Headline — 20 February 2015 — by Albert J. Ciego
Did accused rapist commit suicide in police station?

LADYVILLE, Wed. Feb. 18, 2015–Police say that Otto Raimundo Palma, an 18-year-old man from the Milpa area of Ladyville, who had been detained for the rape of a 13-year-old girl, was found hanging from the metal bar of the Ladyville Police Station’s holding cell, to which he was tied by a T-shirt which was wound around his neck, at about 7:43 p.m. on Wednesday, February 18.

There were no signs of injury on his body, said a police report.

Palma had been detained in connection with a report made by a 13-year-old girl, who had told police that at about 12:30 Sunday afternoon, she was on the seashore behind Vista Del Mar in Ladyville, where she had gone swimming, and had gone to a secluded area to change into her bathing clothes, when a man came out of the bushes, held her mouth and raped her.

The girl told police that the man was unknown to her.

After the ordeal, the man ran out of the area, and the girl went home and reported the assault to her mother, and they then reported the matter to police.

Police took the girl to a doctor, who examined her and certified that she had been carnally known.

Police said that their investigation led to Otto Palma, and he was detained at the Ladyville Police Station, and was put in a cell by himself.

When police went to check on him at about 7:43 p.m., however, they saw him hanging by the neck, suspended about 12 inches from the floor. His T-shirt was attached to the upper bar of the cell and was tied around his neck.

Superintendent Hilberto Romero, Commander of Crimes Investigation Branch (CIB), in a press briefing this afternoon at the Queen Street Police Station, said that in the cell, there was a lower bar and a higher bar. It was easy for a person to step on the lower bar, tie his shirt around his neck and attach the shirt around the higher bar, and then release his feet from the lower bar; he would then be suspended, said Romero.

In response to a question from reporters suggesting that Palma was killed by police in the cell, Superintendent Romero said that there was no cover-up. He was alone in the cell, said the superintendent.

A full police investigation, however, is being carried out. Romero emphasized that there were no signs of violence on the body, and they have ruled Palma’s death as a suicide.

Romero said that a post-mortem exam will reveal how Palma died.

The Commander of CIB has noted, however, that this was the 3rd rape of which Palma was being accused. He was charged with rape in 2013, and again in 2014.

Police said that on the night of September 20, 2014, he allegedly held up a woman in Ladyville with a gun and raped her. He was identified and arrested, and charged with rape.

On September 22, 2014, he was taken to the Belize City Magistrate’s Court, where he appeared before Chief Magistrate Anne Marie Smith. No plea was taken from him because the offence is indictable, and also because the offence was committed with a firearm.

Palma was not offered bail and was remanded into prison until November 12. He was later offered bail and was awaiting trial for this offense.

Romero said that at the time when Palma was detained yesterday morning, he was not flustered, nor did his behavior indicate in any way that he would have taken his life.

Romero said that, nevertheless, no possibility will be ruled out, and they are investigating the death from all angles.

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