By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
A MAN will serve a little over three years in jail for his part in a fatal kidnapping and $100,000 ransom attempt that ended with a man being burnt alive.
Renaldo Armbrister’s six-year sentence, imposed by Senior Justice Stephen Isaacs yesterday for attempted extortion and kidnapping, was cut nearly in half when the judge took into account Armbrister’s 32 months on remand concerning the December 7, 2006 murder of Philip Gaitor, Jr.
Armbrister, at trial, had denied any involvement or knowledge in the Freeport, Grand Bahama incident. He claimed that he only signed a confession to stop the police from beating him.
He said that when he was released from prison he heard street talk that suggested Gaitor’s murder was the result of a drug deal gone wrong.
The confession statement, which the Crown produced, has Armbrister being a part of a group of men, including mastermind Renaldo Bonaby, who lured Gaitor to an isolated spot near Barbary Beach where they bound and beat him with a baseball bat after an attempted extort of $100,000 from the victim’s father failed.
Gaitor was put back into his car, while Bonaby doused the car with gasoline before striking a lighter. When the car exploded, the men, including a laughing Bonaby, left as the trapped-man screamed.
Though the jury found him guilty of the remaining offences by counts of 9- 3, they acquitted Armbrister of murder on an 8-4 majority verdict and his sentencing was adjourned to February 11.
In yesterday’s proceedings, Senior Justice Isaacs addressed the 28-year-old yesterday and told him that “Philip Gaitor Jr is dead and you have been convicted of attempted extortion and kidnapping.”
“The jury acquitted you of murder and these offences were joined in a case where four persons were initially on trial. One has turned Crown witness, the other two have met a violent end.”
“And it is the evidence in this case, which the jury has accepted, that one of the men went too far in killing Philip Gaitor Jr,” the judge added.
The judge informed the convict that attempted extortion and kidnapping carried respective sentences of up to five and 10 years imprisonment.
“I accept your probation report that your behaviour was out of character and I accept that because it is shown in your lack of antecedents. I’m concerned, however, that you’ve expressed no remorse personally to the probation officer,” the judge noted.
“I note that you maintain having no knowledge or involvement of being at the scene, but you presented no alibi evidence,” he added.
Senior Justice Isaacs imposed a five-year sentence for attempted extortion and six years for kidnapping to run concurrently.
“That is reduced by the two years and 10 months already served. That is my sentence,” the judge concluded.
Armbrister’s lawyer, Lessiah Rolle said he and his client were “grateful” for the sentence.
Armbrister can appeal the conviction and sentence, as he did at his initial trial in connection with the case.
He and Bonaby were convicted of all three counts in their first trial while Kevin Harvey Jr was convicted and jailed for kidnapping and attempted extortion.
However, Armbrister and Bonaby’s convictions were quashed and their respective sentences of life and death for the murder overturned because of a procedural error by the trial judge.
Bonaby was never retried as he was murdered in Grand Bahama in June 2014, days before the retrial was to take place.
Harvey, who had completed his sentence from the initial trial, was also murdered. He was killed in Grand Bahama last month, becoming that island’s first murder victim for 2015.
Assistant director of Public Prosecutions Vernal Collie and Kristan Stubbs prosecuted the retrial.