Relief amid grief

SALT SPRING, St James — Patricia Smith alternated, Tuesday, between mourning the loss of her seven-year-old nephew Justin Perry and a feeling of relief that her eight-year-old daughter had escaped death. The young girl had got out of a taxi before it was shot up Monday evening, leaving little Justin dead, along with his nine-year-old schoolmate Nahcoliva Smith and 26-year-old Tevin Hayle.

“That is the most terrifying thing, because we could have lost two if [the taxi driver] decided that he was not going to let off my daughter either; then we could have lost two family members. It is unfortunate but it is a… relief. But at the same time I have to be grieving for my sister,” Smith told the Jamaica Observer.

Their family has been hit hard by young Justin’s death.

“We are not keeping good because the uncle has fainted, the mother has fainted three times, the grandfather has fainted, and my mother is not holding up well,” stated Smith.

Justin’s mother, Althea Crossman, was almost too overcome by grief to speak with the Observer after a visit to the doctor. She said she often asked the cab driver not to take Justin, her youngest of three, up the road. The young boy, Crossman said, liked to remain in the car for a ‘joy ride’ as it went past his house and up the hill to drop off his cousin. He would then exit when it came back down and reached his gate.

“I talked to the driver on several occasions not to take my child [up the road],” she said tearfully. Now the family is left to cling to memories of the young boy. On Tuesday, Smith spoke fondly of her nephew who, she said, wanted to become a footballer like his father Kevin Perry and his elder brother Kevaun Perry.

“He was a playful and happy child who loved to play football. His dad used to play football [for Anchovy High School] while his brother currently plays for Montego Bay United. He wanted to follow in their footsteps,” she said wistfully.

Meanwhile, the mother of slain nine-year-old Nahcoliva, Natalie Heaven Smith, had harsh words for the person who killed her child as he made his way home from school. She is the acting principal of Bethel Town Primary. Her son, like Justin, attended Chetwood Memorial Primary School.

“I don’t have any vengeance in my heart for whoever does it, but I am telling you that your life is going to be bitter. You are all going to feel the pain that I am feeling and every tear I cry. Probably, you are all going to cry yourselves to death. And when the time comes, they are going to beg for mercy, and mercy is not going to answer,” said the distraught mother as she cried bitterly.

Nahcoliva’s father, Bentley Smith, said he is leaving his child’s killer to God. He said he has been left unimpressed by comments made by Prime Minister Andrew Holness in the aftermath of the triple murder.

“To tell you the truth, and I am not hiding my conscience, you see the prime minister, he gave us a promise and it did not work out. I remember when he told us that we [would be able to] sleep with our doors open and right now we have to bolt it with iron. So, I don’t see where it work out. He need to do better,” he said.

Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang and Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson were among a team that visited Salt Spring on Tuesday in the wake of the shooting that has rattled many Jamaicans. Anderson said the police are following strong leads in the case.

According to the police’s report on Monday’s incident, about 5:20 pm, a taxi operator was driving his grey 2006 motorcar from Salt Spring heading to Montego Bay with the two school boys on board.

Hayle reportedly stopped the vehicle and asked to be dropped at home. As he entered the car, a man armed with a rifle exited bushes along the right side of the road and opened gunfire at the vehicle. The boys and Hayle were all hit in the head and upper body.

The taxi driver drove to the Montego Hills Police Station. Hayle and the young students were rushed to Cornwall Regional Hospital where they were pronounced dead on arrival.

Police processing the scene of the shooting found five .308 spent casings.