A man who stabbed his common law wife 12 times in front of their child, an act which lead to her death two days later, will have to serve 21 years and 7 months in prison for murder.
Emerald Keith Mack had already spent four years, six months and four days in prison at the time he was sentenced at the High Court yesterday, February 17. Therefore, his remaining sentence was given as 17 years, one month and two days.
The sentencing judge, Justice Brian Cottle, outlined the accepted facts of what happened on August 8, 2017.
It is said that Mack and 40-year-old Vesta Rawlins were in a common law relationship and shared two children together. While Rawlins was the mother of seven children, her two youngest daughters were conceived during her relationship with Mack.
The couple did not live together but Mack would frequently visit to sleep over. On August 8 he was observed going to the home dressed in dark clothing which witnesses said was unusual for him.
At one point during his visit, the couple were conversing in the yard and their voices became loud. They moved inside of the house, and, according to their daughter, Mack held his hand so that it was concealed behind a door. Rawlins was changing their infant’s diaper when her common law husband used a knife and stabbed her repeatedly. With her direct view of the stabbing their nine-year-old daughter counted six stabs. The post mortem revealed it was 12. Six of these were distributed between the neck, chest and stomach areas.
The neighbours could hear the victim’s screams and went to her aid as Mack fled. The three year old daughter was also injured in the incident.
“Vesta Rawlins was taken to the hospital and despite the efforts of the medical staff, she succumbed to her injuries two days later,” the Justice revised.
The police investigated and, “A knife was recovered in the yard. There were blood stains in the bedroom, the living room of the house, there were also blood stains in the yard.”
Mack was nowhere to be found until he turned himself in at the Mesopotamia police station two days later.
When he gave himself up Mack informed the police that he and Rawlins had an argument. According to the then-54-year-old, he suspected her of infidelity, and she responded to him by saying that her body was hers to use as she saw fit. He pushed her, Mack said, and she pulled a knife on him. He said the weapon fell from his hand at which point he retrieved it and stabbed her multiple times.
In an electronic interview that the police conducted at a later date in the presence of a lawyer, Mack declared that his earlier statements to them were the truth.
When Mack went before the High Court on June 6, 2019, he said he was ‘Not guilty’ of murder. His lawyer, Kay Bacchus-Baptiste discussed with the crown, represented by counsel Rose-Ann Richardson, but did not reach an agreement that the case was reflective of manslaughter rather than murder.
Mack changed his plea to ‘Guilty’ on October 18, 2021.
Yesterday Bacchus-Baptiste took issue with some of the facts that she said were suggested by the prosecution. She said that her client did not come wearing dark clothes because he intended to kill Rawlins. “Nothing is further from the facts. He came there with the intent to sleep by her that night,” she told the court.
The counsel also posited that Mack ran away and slept in the field that night, changing his clothes after crawling through red ants and stinging plants. He was apparently on the run from Rawlins’ relatives.
The lawyer also made reference to the social welfare report that she said was one of the better “if not the best” that she has seen. She relayed that some persons with whom the social worker spoke stated that Rawlins was the aggressor in the relationship and kept a knife or cutlass in her possession.
She referred to a number of places where persons spoke to the welfare officer in “glowing” terms when it came to Mack.
Using the sentencing guidelines for the offence of murder issued by the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC), Justice Cottle began at a sentence of 30 years incarceration, from a range of 20 to 40 years.
From there he took into account further aggravating and mitigating circumstances.
The Justice noted that the offence took place in the home of the victim and in the presence of her children.
“I think that there was a degree of planning or premeditation in that the prisoner may have brought a bladed weapon to the scene.
But he certainly took the time to don dark coloured clothing to facilitate his escape,” Cottle reasoned, “This enabled him to escape detection by remaining still in the dark near a banana root (Mack) said.”
His clothing was never recovered by the police.
The Justice recalled, “…In his statement to the police the prisoner said that he changed his clothes after the incident and that he had had available to him a change of clothing in a nearby shed.” With Mack having admitted to the police that everything he had told them in the earlier statement was the truth, the Justice observed, “It is obvious then that the prisoner had concealed nearby fresh clothing to change into after his attack on Vesta Rawlins.”
On the other hand, the Justice took into account the defence lawyer’s submissions that her client was provoked and that the deceased was the aggressor.
There was nothing aggravating related to the offender himself.
When it comes to factors about Mack that served to mitigate, it was acknowledged that the offender had no previous criminal convictions before he was charged with murder and he has shown remorse. Mack’s lawyer said that he still cries about the crime and wishes he could give Rawlins back her life.
The social inquiry report revealed that persons view Mack as a cool and quiet person who behaved uncharacteristically on the night. The Justice also noted that the prison authorities view Mack as being a good candidate for rehabilitation.
Cottle contemplated, “I am of the conclusion that the starting sentence of 30 years should be disturbed as, although the aggravating and mitigating features of the offence are counterbalanced by the mitigating features of the offender, there still remains uncertainty that the prisoner brought a knife with him to the scene.”
He reduced the 30 year sentence to 27 years.
Had Mack pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity, he would have received a one third subtraction on the sentence. However, since this did not happen at the earliest point, the court decided that a one fifth discount would be given.
“This will operate to reduce the starting sentence from 27 years to 21 years, 7 months and 6 days,” Cottle concluded. He then took into account time spent on remand to arrive at the final sentence.