Loved ones of ‘Clarendon five’ picking up the pieces
Keshawn Henry would have celebrated his second birthday on July 10 but instead of a month of joy and festivities on Sunday, the infant was nestled in his mother's arms in a casket. Baby Keshawn, his mother Kemesha Wright and his three sisters were murdered by their cousin, Rushane Barnett, in Cocoa Piece, Clarendon, on June 21. Gwendolyn McKnight, the mother and grandmother of the victims now immortalised as the 'Clarendon five', said the relationship between her daughter and Barnett, who is her nephew, grew sour after Wright cautioned him against giving stock from her shop to his friends for free.
Wright's grouse of Barnett dwindling her income was the grounds for the 23-year-old stabbing and cutting the throats of Wright and her children: Kimanda Smith, 15; Shara-Lee Smith, 10; Rafaella, five and 23-month-old Keshawn. He confessed to the murders in court. McKnight, however, refuted Barnett's claims that Wright 'dissed' him as untrue, stating that her daughter was quiet and "wouldn't hurt a fly".
McKnight spoke briefly with THE STAR on Sunday while at the Suttons Cemetery where her only daughter and grandchildren were buried. The thousands of mourners who flocked the Stuart Hall Auditorium at Clarendon College for the funeral bore testament to the far-reaching impact of the tragedy that racked the nation. Prime Minister Andrew Holness, Opposition Leader Mark Golding, Minister of Education and Information Fayval Williams and Culture Minister Olivia Grange were among the dignitaries.
An emotional hug shared between the fathers of the children evoked a plethora of emotions among mourners. Raphael Smith, the father of the girls, and Kishawn Henry, were bonded in grief and loss. The pain was evident on Smith's face as he viewed the bodies of his children, two of whom he last saw some five years ago. He never met the youngest, Rafaella, as he migrated before she was born. Nonetheless, the family said the children spent a lot of time on the phone with their father.
Nadine Gayle-Little, principal of Beulah All-Age and Infant School, where Shara-Lee and Rafaella attended, said the grief was unbearable for the school family. Gayle-Little bemoaned that the children, who were "working purposefully in pursuit of their dreams" were robbed of the chance to impact society positively. Shara-Lee, a grade five student, was a prefect in training. The principal credited the children's demeanour to their mother's parenting skills.
"She was a caring, hard-working mother. We had a good parent-teacher relationship," said Gayle-Little, adding that Wright always ensured her children had their favourite snacks.
Wright was conferred posthumously with her practical nursing certificate by Distinction College. She was set to sit her final examination on June 24, three days after she was killed. Orintha Parker, the institution's president, told mourners that Wright was a hard-working student. She also explained that since she did not sit the final exam, the institution considered her "portfolio of work" in awarding the certificate, which was presented to McKnight.