Court upholds 40-year sentence against St Catherine man

Christopher Locke, the St Catherine man who was in 2017 sentenced to life behind bars with 40 years before parole for burning his ex-girlfriend alive, last week lost his bid to have his sentence reduced by the Appeal Court.

Locke, in 2011, doused his estranged girlfriend, 25-year-old Sanchez Clayton, with gasoline before setting her on fire which quickly seared her, leaving her unrecognisable. She died some two days later after being in intense agony.

According to details shared during the trial, Clayton was at home with her sister in Monza, Portmore, St Catherine in October 2011 when Locke came to the house. He and Clayton had been in a relationship which had ended three months before. Upon finding that Clayton was inside her room with a male friend, Locke confronted her asking “a who him”. Her friend fled the premises, but Locke and Clayton got involved in physical confrontation. Clayton and her sister then damaged Locke’s car.

He left but returned some 15 minutes later armed with a white bottle, passing her sister on the verandah. Locke threw the liquid on Clayton, then pulled a lighter and lit her. The terrified relative who said she was so shocked she could not assist her sibling raised an alarm alerting a neighbour who took Clayton to the hospital.

The woman who was burnt beyond recognition except for one area on her body that was not damaged died as as result of overwhelming infection, respiratory failure, pneumonia and extensive burns.

Locke was convicted of murder in 2017 by a jury and sentence to life with the stipulation that he serve 40 years before being eligible for parole. Lawyers for Locke, however, appealed on the grounds that the sentence was “manifestly” excessive and that the sentencing guidelines were not properly applied.

The court, in dismissing the appeal, upheld the sentence following arguments from the prosecution led by Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn, QC, supported by Crown Counsel Alexia McDonald.

The Crown argued that the sentence of 40 years was not manifestly excessive as was submitted by the defence and insisted that the trial judge had demonstrated that she applied all the principles in arriving at her decision despite going outside the usual sentencing range.

She gave a reason for so doing which was: the egregious nature of the killing and that it was the worst kinds of death that could be meted out to any person; that the murder was premeditated, the fact that the deceased shared a relationship with the accused in the past, the fact that the deceased did not die immediately and suffered immeasurable pain before her death, the fact that it happened before a member of the deceased family; the fact that the accused had no mercy on the deceased, the previous incident between himself and the deceased and also that it was so injurious to the public interest.

The Crown went further to argue that for the court to accede to the defence’s request to go between 23 and 25 years would be unduly lenient. It further said a message had to be sent to the society which has seen several gruesome domestic murders recently.

The Court, the Observer was told, withdrew and returned to indicate in an oral judgement that the appeal was dismissed and the sentence of life imprisonment with 40 years before parole was upheld. A written judgement is to be released at a later date.

— Alicia Dunkley-Willis



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