Christopher Omar Samuels, 33, was sentenced last Friday to 12 years imprisonment for a rape he committed in 2002. Justice Alex Henderson said he considered that holding a knife against the victim’s throat and threatening to kill her were serious aggravating factors.
Details of the crime were set out by Crown Counsel Kirsty-Ann Gunn, who said the victim was a US national, 48, who came to Cayman on vacation. On the night of 3 May 2002, she was walking along West Bay Road back to her accommodation after several hours of shopping at The Strand.
She had two bags plus a towel and her handbag. A gold-coloured car pulled alongside her and the driver asked if she wanted a ride. She said no. The car moved slowly and the driver asked again. She said no and he drove off.
The woman felt uneasy about the encounter and decided to cut through the Westin Casuarina property. She went to the ladies room in the area of the spa and went into one of the cubicles. She heard the door open and thought it was a security guard, but looking through the louvers, she saw it was not.
She said, ‘Excuse me, this is a ladies’ room.’ The man said ‘Sorry.’
About 30 seconds later the door opened again and she assumed it was the same person. She said she had a phone and was calling police.
Then the lights went off. The person began chopping at the door of the cubicle and was able to grab her hand as she tried to hold the door closed. Forcing the door open, he put a knife to her neck. She told him he could have her handbag and money. He said he didn’t want money – he wanted her.
He told her what to do and said if she didn’t scream he would not cut her. Oral sex was performed but he wanted intercourse. Again he told her what to do, saying he didn’t want to cut her pretty face.
She suggested going somewhere else, but he told her, ‘I’m going to finish you off here.’ She thought he meant to kill her.
He then removed her underwear. She told him she had herpes, which was not true, but he didn’t believe her and intercourse took place. He then began wiping up the floor with her underwear.
He told her he was sorry, that he was ‘stoned’ that night and she must count to 100 before leaving.
The woman went to hotel staff for assistance and was taken to hospital. A doctor examined her and used swabs from standard rape kit to obtain various samples.
DNA was found, but a search of the data base of known felons in 2002 did not produce a match and investigations continued.
In December 2008, a routine check of what is commonly known as ‘cold cases’ was done for DNA. At this time, Samuels’ DNA was in the data base ‘for a completely unrelated matter,’ Ms Gunn said.
Samuels’ DNA was a match with the specimen from the case. He was arrested in January and another swab was taken from him for confirmation. It was also a match.
Victim impact statement
Ms Gunn handed up photos taken after the incident and medical reports. The woman had abrasions to her neck, arms and legs. She had bruising and a laceration in the vaginal area, as well as pelvic tissue damage requiring surgery.
In her letter, the woman described herself as unable to do the things she used to love. After returning to the US she lost her job because of stress. She lost hair and weight. She felt fearful and depressed. For three years she had slept with the lights on and no longer went out much.
She was diagnosed as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
After police told her that her attacker had been brought to court, she was starting to feel better. The nightmares were stopping.
Defence Attorney Clyde Allen emphasised Samuels’ guilty plea and said his client was remorseful.
He said Samuels denied being the driver who had offered the woman a ride; he said he was on the beach with friends and had used the drug ecstasy. He went to the restroom to wash his hands. He felt compelled to go inside the female restroom because he saw shopping bags outside.
He claimed a steak knife was inside the bathroom. He did not remember what he said and did; he was confused by his behaviour. When he told the woman he was going to finish her off there, he meant completion of the sexual act, not killing her.
Mr. Allen said the act was completely out of character and Samuels was not a danger to the public. He cited a sentencing guideline in which the starting point is five years for rape of an adult without aggravating features.
He also referred to a financial settlement the woman received from the Westin.
‘The money didn’t come from your client,’ Justice Henderson replied. He said it was not relevant to sentence.
Ms Gunn objected to the description of Samuels as not a danger to the public. She said he was a stranger on the street, the offence had not occurred in the context of a relationship. She disagreed about the bags being outside the restroom or a knife being inside.
In summarising the facts of the case, the judge noted that police made the DNA match during a ‘cold case’ follow-up ‘in what must be commended as excellent detective work’.
He spoke of the physical and mental suffering of the victim. For the most part, the psychological effect had continued to this day.
After the act, Samuels had wiped the floor, presumably to wipe away evidence. This was of some significance because he had said he was so stoned he didn’t know what he was doing.
Before he left the woman, Samuels said he was sorry. Possibly he did regret his action, but it could have been because he hoped to dissuade her from reporting what happened, the judge said.
Samuels’ had no previous convictions and pleaded guilty, but he was facing a relatively strong case, the judge pointed out.
Guidelines set out 2002 indicated a sentence of 10-12 years for rape, which had become alarmingly prevalent, the judge said.
Speaking generally, he said the alarm at the prevalence of rape has not diminished since then. ‘The offence is very prevalent in the Cayman Islands and tourists appear to be particularly vulnerable to this offence because of their lack of experience with our local culture.’
In this specific case, he concluded that the aggravating features put the offence above the tariff. The sentence would have been 15 years, but because Samuels pleaded guilty, he reduced it to 12.