Damien O’Garro, who was described as a person of exemplary and impeccable character, was initially charged for the murder of Maria Felix, a native of the Dominican Republic. However, on June 5 he pleaded guilty to the lesser count of manslaughter.
The 28 months or almost three prison years that O’Garro has spent incarcerated awaiting his trial was taken into account and will be deducted from the sentence.
O’Garro reportedly committed the unlawful act during the early morning hours of February 6, 2010, while at Felix’s home on Lionel Hurst Street. The woman was stabbed in the chest and she subsequently succumbed to her injuries.
The 23-year-old man, before his attorney Cosbert Cumberbatch made a plea of mitigation on his behalf and before a character witness was called to testify for him, made an emotional address to the court with his voice trembling under the microphone that was placed almost on his lips.
O’Garro, who was dressed in a grey suit with a white shirt and red necktie, said he was sorry for what he did and added that taking the Hispanic woman’s life was not intentional.
The young man accepted that he was to blame for the woman’s death and told the court that he was willing to accept whatever sentence it imposes.
He, however, asked that mercy and leniency be extended to him.
“I know that I stand here before you (the court) on a very serious matter. The circumstances are very complex and it was not intentional. It (the killing) was a mistake and I regret it every day,” O’Garro said.
“I am sorry to everybody who I have hurt and caused pain to. I have to accept responsibility. I am at fault and I have to pay. I pray God will guide your decision, Sir. I stand at the mercy of the court, Sir,” a remorseful O’Garro told a packed courtroom.
The character witness, Roland Haywood of Upper Fort Road, said the killing was out of O’Garro’s character. He said he was shocked to hear of the incident and first thought that the person charged could not have been the same person he taught.
Haywood, a carpenter instructor at the Antigua and Barbuda Institute of Continuing Education (ABICE) and O’Garro’s former teacher, said the 23 year old’s whole approach to the trade, his work and attitude while at the institution were different from the other students.
The instructor described O’Garro, who kept his head bowed during the entire proceedings, as a gifted student who asked questions about his work and paid attention to details.
Haywood told the court that the educational institution and teachers in the Carpentry Department have been the beneficiary of materials provided by O’Garro that he received while attending a trade school in the United States.
Haywood said it was only after O’Garro provided the educational materials that he knew there was a difference between carpentry math and regular math.
Cumberbatch, while addressing the court, said his client had shown remorse and had written at least two letters, including one to the court expressing his regret for the loss of life.
The attorney said that O’Garro is unable to sleep at nights because “of a burden on his soul.”
Cumberbatch detailed to the court several accolades that O’Garro received during his schooling and even while on remand at Her Majesty’s Prison.
O’Garro, who dropped out of The Antigua Grammar School in fourth form, took part in the 2011 Independence Literary Arts Competition and was awarded a certificate of participation.
Cumberbatch asked the court to look at previous sentences for manslaughter which run from two and a half years to 15 years.
High Court Judge Justice Keith Thom took several factors into account in deciding on the young man’s fate. His age, his guilty plea, the fact that he is not previously known to the court and because he was a good student were all considerations.
Thom advised O’Garro that if he continues on this positive path he will overcome this negative development in his life.
O’Garro met the 35-year-old Hispanic woman at Bruce’s Nightclub on February 5, 2010, and they became familiar with each other. They left the club together in the convict’s grandmother’s vehicle.
The then 21-year-old took Felix home and they had consensual intercourse, after which the woman demanded $200, which O’Garro did not have.
He promised to leave his clothing and a gold watch as guarantee that he would return with the cash, but Felix refused that proposition.
O’Garro continued to plea and got on his knees and begged Felix to accompany him to his house so he could get the money for her. Again, the Hispanic woman refused his offer and began to hit him about the body.
The young man reportedly ran to the door and Felix attacked him with a knife and held it to his neck. He managed to get away the weapon which he used to “fire a wild stab.” Felix screamed and O’Garro took the knife, left the house and fled the scene.
O’Garro later found out that the Hispanic woman had died. Investigations were conducted and he was arrested and charged.
While O’Garro admitted to stabbing the woman once, the pathologist found two lacerations to her chest.
Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Anthony Armstrong was the prosecutor involved in the matter.