Headline — 12 July 2017 — by Rowland A. Parks

BELIZE CITY, Mon. July 10, 2017–A jury of 7 men and 2 women deliberated for a little over two hours before returning to the courtroom of Supreme Court Justice Adolph Lucas to announce a unanimous guilty verdict in the trial of Bert Vasquez, who was indicted for forcible abduction and aggravated assault of a sexual nature.

Initially, Vasquez was charged with harm, but Justice Lucas removed that charge from the jury and instructed them to only deliberate on two counts of the indictment.

Supreme Court jury finds Bert Vasquez guilty of forcible abduction and aggravated assault

Justice Lucas has set July 21 as sentencing date, after the court hears mitigation pleas for Vasquez.

The abduction occurred on Friday, May 13, 2011. The victim, a 16-year-old girl at the time, was at the Pound Yard Bridge waiting for a bus to take her home to Ladyville, when along came Vasquez.

In her testimony at the trial, the victim, who is now 22, explained that she had just missed the bus to Ladyville that left the terminal at 8:00 p.m. and that while she was waiting on another bus, she was approached by a man who put a handgun at her side and ordered her not to scream, saying, “otherwise I will shoot you.”

The man calmly walked her to his car and ordered her inside. The woman testified that once she was inside the car, the driver kept his gun between his legs and ordered her to sit with her head between her legs, as he drove off.

“He drove across Pound Yard Bridge and made a left turn on Vernon Street, where he stopped to put gas into the car. The window to the passenger side of the car was about a quarter way down. He ordered me to pull up the window. That is when I refused to pull up the window. He got angry and hit me on the left side of my face, before pulling up the window himself,” the woman testified.

The victim said that as the car drove off, “My head was still between my legs, but every now and then I managed to get a look at him, every chance I could….”

“He drove off and began heading toward Ladyville on the Northern Highway. He was driving at a normal rate; he wasn’t speeding. During the ride he started talking to me. He asked me what my name was and the first name that popped into my head was ‘Maria Gomez.’ He asked me what my favorite color was. He told me I had to answer the questions. I was trying to take a look at him, tilting my head up a little. I could see the side of his face. I could see that he had a sharp nose. The light from the car that was turned on was reflecting his face a little….,” the woman testified.

“I could see a sign that said Manatee Lookout, then he turned off the road and I knew that we were going into Vista Del Mar. I know I was going to die back there, and my thought was that I had to get out of the car. I started screaming, and I was screaming at the tip of my lungs. But I know no one could hear me. He drove a little further up and he stopped the car on the side of the road in Vista Del Mar. I was still screaming and he started to choke me. He started to try and take off my blouse.

“My first thought was that I got to fight back. So I leaned back into the seat I was sitting and started kicking him from off me. I scratched him in his face. But so as I kicked him, he was punching me in my face and then he hit me with the gun,” the virtual complainant testified.

At this point in her testimony, the woman broke down in tears. “I thought I was going to die. I felt that if he hit me one more time with the force that he was hitting me, I was going to go unconscious. So I stopped fighting back. I was bleeding from my face …” she said.

“Then he started to drive again and by this time, I was lost. I did not know where I was. He drove and then I realized I was in a dark area. I could hear the sound of the sea outside. That’s when he ordered me to get into the back seat. So I said to him, ‘please don’t do this to me’. I told him, ‘you don’t have to rape me’. I told him I had AIDS. He said, ‘I am going to kill you, because you are no use to me.’

“Then I saw him pull back the driver’s seat, and he said, come here. He unzipped his pants …”

The victim then recounted to the court what Vasquez forced her to do.

Afterwards, “He took the gun and pointed it to my head. I think the gun was a .38 revolver, because of the barrel that spins. He pulled the trigger and I heard a click in my ears. He then reached under his seat and pulled out a ziplock bag. He took out a flashlight and a bottle of hand sanitizer. He also had gloves and razor blades in the bag. He started cleaning [himself],” the woman testified.

Vasquez eventually ordered the woman out of his car, telling her to gather all of her things and run. She only stopped running when she realized that he was not following her. She was eventually assisted by a passerby who took her to the Ladyville Police Station.

On the way, she passed by her pastor’s house and asked the woman to leave her there. Eventually, she was taken to the police station by her female pastor and she filed a report of the incident and was taken to see a doctor.

The woman who assisted the girl was not in the country when the trial began, but Crown Counsel Sheringe Rodriguez, who led the Crown’s evidence against Vasquez, was able to get the statement that the woman had given to police admitted into the evidence against Vasquez.

Vasquez was defended by attorney Oscar Selgado.

Bert Vasquez is also facing a murder charge for the June 2012 death of 13-year-old Jasmine Lowe, a girl scout who had gone missing in Cayo and who was found dead in a field in Cristo Rey Village.

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