Coals Gap resident, 28-year-old Dave Martin “Giant Shuttle” Benjamin, the man accused of killing American citizen, Jessica Colker in January 2016 in the La Sagesse beach area, has pleaded guilty to the offence before the start of his high court trial.
Benjamin struck a deal with State Prosecutors on Tuesday and pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of non-capital murder instead of the indictable charge of Capital Murder.
The murder accused who was represented by attorney-at-law Andre Thomas, entered his plea just before noon at High Court No. 2 in St. George’s, which is presided over by Guyanese-born judge, Madam Justice Paula Gilford.
As a result of the change of plea, the female Justice, who was ready to commence the murder trial had to direct the 12-member jury, which was empanelled the day before, to enter a verdict of not guilty to the indictable charge of Capital Murder and guilty to the lesser charge of Non-Capital Murder.
Colker lost her life on January 24, 2016 one day after she and her husband, Brian Melito arrived in Grenada for vacation at the La Sagesse Nature Centre.
The two reportedly went on a leisure walk on a remote beach just past the La Sagesse beach when they were allegedly taken hostage by Benjamin.
Melito was told to run by the attacker who then took away his wife, and then raped and killed her.
The woman was allegedly hacked to death with the use of a cutlass by Benjamin, who committed the gruesome crime two months after being released from the Richmond Hill Prison after serving five years for rape.
In an interview with reporters after Benjamin pleaded guilty, an emotional Melito expressed satisfaction with the way the court proceeding took place.
“I am pleased primarily because it tells us of how good the work was done by (Senior Crown Counsel) Mr. (Howard) Pinnock and his staff. It just shows what an excellent job they did and the strength of the case that they put together”, he remarked.
When asked how he has been coping with his wife’s death, Melito said, “There are good days and then there are other days”.
“…I have a lot to be grateful for”, he added.
According to Senior Crown Counsel Pinnock, the State had a very strong case against Benjamin with more than 20 witnesses lined up to give evidence against him.
“We had excellent co-operation from local persons…tremendous amount of work was done and at the end of the day we were satisfied that we had a powerful case against the accused man and we are not surprised that he has pleaded guilty”, he said.
The experienced Crown Counsel noted that the case against Benjamin was based primarily on circumstantial evidence as persons saw the accused around the beach and at the crime scene.
Prior to the guilty plea, Benjamin had maintained that he was not the culprit who committed the heinous crime against the American woman.
When questioned about the sudden change of plea of his client, the response from attorney Thomas was: “No comment”.
Benjamin, who faces a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, will be sentenced on January 17 2018 by Justice Gilford who has built up a reputation for giving lengthy prison sentences for such crimes.
In February 2016, British national Alexander Robert Clack was sentenced by Gilford to 70 years at the Richmond Hill prison for the 2014 death of his wife Nixiann Downes whose body was found in a suitcase pulled out of a shallow grave in Mt. Moritz.