BELIZE CITY, Wed. Sept. 19, 2018– In March 2014, Aracely Cahueque, 21, a former Corozal beauty contestant, walked out of the Belmopan Supreme Court of Justice Dennis Hanomansingh freed of a three-count indictment for abetment to murder.
The Director of Public Prosecutions, however, appealed the judge’s decision to acquit Cahueque, and the Court of Appeal has handed down a decision ordering that Cahueque be tried a second time.
Cahueque’s entanglement in the criminal justice system came as a consequence of the murder of Raylene Dyer, 18, who was killed in October 2010. According to evidence given in court, Dyer’s head was cut off and her body was dumped in the river around the Roaring Creek area. Dyer’s body was never recovered. The motive established for the murder was that Cahueque allegedly wanted Dyer’s baby.
The narrative behind Dyer’s murder is a disturbing tale of cruelty and deception — a most shocking crime of which Cahueque allegedly was the mastermind.
Cahueque reportedly wanted Dyer’s baby girl because she had told her boyfriend that she was pregnant and wanted to have the baby as proof. So she allegedly hired one of her friends who was attending the University of Belize at the time the murder was planned.
Three men were arrested and charged with Dyer’s murder, but the case against them fell apart in March 2014 when it went to court.
The three accused murderers, Jason Anderson, Darren Banner, and Brandon Budna, managed to beat the murder rap when they convinced Justice Hanomansingh that the confession statements, with all their gory details, were actually beaten out of them.
Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Cheryl-Lynn Vidal visited Budna in prison and arranged a plea bargain deal with him in exchange for his statement and his cooperation with the prosecution.
After the DDP’s visit, Inspector Hilberto Romero recorded a statement from Budna in the presence of a Justice of the Peace. Budna told police that on three separate occasions, Cahueque had approached him in an effort to get him to murder Dyer.
Justice Hanomansingh concluded that the method that the DPP used was unethical because she promised Budna something, so the statement that Budna gave was not allowed to be used in the evidence against Cahueque.
After Budna was acquitted, however, he took the witness stand and refused to cooperate with the prosecution and had to be treated as a hostile witness. This was a huge setback for the prosecution’s case against Cahueque.
In not accepting Budna’s statement, Justice Hanomansingh remarked, “…the action of the Director of Public Prosecutions in visiting and interviewing the witness, Brandon Budna….and asking him to give a statement implicating the accused in the said murder, is highly unethical to say [the] least… because of the actions of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Investigating Officer, I will exercise my discretion and exclude the statement in these proceedings on the basis of bad faith, pressure, hope of expectation of advantage and unfairness.”
Therefore, with no compelling evidence against Cahueque, Justice Hanomansingh upheld a no- case-to-answer submission from Cahueque’s attorney and instructed the jury to acquit her.
At the Court of Appeal, Senior Crown Counsel, Shanice Lovell, managed to convince the panel of judges that Justice Hanomansingh’s reasoning was flawed and was not supported by evidence.
Attorney Anthony Sylvestre, whom the court appointed to represent Cahueque at the Court of Appeal, argued that after so much time has passed, it would be a waste of the court’s time to order a new trial because witnesses would most likely suffer from lapse of memory and on top of that, there was the fact that Cahueque was out of the country, so she would not be able to defend herself properly.
The Court of Appeal judges, however, were not convinced, and they ordered the retrial, saying that the trial judge was focused on the DPP.
“There is absolutely no evidence of bad faith on the part of the Director. As such, it is the opinion of the Court that the discretion of the trial judge was exercised improperly and as a consequence, he erred in refusing to admit the statement of Budna,” the court said.
Nothing will happen for now, at least because Cahueque is out of the country, but if and when she returns, she will be arrested and taken to prison to await her retrial date.