A High Court judge in St Vincent has sentenced a 26-year-old man to more than 17 years in jail after he was found guilty of murdering a woman he wrongly thought had infected him with the HIV/AIDS virus.
Justice Brian Cottle sentenced Desron Roberts, who had been on remand for nearly four years awaiting trail, to a further 17 years, five months and 11 days in prison.
On June 27 this year, Robert pleaded not guilty to the charge that between October 24 and 27, 2018 he murdered Rhodesia Rochelle Bailey.
The court heard that Roberts, who was then 22, had a sexual relationship with Bailey, 30, whose house he frequented. On July 16, 2018, Bailey told Roberts that she was HIV positive and two days later, he went to see a doctor, who advised him to take a post-exposure treatment for HIV and to get tested.
Roberts began the course of medication, but did not adhere to the prescription fully as he felt that some of the side effects of the medication were too harsh. He had bouts of depression and contemplated suicide but was afraid to speak to anyone about his problem for fear of the reaction that he would face.
Nonetheless, he continued the sexual relationship with Bailey and in October 2018, decided that he would kill her, wrongly thinking that she had infected him with HIV. On October 25, 2018, he took a knife with him to Bailey’s house. As she was lying wearing only her underwear, Roberts told her that he had come to kill her.
Bailey told Roberts that she was not afraid to die and he put the knife down and began to strangle her. Bailey attempted to reach for the knife but was unsuccessful and Robert continued to try to strangle her.
Unsatisfied with his attempts to end Bailey’s life that way, Robert took up the knife and began to stab Bailey, who held on to him begging for her life. Roberts stabbed her multiple times before releasing her. Bailey ran from the house but collapsed nearby.
Robert went to his home and a passing villager found Bailey’s body early the following morning.
A post mortem found that she died of multiple stab wounds.
Following his arrest, Roberts confessed to murdering Bailey and taking them to the house.
In sentencing Roberts, Justice Cottle said he said no need to depart from the guidelines regarding the aims of criminal punishment, namely retribution, deterrence, prevention, rehabilitation and that the court must follow the sentencing guidelines, unless they lead to injustice in a particular case.
Justice Cottle said further that the court can impose on an adult convicted of murder, a sentence of death, a whole life sentence or a determinate sentence.
He said there was a significant degree of premeditation involved in the killing, noting that Roberts took the knife with him to the scene and told the victim that he had come to kill her.
The judge said the social inquiry report stated that Roberts grew up without the guidance of his parent and was abused by a guardian. He dropped out of school in Form 3.
Justice Cottle said that he found that Roberts did not have the coping skills or social support network to help him to deal with the consequences of having contracted HIV and the associated social stigma. He said it was unfortunate that when confronted with the crises, Roberts could only see a resort to violence. He, however, said he did not see Roberts as likely to reoffend.
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