St Joseph man convicted of strangling accountant with fan cord in 2006

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

A single fingerprint on a fan led to the conviction of a St Joseph man who strangled a chartered accountant with the fan’s cord at his home in Buena Vista Gardens, St Joseph, in 2006.

On Thursday, the death sentence was read to Kendell Gomez who was convicted of the murder of chartered accountant Paul Roopsingh by Justice Gail Gonzales at a judge-only trial, held virtually.

Roopsingh was found by a friend who had gone to his home to drop off a newspaper on March 12, 2006. His body was found face down in a pool of blood with both hands bound. The fan cord was wrapped around his neck and there was a stab wound to the right thigh.

The autopsy found Roopsingh died of strangulation and blunt force trauma to the head. A fingerprint taken from the fan by police matched Gomez’s.

Seven of 12 witnesses were called by prosecutors Stacy Laloo-Chung and Indira Chinebas to give evidence at the trial. They included Roopsingh’s cousin, two friends, and police officers who were at the scene and who were involved in the arrest and questioning of Gomez in 2007.

Gomez denied killing Roopsingh but admitted knowing him as he worked for him, cutting his lawn and painting inside the house and the roof. He denied going into Roopsingh’s office where his body was found or the upstairs portion of the house where it was located.

He also denied the record of his interview with police in which he alluded that two other men were the killers who had gone to Roopsingh’s house to rob.

In her written verdict, Gonzales said she found as a fact Gomez lied when he said he never went into Roopsingh’s office and when he said he was with two friends on the morning when the body was found.

She also said she found as a fact it was Gomez’s fingerprint on the fan attached to the cord used to strangle Roopsingh.

Gonzales said she drew no adverse inference from Gomez’s failure to testify at the trial since he had nothing to prove.

“The case against Gomez is based purely on circumstantial evidence,” the judge said. “Am I satisfied that I am sure Gomez murdered the deceased?”

She said, “Circumstantial evidence is evidence of facts, which when standing alone or by itself cannot prove guilt.

“However, when all the evidence is taken together, it leads to the inescapable conclusion that the accused committed the offence in question.”

She said the only logical explanation for his print being on the fan was because he left it there when he used the cord to strangle Roopsingh.

“I was satisfied, so that I was sure, that it was Gomez who strangled the deceased causing his death. I am satisfied that when he strangled the deceased he intended to kill him.”

While noting she could not find him guilty simply because he told a deliberate lie about who he was with on the morning the body was found, she said she was “sure that Gomez did not lie for an innocent reason.”

“Gomez specifically and deliberately, by his lie, insinuated that (name called) had something to do with the murder.

“He suggested that (name called) had stolen items which he had asked him to sell. He insinuated that (name called) might be responsible for the demise of the deceased…

“He said that (name called) was watching him constantly, suggesting that (name called) was suspicious of him. I was sure that the only reason he told such a lie was because he was conscious of his guilt and he wanted to cast suspicion away from himself. In those circumstances, I found that this lie supported the inference of guilt.”

Gomez was represented by attorney Gretel Baird and public defender Adelia Jordan.

In 2013, Roopsingh’s daughter in a letter to the media bemoaned the slow pace of justice. “I would like to speak out today on behalf of all the victims of violence and inhumane crimes whose prayers and pleas for justice have gone unanswered. My voice at times seems to be going against a tidal wave of incompetence in the justice system in TT.”

On the seventh anniversary of his death, she said she made several attempts to find out why the matter had not yet reached the trial stage.

“I met with various officials and no one has been able to provide a reasonable explanation for the delay.

“Every day I wake up hoping this is just a nightmare and I am an unwilling participant. The pain of losing a loved one is difficult to bear. The agony that follows when one is not able to put closure is a tragedy.”