Church murder getaway driver was promising student
Leon Hines, the 23-year-old driver of the getaway car in the January 31, 2021 murder of banker Andrea Lowe-Garwood at a church in Trelawny, is a Cornwall College graduate who has six Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) subjects under his belt, a diploma in computing, and was a Ministry of Health employee up to the day of the brutal killing that shocked and angered the country.
Hines, who has indicated his “remorse and regret” for the role he played in the crime, which marked his first-ever run-in with the law, was nabbed along with 29-year-old Javan Garwood, Andrea’s stepson who is otherwise called Janoy; and Dwight Bingham.
Hines had originally been charged with murder, illegal possession of firearm, accessory before the fact to murder, accessory after the fact to murder, conspiracy to murder, and misprision of felony. He, however, struck a plea deal with the Crown to assist it with evidence relating to the other two accused and pleaded guilty to illegal possession of firearm and accessory after the fact to murder.
The Crown, for its part, agreed to offer no evidence in respect to the other four counts on the indictment.
Yesterday, Hines, a former stores-keeper at Cornwall Regional Hospital, was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment in relation to the illegal possession of firearm charge and one year’s imprisonment for the accessory after the fact charge. The sentences are to run concurrently, so he will in effect spend six years behind bars for those two offences.
Supreme Court Judge Justice Lorna Shelly-Williams, in handing down the sentences in the Home Circuit Court in downtown Kingston, said: “I wish to make it abundantly clear that I am not sentencing Mr Hines in relation to the murder matter, I am only sentencing him at this time for illegal possession of firearm and accessory after the fact. I am not sentencing him at this time in relation to the murder.”
The police antecedent report for Hines read into the records of the Court listed the six CSEC subjects passed as human and social biology, mathematics, English language, office administration, principles of business, and electrical document preparation and management.
The report also said Hines was certified in systems administration and had held different posts working as an accounting clerk, a research associate, and a debt collector.
He is also the father of a two-month-old child.
In the facts of the case outlined to the Court in February when the matter was called up, Hines admitted to being the one to rent the motor car the Friday before the murder and to driving it from his Rose Heights, Montego Bay hometown to the Trelawny church where Lowe-Garwood was murdered on the Sunday.
According to Hines, he drove the rented car to the church based on a “request”.
He said upon arriving there and learning that the service had not yet begun, he drove elsewhere to purchase breakfast before returning to the church. There, he said, he parked in a lane and waited. He said some minutes passed before he heard five gunshots coming from the direction of the church, followed by a sixth a while later.
According to Hines, he saw the news on a cellphone which was shown to him by someone that Lowe-Garwood had been shot dead.
Hines further said that in an attempt to cover up his role in the murder he called the owner of the rented vehicle and told him that when he woke up that morning he realised that the car had been stolen. He later told the owner that he found the car down the road from his house and was told to report that to the police.
Hines said on his way to the police station he stopped to throw away his own cellphone, because he did not want the cops to find the evidence of calls he had received, as well as the bag in which the murder weapon had been concealed.
However, he was collared by the police at the spot and they took him to Montego Bay Police Station, where he continued to lie that the car he rented had been stolen.
He however came clean after the police produced the phone he had thrown away as well as the bag and heeded their advice to “cooperate”.
The media has been barred from disclosing the details as told to the police regarding the involvement of Garwood and Bingham on the basis that it could prejudice their cases, which are being heard before the Trelawny Parish Court. Journalists were also cautioned against reporting anything other than what Hines said in relation to himself in the matter.
Lowe-Garwood, a National Commercial Bank employee, was in a worship session at her church when a man who had been posing as a member of the congregation shot her several times in the upper body. She was taken to hospital where she died while undergoing treatment.
The police said an investigation revealed that Hines had been party to a conspiracy hatched by Garwood and Bingham to kill Lowe-Garwood, supposedly because of a family dispute arising from assets she inherited after the death of her husband last July.
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