Monday, 29 May 2023 12:24

Contract killer has 20-year sentence appeal overturned for the second time

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Owen Irving, the man who was paid $230,000 to hire a triggerman to kill Tamara Geddes in Retreat, Trelawny almost three years ago on behalf of her sister, has lost his bid to have his 20-year prison sentence for murder quashed for the second time.

The convict was adamant that his sentence for murder is manifestly excessive, but the Court of Appeal dismissed the suggestion, affirming the sentence in a recently published judgment.

Geddes, 36, was shot dead in her Retreat, Falmouth home by a gunman on Friday, June 19, 2020.

On March 1, 2021, her sister, Nadeen Geddes, was sentenced to 20 years in prison after she pleaded guilty to murder, though she did not actually pull the trigger, but planned the murder of her own sibling with whom she had several disputes with over time.

Nadeen’s daughters, Shanice Ruddock and a then 15-year-old girl, received three-year probationary sentences for misprison of a felony relative to failing to report the murder, despite having knowledge of it.

Nadeen paid $230,000 to Irving to facilitate the killing of Tamara, the Court of Appeal said after the hearing of a fresh appeal brought by Irving this year.

In relation to Irving's conviction for murder and conspiracy to murder, he along with his spouse, Tashana Young, also received $500,000 from Nadeen to murder Tennisha Miller, who was the girlfriend of Nadeen's deceased brother.

Miller had allegedly stabbed Nadeen's brother to death.

Irving pleaded guilty to Tamara's murder in the Trelawny Circuit Court on March 3, 2021, and was sentenced to 20 years in prison with a stipulation that he should serve 15 years before being eligible for parole consideration.

He was sentenced to five years in prison for the conspiracy to murder charge, along with his then female lover.

Dissatisfied with his sentences, Irving went before a single Court of Appeal judge to have his application for leave to appeal his sentences heard, but it was refused on May 12, 2022.

He then brought his application before three Appeal Court judges in February and March of this year, and through his attorneys - Leonard Green and Alex Parkes - argued that "the sentences imposed are harsh and manifestly excessive and cannot be justified".

But the appellate judges - Justice Marva McDonald-Bishop, Justice Jennifer Straw, and Justice David Fraser - said they "do not accept that these sentences are manifestly excessive."

In elaborating, they said: "The circumstances of the offences are quite disturbing and shocking.

"In fact, the applicant (Irving) could have been indicted for murder falling within Section 2(1)(e) of the OAPA (Offences Against the Persons Act - circumstances of a contract killing), and would have been liable to be sentenced pursuant to Section 3(1)(a) of the OAPA, which provides for a potential penalty of death or life imprisonment with a stipulated statutory minimum term of 20 years’ imprisonment before eligibility for parole," the judges wrote in their decision.

In pointing to the disturbing nature of the killing, the judges reminded that in a caution statement, Irving "admitted" to receiving $230,000 from Nadeen, Tamara's sister.

"The money was paid to a third individual ('the triggerman') who had agreed to carry out the killing for the sum of $500,000," the judgment said.

It continued: "The triggerman who was also arrested, gave a caution statement in which he admitted that the applicant (Irving) piloted him to the location where the deceased (Tamara) was shot and killed."

That alleged triggerman, Bryan Shelly, is still before the court and is to be tried, but his legal representation remains unsettled.

The Appeal Court judges also took note that Irving and his then spouse "received $500,000 from Nadeen" to murder her deceased brother's girlfriend.

The judges determined that the sentencing judge "considered and took into a account the classical principles of sentencing" relative to both the murder and conspiracy to murder counts, including Irving's early guilty plea, aggravating and mitigating factors and the time spent in "pre-sentence remand".

It was noted, however, that the sentencing judge "may not have demonstrated his application of the principles (of sentencing) in the orderly manner as set out in the case of Meisha Clement v R and Daniel Roulston v R, but his attempt at applying the prescribed methodology was evident from a review of the transcript."

In the final analysis, the judges were of the view that "this court would only interfere with the sentences if they were excessive or inadequate to such an extent as to satisfy this court that when (they were) passed there was a failure to apply the right principles."

Months of co-ordinated investigations across Trelawny, St James, Westmoreland and the Corporate Area led to detectives arresting and charging seven individuals in relation to the murder of Tamara and the conspiracy to murder another woman.

One of the accused, Rexon Knott, was freed in February 2021, due to insufficient evidence to mount a viable case against him in court.

The Falmouth police reported that on June 19, 2020, at about 8:30 pm, Tamara was in her room with her daughter when a gunman entered the house, demanded money and then shot the mother several times.

The daughter escaped unhurt.

The police were alerted and Tamara was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

On July 14, 2020, Nadeen Geddes, along with both of her daughters and Owen Irving, were arrested and charged in connection with Tamara's murder.

The other accused persons were subsequently arrested and charged by the investigators.