.  Let me remind you that they didn’t take any evidence from Jasmine. No fluids or fingerprinting, no rape kits, nada so making that link would be a feat even gods would find impossible. Not to mention, as Faye stated in her dingle berry,  the investigating officer is making wide assumptions about what happened based on observations he can neither prove nor disprove.

So now they have a “suspect” who may or may not be the murderer. The public fears are somewhat alleviated. Please don’t let your guard down now. At this stage, the public need to be very cautious and aware as to the person the police presents to them.  The police is desperate for a solution making the environment ripe for a scapegoat.  Criminals in Belize laugh at our poor investigative skills.

So we reach the point where we take the defendant to court. Enter the defense attorney.  Remember, a person is innocent until proven otherwise. It is the State’s job to prove him guilty.  The state cannot even establish a murder happened. According to the pathologist, he cannot establish a cause of death.  How do we know how she died? She could have died from a sunstroke! I don’t mean to be facetious but in court, it is not what you know, it is what you can prove.  The most essential part of the case is ruined unless they can determine conclusively that she was in fact murdered.

My Belizeans, it is not only about attending the vigils and crying and complaining. It is about asking the right questions, demanding action and becoming an active and vigilant member of society. Political will comes from the people.  When people are arrested for murders, find out what the pathologist did; what evidence and procedures were followed. Ask the police what protocols they followed. Find out the applicable laws. We cannot allow “professionals” to be beyond reproach anymore, since I recently discovered the man reporting on’ causes of death’ is no professional in forensics. Our children, families, neighbors and fellow citizens’ deaths are turning into sad unresolved statistics.  Your family WILL be next  if this continues unabated.

I make a desperate plea to members of the Belize Bar Association with police background to come on board and help fix our broken system.  I call on all politicians to take off their political hats and put on their Belizean one to solve this crisis. As I write this, two more bodies have been found, possibly the two teenage boys missing. Their cause of death will be obvious, since it appears they were shot. What about little Jasmine?  We still have no idea how she died and what she endured.

We are a part of a greater plan in this world, even if we don’t know our purpose.  It seems that it took the murder of little Jasmine to move us as a nation; she is the sacrificial angel we needed to realize that our antiquated laws do not equip the police and prosecutors to fight these murderers who rein free in Belize. I am mad at everyone, including myself, to be in slumber for so long, but finger pointing causes this. It takes away your personal responsibility and cast it elsewhere.  Please do not lose sight of this movement for Jasmine.

Tonight the nation will mourn collectively as vigils all over the country are taking place. All will begin at  6pm. Everyone is asked to bring a candle and a white T-Shirt to show solidarity. Let the conversations begin there.

San Ignacio/Santa Elena – in front of Police Station

Belmopan – National Assembly

Belize City – Battlefield Park

Punta Gorda- Central Park

Placencia – in front of Police Station