General — 26 June 2019 — by Roy Davis (freelance reporter)
Two constables on trial for manslaughter

A student, 18, died while in the custody of 2 policemen on Caye Caulker

BELIZE CITY, Wed. June 19, 2019– A jury of 8 women and 1 man is hearing the case of two police constables, Leonard Nunez, 48, and Hallet King, 35, who are on trial for manslaughter in the court of Justice Colin Williams. The charge is for the death of Hilbert Sotz, 18, a second-form student of Belmopan Baptist High School, who died at about 5 p.m. on July 15, 2015.

Sotz was in the holding cell at the Caye Caulker Police Station, after being detained in the investigation of a burglary, when he was allegedly beaten by Nunez and King. A post-mortem examination revealed that he died from a heart attack as a result of being beaten on his head.

So, far, four witnesses have testified for the Crown, represented by Crown Counsel Portia Ferguson. One of the witnesses, Saturino Sotz, the father of the deceased, testified that on Monday, July 15, 2015, his son was with him in his taxi car when he was detained by Nunez and King.

Saturino said the officers took his son out of the car and dragged him by his pants to the police station, which was about 100 feet away. Saturino said that at about 5 p.m. on July 15, 2015, he was told that his son had died and that his body was at the polyclinic in Caye Caulker.

Saturino’s wife, Carmelita Sotz, testified that she identified the body of her son at the polyclinic and that her son could not have been involved in the burglary for which he had been detained, because the burglary had occurred on July 14, 2015, and her son did not come from Belmopan to Caye Caulker until the following day.

The third witness who testified for the Crown was Rochelle Rivero, an auxiliary nurse who was at the Polyclinic when Hilbert’s body was brought there by Nunez and King.

The fourth witness was Jason Sutherland, a special constable and an employee of the Caye Caulker Village Council, who testified that he saw Nunez and King carrying Hilbert’s body to the polyclinic. The Crown has indicated that it has other witnesses it intends to call, but none of them are eyewitnesses and the evidence in the case is circumstantial.

Initially, Nunez and King were charged with murder, but that charge was downgraded to manslaughter. King is being represented by attorney Herbert Panton, while Nunez is being represented by attorney Oscar Selgado.

Yesterday, when Nunez and King appeared in court, they were told that their case had been adjourned until Thursday, June 27.

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