General — 15 September 2018 — by Roy Davis (freelance reporter)
Steven Gomez, 23, sentenced to 11 years for manslaughter

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Sept. 13, 2018– A prison sentence of 11 years was imposed today by Justice Francis Cumberbatch on Steven Gomez, 23, a resident of Unitedville, who was found not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter in the Belmopan Supreme Court on July 16.

Justice Cumberbatch had actually sentenced Gomez to 15 years in prison, but he subtracted 4 years from the sentence, which was the time Gomez had spent on remand. The conviction and sentence are for the death of Victor Vargas, 37, aka “Mico”, a father of four who was fatally stabbed during a fight that occurred in Unitedville around 3 a.m. on August 16, 2014.

At the trial, which was without a jury and which began on June 21, the main witness, Joseph Vacarro, testified that Gomez took a cup from Vargas, urinated in it and told Vargas to drink it. Vargas then punched Gomez and a fight began between them.

Vacarro said that while they were struggling on the ground, Gomez took out a knife and stabbed Vargas twice in the neck and once in the head.

Vargas then ran down the street, saying that Gomez had stabbed him, before he collapsed to the ground and died.

Lynette McKoy, a witness for the Crown, testified that she heard Vargas saying that Gomez stabbed him.

Elizabeth Petillo, Gomez’s girlfriend, had given the police a statement in which she said that Gomez told her that he stabbed Vargas. But she was deemed a hostile witness after she took the witness stand and said that the police forced her to give the statement by torturing her.

Gomez testified and admitted that he had fought with Vargas, but he said that it was Vacarro who had stabbed Vargas.

Initially, Vacarro was charged jointly with Gomez for Vargas’ murder but after perusing the evidence, the Crown withdrew the charge against Vacarro.

Before he decided on the sentence, Justice Cumberbatch took into consideration an impact assessment report that was provided by Vargas’ common-law wife, Ada Chavez, the mother of his children, and his mother, Jesus Vargas.

Justice Cumberbatch also took into consideration Gomez’s age of 19 years old when he committed the offence and the pleas of mitigation from two character witnesses. He said that it was not the worst of cases, and that an appropriate sentence would be one that is at the lower end of the range of possible sentences.

Gomez was represented by attorney Oswald Twist, while the Crown was represented by Crown Counsel Portia Ferguson.

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