By Monique Washington
A young man, who was charged with murder in 2011 and out of jail on bail awaiting his trial, was sent back to jail this week after a gun was found in his possession.
Patrick Howell Jr., a Cane Garden resident, was arrested and charged with possession of a firearm, possession of ammunition and smuggling of a firearm on Thursday (June 9).
This has been the 12th illegal firearm the police have seized this year. Police Public Relations Officer Grell Browne told the Observer on Tuesday that “all firearms that are seized are run through ballistic testing” to find out if they were used in the commission of other gun-related crimes.
The Observer was informed that anyone charged with possession of a firearm can receive a maximum 10 year sentence at the Magistrate Court; or the sentence can exceed 10 years at the High Court. In Magistrate Court, the Judge or Magistrate can use their discretion and hand down any sentence not exceeding the maximum. The accused has the option of having their case heard before either court.
Prior to Howell’s most recent arrest, bail was granted after he was accused of taking the life of 17 year old Zamique Heyligier in December of 2011. Howell was a juvenile at the time and released on bail in early 2012. Dylon Clarke, a key witness in the case, disappeared in April of 2012 after he walked out of his mother’s house. After the disappearance, police labelled Howell as their number one suspect. His disappearance attracted regional attention and in May the Virgin Island Police Department (VIPD) assisted the St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force with their search. A cadaver dog was brought in and identified an area in Cane Garden were a body once laid.
According to a press release from the Virgin Islands Police, “During the search with VIPD officers, Hassan, the police dog, picked up Clarke’s scent at the Moonlight Bar in Church Ground and led officers to a home about a mile away, where he alerted them to the presence of a cadaver. Local police said “a person of interest” to the case resides at the home. Digging equipment was brought in; however a body was not found,” the release reads.
Howell has never been charged in connection with the disappearance of Clarke.
The Observer questioned a lawyer who explained that a person who commits crimes while on bail can receive a second bail. The decision is solely up to the Magistrate or the High Court judge to make that decision.