IT has taken a long time for any measure of justice to be reached over the death of Ericka Fowler.
It is more than 13 years since she was stabbed to death outside her home – and this week, Leo Roderick Johnson finally confessed to her manslaughter.
Director of Public Prosecutions Garvin Gaskin last night explained that the length of time the case has been going on without resolution played a part in his office accepting an admission of manslaughter rather than murder – along with Mr Johnson’s version of events, including claims of infidelity. Such claims of course have not been tested in court – but Mr Gaskin says the Crown has asked for an 18-year sentence, even as the defence has asked for probation.
This was a personal case for The Tribune – you see, Ericka was one of our own. She worked as the librarian at The Tribune.
After Ericka was killed, Mr Johnson was arrested and charged on August 23, 2006. The case was adjourned until September 27, 2006. He was remanded in custody and was released from prison about 14 months later with his case still unheard.
Ericka Fowler was an ambitious young woman with a promising future. She came to The Tribune nine years before through an employment agency. We needed an office cleaner and Ericka fitted the bill. However, we soon discovered that she was a misfit. Ericka was much too smart for the job she was doing. We had never seen anyone so keen to learn. Her smile was infectious and as Ericka, after completing her chores, drifted into the various departments, staff were eager to train her on the computers. Eventually our little cleaner became the assistant librarian. Not only was she an expert at filing, but she was a wonderful organiser and transformed that department. She is still missed.
She filled in on the switchboard, took photographs for the advertising department and moved into the circulation department where she had an early morning route delivering The Miami Herald with The Tribune. Eventually, she started to bring in news stories, which she had written herself. She was described as the “most versatile employee” at The Tribune. She could fill in in almost any department. And at Christmas time she was an expert decorator of our offices.
Ericka was going places when her life was cut short. Her death was witnessed by her mother and her children.
Her mother, Roselda, said that on the night of Ericka’s death, the children and Ericka were at home “when a man came around. He tried to get in the house, and Ericka halfway opened the door to him”. Mrs Fowler was in her bedroom when she heard her daughter “and the man fussing and fighting”.
“I went into the kitchen and told them to stop fussing all the time,” she recalled. “He threatened to kill the children right there in the kitchen, but I said he would have to kill me first.” On the man’s insistence, one of the children had opened the kitchen door and let him in.
“Ericka ran outside to get help from a neighbour and he came up behind her, running after her down the road,” her mother said. She was stabbed, then dragged onto the back seat of a car where her throat was slit as her 12-year-old son begged that her life be spared.
The children took their mother out of the car, laid her on the ground, where she gasped for breath, then died. The man, with another man behind the wheel of the car, drove off.
The Tribune inquired on several occasions about the state of the prosecution of her killer. After his release from prison without trial, no questions were being answered. In 2007, we wrote to the then Attorney General raising Ericka’s case. With that letter, we sent Ericka’s diary. One of the entries stated: “He tell me I will not live to see my 34 birthday – that he promises.” Ericka was 33 when she was killed.
In 2008, we again raised the case with the Attorney General – who could find no record of the case. In 2010, we wrote again, this time to the Director of Public Prosecutions to acquaint her with the case.
Today, we report on the anguish of Ericka’s son, Tanrio, at the pain that has stretched out for years as the justice system failed to deliver an outcome until this week. He was 12 years old when the attack happened. “It’s been like a nightmare, you know,” he said, “I ain’t forget about what happen, but it’s like no justice was coming out of it… it messed me up mentally.”
Ericka has been failed by the justice system for many years, and her family has paid the price.
That this case has taken too long to reach this point is beyond doubt. That it has finally reached a verdict after being left to gather dust is a matter deserving of praise for the current prosecutors. That it finally reaches an end and Ericka’s killer faces justice is essential. Like Ericka’s family, we await the sentencing and hope that at last there will be an appropriate resolution.
A Pointed comment
You couldn’t make it up. Construction at The Pointe – which has been criticised for not hiring enough Bahamian workers – now might be delayed because the coronavirus outbreak and the ban on travel from China means, wait for it, they might not have enough Chinese workers.
Forgive us for being so bold but might we suggest the solution that has been there all along?
Hire more Bahamians.