DESRON ROBERTS
From the Courts
September 30, 2022
Man who killed his girlfriend after wrongfully believing she gave him HIV jailed for 21 years

A MAN who believed that a woman gave him HIV/ AIDS but continued a sexual relationship with her before strangling and repeatedly stabbing her, will serve over 21 years in prison for murder.

The events of the 2018 murder were put on the court’s record by judge Brian Cottle at the High Court on Friday, September 23, when he sentenced offender, Desron Roberts.

It was revealed that the now deceased Rodesha Roshell Bailey, was then a 30-year-old woman who was in a relationship with Roberts, who was 22 years old. Roberts frequented Bailey’s house, and their relationship was sexual.

However, on July 16, 2018, Bailey revealed to Roberts that she was positive for HIV(human immunodeficiency virus). The HIV virus, which is sexually transmitted, can lead to AIDs or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. HIV/AIDS has no known cure and is potentially life threatening.

Two days after being told this by Bailey, Roberts visited a medical doctor and was prescribed a course of post-exposure prophylaxis. The young man was also advised to take a test for the virus, but he did not.

He also did not comply fully with the instructions regarding to medication either. The side effects were apparently harsh, and he had bouts of suicide and depression.

“He was afraid to speak to anyone about his problems, as he feared the reaction that he would face. However, he continued a sexual relationship with Miss Bailey,” Justice Cottle noted.

In October 2018, Roberts decided that he would kill his girlfriend.

“He wrongly thought she had infected him with a serious viral illness.”

On his October 25 visit to Bailey’s house Roberts took a knife with him, and at some point during his visit he told Bailey that he had come to kill her.

She told him that she was not afraid to die.

Roberts put the knife down, and attempted to strangle Bailey. She struggled, trying unsuccessfully to pick up the knife. Roberts continued to strangle her.

“He was not satisfied with the results of his attempts to end her life in that way, so he took up his knife and he began to stab Miss Bailey. She held on to him crying for her life. He stabbed her multiple times before letting her go,” Cottle explained.

Bailey ran out of her house, but collapsed nearby. Her partially clothed body would be found by a neighbour early the next morning.

Her 22-year-old killer also ran from the house after the stabbing. He disposed of the murder weapon as he went to his own home.

A post mortem examination showed that Bailey died as a result of multiple stab wounds.

The police investigated and arrested Roberts a few days after the discovery of Bailey’s body. Roberts told them everything, and took them back to the scene, showing the route he took to leave the house. Despite this, the knife was not found.

Last Friday, the judge used the sentencing guidelines of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court(ECSC) to guide his calculations of the sentence for Roberts. However, there are four aims to criminal punishment that must be kept in mind generally, which the judge revised for Roberts.

He told Roberts that when a court is sentencing offenders it must show persons what society thinks about their behaviour.

The court is also trying to deter him and others from ever doing such a crime, Cottle explained.

“The court also must protect the public from persons who offend by removing those offenders from society,” and finally, “The court remains concerned with the need to rehabilitate persons who offend, preparing them for reintegration into our society.”

When considering a murder committed by an adult the court has options before it.

It can impose a sentence of death, a whole life sentence or a determinate (with fixed limits) sentence.

“Where any offender is found to be insane or suffering from a relevant mental illness the court may order that offender to be detained at the court’s pleasure,” the judge said.

“…In this case one of the factors I found was that there was a significant degree of premeditation. The prisoner brought a murder weapon to the scene with him, he told the victim that he had come to kill her. He first tried to strangle her and this would have caused her some degree of prolonged suffering,” the Judge observed.

These factors could lead a court to decide that a whole life sentence would be appropriate for Roberts, Cottle indicated, but he found that there were factors that meant this case did not warrant that. These were Roberts’ youth, that he had no criminal record before this, that he had been abused as a child, and dropped out of Secondary school at form three.

“I find that he did not possess the coping skills or the social support network that would have enabled him to deal with the consequences of having contracted HIV, and the associated social stigma. Unfortunately when he was confronted with a life crisis, he could only see a resort to violence as his only option. I do not view him as likely to reoffend,” Cottle stated.

The judge began at a sentence of 40 years in prison. Weighing the circumstances of the case, he reduced this by eight years because the features of the case that mitigate outweighed those that aggravate.

Roberts had admitted his guilt, so the court has to give him a full one third discount.

Therefore the offender was left with 21 years and four months as his sentence.

As at last Friday, the young man had already served three years, 10 months, and 19 days in prison. He was left with 17 years, five months and 11 days more.

The prosecution was represented in this case by crown counsel, Renée Simmons, while Roberts was advised by counsel,, Shirlan ‘Zita’ Barnwell.