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Murdered Teacher’S Family May Get Chance To Speak At Trial

By LAMECH JOHNSON

Tribune Staff Reporter

ljohnson@tribunemedia.net

A JUDGE may consider a victim impact statement of a murder victim’s relative before sentencing a man who admitted responsibility for the second time in a decade for the throat-slashing murder of a Spanish teacher.

Justice Roy Jones yesterday confirmed that he would consider the matter when prosecutor Kevin Farrington stated his intention to make an application to the court for a relative or relatives of victim Dale Hepburn to be heard during sentencing of 37-year-old Sherman Rodriguez concerning the November 2, 2004 killing.

Rodriguez was to be sentenced yesterday morning, but his lawyer, Christina Galanos, had given notice that she was not feeling well.

The matter has been adjourned to August 5 for the commencement of sentencing and hearing of the Crown’s application.

A victim impact statement tells a judge or magistrate of how a crime has affected or impacted an individual and may be taken into account when the convict is sentenced.

Hepburn, a Spanish teacher at S C McPherson High School, was found dead in her home off Carmichael Road on the morning in question.

Rodriguez called the police control room at 8 o’clock that morning and said he had killed a woman during an attempted robbery between midnight and 1am on November 1 and 2, 2004.

The officers arrested him at a Pizza Hut location in Cable Beach.

Rodriguez, while in custody, said that he went to Hepburn’s home on Antigua Street to get money to buy cocaine and alcohol. The accused, who lived across the street, reportedly got into the home by asking Hepburn to use her phone. Rodriguez, who was high on drugs, surprised Hepburn with an eight-inch knife, and she sustained severe injuries, including a severed windpipe, during the struggle that followed.

When he appeared before Supreme Court Justice Vera Watkins for the start of his trial, Rodriguez took a plea bargain to avoid the death penalty, which, prior to March 2006, was mandatory upon a murder conviction.

However, prosecutors did not go along with the original deal of 20 years imprisonment and Rodriguez found himself sentenced to 60 years instead.

His lawyer, Jerone Roberts, successfully challenged the conviction and sentence to the appellate court on the basis that the Crown, in statute law, had breached the terms of the plea agreement.

The appellate court handed down the decision in June 2012 and Rodriguez went on be granted bail in the Supreme Court while awaiting retrial, which was eventually set before Justice Jones two weeks ago.

Rodriguez pleaded guilty a second time and is currently on remand awaiting sentencing.

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