Brazen, cruel assassin gets two life sentences

“A brazen and cruel act” is how Supreme Court Judge Justice Lorna Shelly-Williams described the 2018 contract killing of St Andrew businesswoman Simone Campbell-Collymore and her taxi driver Winston Walters before yesterday slapping Wade Blackwood, the 24-year-old assassin, with two life sentences.

Blackwood, who has been in custody since April 2018, had pleaded guilty in January this year to two counts of murder and one count of illegal possession of firearm before the Home Circuit Court in downtown Kingston.

In the sentences handed down in the Home Circuit Division of the Supreme Court yesterday, Blackwood is fated to serve eight years and six months for illegal possession of firearm and life imprisonment for his role in the murders, with 35 years on each count of murder before he is eligible for parole. Those sentences, however, will run concurrently so he will in effect only serve 35 years for both counts.

The judge said in arriving at the sentences she had applied the relevant statute and sentencing guidelines. Where the charge of illegal possession of firearm was concerned, the maximum sentence is life behind bars with the normal range applied for such offences being between seven and 15 years. Blackwood received discounts for the three years already spent in custody and the fact that he had pleaded guilty.

In relation to the two counts of murder with which he was charged, the sentence is also life. Yesterday, the judge said the issue to be decided, however, was the number of years he would spend before parole. In explaining her decision to start at the upper end, the judge said she chose the starting point of 30 years based on the fact that the murder was premeditated, was committed at the behest of another individual, took place in broad daylight, and that the murder weapon was never recovered.

The 32-year-old mother and the 36-year-old taxi operator were gunned down on Tuesday, January 2, 2018, approximately 3:57 pm, at the entrance of Forest Ridge Apartments on Stanley Terrace, Red Hills, St Andrew.

In the killing, which was captured on closed-circuit television, Blackwood, according to court records, was seen firing into the vehicle from the passenger side. He said another individual fired from the driver’s side.

Campbell-Collymore was shot 19 times and Walters five times.

Blackwood was subsequently arrested and is among four people, including Omar “Best” Collymore, the husband of the woman, whom the police have accused of orchestrating the murder.

He had attempted to flee the island after the killings.

The police said that after “intensive investigations”, Collymore and the others were identified as co-conspirators in the murder.

In victim impact statements read into the records of the court yesterday, Collymore’s father and Walters’ wife described the sheer pain which embroiled their families as a result of the deaths.

Walters’ 39-year-old widow said the incident has left her as the only provider for their three school-aged children.

“Life has never been the same… right now I am barely able to cope. I don’t think I will ever get over my husband’s death. My heart has eternal sorrow and sad memories,” she said in her statement, noting that the children have been negatively affected, as well, breaking down in tears whenever his name is mentioned. The couple’s eldest son, who was always a reserved child, she said, now displays some aggression.

Collymore’s father, in his statement, said his family has been “living a nightmare” since Simone, who was the eldest and the heir to their “business empire” was killed.

He said however that her two children who were in the vicinity where the murders took place, and had heard the gunshots and the mayhem that ensued, have been the ones most affected.

He said since the murder the eldest child had been diagnosed with an incontinent bowel. He said the children have also been exposed to crude comments at school with one such occurring on the playground where his grandson was told to get off the playground because his “mother is dead and his father is a murderer”.

He said the family has had to be careful in deciding where the children go, as people “point them out”. He said his granddaughter suffers from survivor’s guilt, often wishing there was something she could have done. Additionally, the children have grappled with the fact that they were their mother’s last thought as, at the time she was killed, she was on the way to pick them up for an outing to the country.

Collymore’s mother, who was not present for the sentencing, has suffered severe depression and rheumatoid arthritis, having relived her daughter’s death when going through the court process.

The father also said their son, Collymore’s younger brother, has “gone through a very dark period of depression that almost ended his life” and which saw him being committed, at one point, to a mental facility. He said his son has since been discharged from the United States Army, having been deemed unfit. His son, he said, who had enrolled in the army based on encouragement from Simone, who also supported him in that endeavour, is still in therapy like the rest of the family.

“The children, all of us, jump at the sound of a motorcycle behind us,” he told the court in the statement. He said the children will also wind up the windows and crouch on the floor of the car whenever they hear the sound of a high-revving motorcycle.

Yesterday, Blackwood’s attorney, ahead of the sentencing, painted a picture of a young man from a good background who had “taken a wrong turn” and who had associated with the wrong crowd. According to him, Blackwood “is just a foot soldier” and did not have the makings of a Hollywood hit man, but was rather a young man who was pressured into doing what he did.

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