In one of the toughest sentences handed down in a local court, female High Court Judge, Paula Gilford on Monday handed down a 70-year jail term on British national Alexander Robert Clack who was found guilty of killing his wife in 2014.
The 34-year old Clack was charged by police after the body of his wife of 4 years, Nixiann Downes-Clack, 27, of Duquense St. Mark was discovered in a suitcase pulled out of a shallow grave at Mt. Moritz in St. George’s.
In handing down the stiff penalty at the Number 2 High Court in St. George’s, Justice Gilford did not indicate the possibility of parole for the accused who was represented by attorney-at-law, Anselm Clouden.
However, Clack was discounted for the 19 months he already spent on remand at the Richmond Hill prison and his sentence will be 67 years and 6 months behind bars.
The murder convict was also ordered to undergo psychiatric counseling, considering the murder and the callous manner in which he attempted to conceal the body.
Clack was charged with Non-capital murder for the June 17, 2014 death of his wife whose body was dumped into a black suitcase measuring 3ft 6 ins wide and 3ft 8 ins in length.
An autopsy report revealed that she died of blunt force trauma and asphyxiation by strangulation.
In mitigating on behalf of his client, Defense Council Anselm Clouden reminded the presiding judge that, during the trial, Clack openly sobbed in court before the jury while stating that he did not intend to kill his wife whom he loved very much.
He told the court that before he unceremoniously put his (wife) to rest in the shallow grave he kneeled down before her, bowed his head, stroke her hair affectionately, telling her how sorry he was for the horrifying act.
Justice Gilford made reference to the growing incidents of domestic violence in the country as she handed down sentence on Clack.
Father of the deceased Elvis Fletcher expressed satisfaction with the sentence but added that there is nothing that can be done to bring back his only daughter.
“Justice has been served,” he declared.
The deceased lived at Calliste, St. George with the convicted man and their daughter, where the incident allegedly happened on the day of their fourth wedding Anniversary after she threatened to move back to her hometown with the child.
Clack, who holds dual citizenship, remained composed throughout Monday’s sentence hearing.
According to evidence provided to the court, he was having an affair with the baby sitter, which the court considered to be the genesis of the altercation leading up to Nixiann’s untimely death.
The body of the deceased was buried on lands belonging to family of the hired baby sitter, Brittney Baptist, who appeared as one of the witnesses against Clack for the State Prosecution during the 6-week trial that ended late last year.
During the trial the question arose surrounding why a charge was not laid against Baptist.
Following the sentence hearing, Attorney Clouden maintained that Baptist should have been charged since she “assisted with the disposal of the body.”
“It was Brittney’s idea he (Clack) said to take the body to Mt. Moritz next to her family home…”, said the lawyer.
“…She should have been charged as an accomplice but what they (State prosecutors) did to bolster the case (was) they used her as a State witness”, he added.
Commenting on the sentence dished out to his client, Clouden, who had implored upon the court to administer leniency in terms of a “fixed term sentence and a minimum term for parole” labeled the 67-years imprisonment as “the first of its kind ever administered in Grenada.”
“The maximum penalty is life (imprisonment) but you would no doubt remember in the Maurice Bishop re-sentencing, the Privy Council had indicated that life was not an appropriate sentence having regard to the circumstances that the prisoners ought to have been given an opportunity to mitigate and given a fixed term”, he said.
The local attorney acknowledged “it was a bad case considering the concealment of the body after the unfortunate incident at the house…”.
He also expressed the view that “the learned judge would have adhered to the 67 years (as) a fixed term,” but that term amounts to life when you look at the effect of the sentence.”
Clouden noted that “the judge in her sentencing admitted that based on my submissions that there was no premeditation, that the killing was spontaneous (which) came about as a result of a domestic altercation between a husband and his wife and it was unfortunate”.
“…Our sympathy goes out to the victim’s family – this was not something that the accused celebrated … he demonstrated his contrition … he said how sorry he was”, the attorney told reporters outside the courtroom.
During the trial, Clack who was labeled as controlling and manipulative by one of the witnesses denied all accusations of domestic violence as leveled against him by some of the other witnesses.
In mitigating on Clack’s behalf, Attorney Clouden asked the court to give consideration to the idea that there was “likely some incidents of provocation” referring to Nixiann’s murder in a “non-technical sense.”
However, the court did not adhere to the request noting that during the trial, Clack attempted to paint a bad picture of his late wife as a drunkard and a bad mother, which the court found disturbing especially as she did not have a voice to defend herself.
Given the nature of the case remorse was also not considered as a mitigating factor.
Justice Gilford placed on record that the court does not believe Clack’s denial of domestic violence against his late wife in light of the fact that there was clear evidence showing signs of physical violence.
One of the aggravating factors considered by the court was the seriousness of the offence, the nature of the killing, where the deceased was inflicted with 18 injuries and succumbed to her injuries within a short space of time and the manner in which the body was disposed.
Clouden said he felt that “the sentence was unusual in terms of its years (and that) it would have been more advantageous to him to get life sentence as prescribed by the act than giving him 67 years.”
“From today we would study the sentence…we think that the sentence is unusually harsh,” he said indicating that an appeal was in the making.