By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
A MAN received a 27-year sentence yesterday for his involvement in the fatal attempted carjacking of a woman who was breastfeeding her baby six years ago.
Valentino Dorsett, 33, stood trial in February on a murder and attempted armed robbery charge concerning an incident that led to the death of 29-year-old Tagia Soles-Armony the night of August 7, 2009.
A jury returned a hung verdict of 7-5 on the murder charge and a 9-3 guilty verdict on the lesser charge of manslaughter, the latter of which trial judge Justice Ian Winder accepted.
Dorsett was also convicted of attempted armed robbery by 11-1 and was told that he would be sentenced in April.
“The circumstances of this case is a most tragic of circumstances,” Justice Winder said yesterday.
“If we accept the evidence of (pathologist) Dr Caryn Sands of the bullet’s trajectory, it is only by a sheer miracle the child she was nurturing was not struck in the process.”
The judge said that a sufficient sentence must be imposed to show society’s disdain for the crimes when taking into account the 18-35 year sentencing guidelines set out by the Court of Appeal decision of Larry Raymond Jones.
Prosecutor Koschina Marshall, at a hearing days earlier, recommended Dorsett receive the maximum penalty of that range while Dorsett’s lawyer, Troy Kelman, asked the judge to consider the probation report of Sonya Saunders.
Ms Saunders said that Dorsett’s criminal past stemmed from his disadvantaged childhood and expulsion from school in the ninth grade.
“I find the appropriate sentence would be 27 years from today’s date,” the judge ruled Monday afternoon.
Dorsett’s sentence was further reduced by the five years spent on remand awaiting trial in connection with the fatal shooting.
As for the attempted armed robbery conviction, Justice Winder imposed a 15-year sentence to run concurrently with the manslaughter conviction.
Dorsett has a right to appeal the conviction and sentences and the Crown can challenge the lengths of his sentences.
Soles-Armony, who lived with her husband in St Kitts and Nevis, was in town to visit her family and to introduce her three-month-old baby to her relatives.
She was shot while sitting in her Honda Accord outside her mother’s home in Sea Breeze Estates.
The Crown’s case against Dorsett relied on a statement allegedly given in police custody and a cell phone taken from the scene of the crime that connected Dorsett to the incident.
The cell phone was checked by police and found to belong to Dorsett’s girlfriend at the time.
His then girlfriend gave a statement to the police that the phone was missing. She had reportedly left it at home on August 7, 2009 and it was nowhere to be found the following day.
Dorsett identified the phone and said it was stolen on August 8 around 7.30pm. He said he made a report to the Wulff Road police station thereafter, but didn’t have a police report to corroborate this.
As for Dorsett’s statement to police, which was not signed, the accused blamed the shooting and planned robbery on an acquaintance called “Nine.”
He claimed that he was with “Nine” and another man known as “D-Boy.” He also claimed that he knew “Nine” would shoot the occupant of the 2008 white Honda Accord that they intended to steal as “Nine” had reportedly had an eye on the vehicle.
“Nine” allegedly borrowed a 9mm pistol from a gang and they went to Sea Breeze where they circled and waited for their target.
Upon sight of their target, “Nine” approached the vehicle and found Soles-Armony and told her to “open up.”
Soles-Armony was in the car breastfeeding her three-month-old son at the time.
According to evidence heard in court, Soles-Armony drove off and “Nine” reportedly fired shots, ran behind the car and shot again.
Dorsett reportedly followed, jumping over a garbage can in the process of the pursuit.
The fatal bullet went through her left arm, into the left side just below her armpit in the area of the breast, through the heart and both lungs. The bullet was embedded in the car seat.
“Nine” and “D-Boy” had been brought in for questioning but there was no direct evidence linking them to the incident as alleged by Dorsett, the jury heard.
Dorsett contended that he never gave a statement or interview to police, only that he was held at the Central Detective Unit until 9pm on August 12, the date of his arrest.
He said he was beaten for a number of days before his arraignment and taken to the Department of Correctional Services.
Concerning the cell phone that was allegedly found at the scene, he claimed police had planted the phone there to frame him.