‘Hang them high’ - Mother wanted death penalty for daughter’s killers

April 21, 2023
Sylvia Beckford
Sylvia Beckford

Sylvia Beckford would have celebrated her 51st birthday last Sunday, April 16, had it not been for the actions of two men who murdered her and two colleagues at the Guardsman Limited offices near Namprel Road in Negril, Westmoreland, on June 28 of 2012.

Along with Beckford, fellow guards Bryan Morris of Station Road, Little London and Judith McCailey of Cordwell district, Green Island, all in Westmoreland, lost their lives in an incident that shocked the nation.

Thirty-one-year-old security guard Kevon Smith and 33-year-old welder Jason Butland of Three Miles River in Westmoreland were both charged with three counts of murder, larceny, robbery with aggravation and arson arising from the incident. Butland plead guilty and was sentenced to life in prison on July 28, 2017. However, Smith pleaded not guilty and the case went to trial.

At trial, Smith, confronted by the mountain of evidence, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 63 years' imprisonment on each count of murder - 21 years for each. The sentences will run concurrently, which means he will serve 21 years.

The sentencing judge took into consideration that fact that he has been in lock-up since 2012.

Beckford's mother, Icilyn Samuels, was in court last Thursday, April 13, when Smith was sentenced. While she was happy for the conviction of her daughter's killer, she was disappointed with the sentence that he received.

"Him neck shudda pop!," said Samuels, still in pain from the tragic loss of her child. "Although mi inna mi church, mi know God nuh vex wid mi. Dem shudda hang or get life imprisonment."

"He will be doing 21 years for the three murder, but mi nuh agree wid that, but little justice serve. Mi caah get back mi daughter, and wen mi look pon it, fi him family have him can go up a Spanish Town (St Catherine Adult Correctional Centre) guh look fi him, but mi daughter dead and gone," said Samuels.

The death penalty, however, would have been an unlikely scenario. There have been no hangings in Jamaica since 1988, even though parliamentarians in 2008 voted overwhelmingly to retain the death penalty.

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