He had motive, means, opportunity, and his confession to murder was true, judge says
Justice Charles Quin found Leonard Antonio Ebanks guilty of murder on Friday and handed down the mandatory sentence of imprisonment for life. He said he was satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt Ebanks had fatally shot Tyrone Burrell on 8 September, 2010, in a yard along Birch Tree Hill Road in West Bay.
In his review of the evidence marshalled by Senior Crown Counsel Trevor Ward, Justice Quin referred to motives for the shooting; Ebanks’ possession of a .38 handgun and the fact Mr. Burrell was shot by a single .38 bullet to the back of the head; Ebanks’ presence at the scene; and his telling a trusted friend that he had killed the “little boy”. Tyrone Burrell was 20; Ebanks was 41.
Police Constable Kingsley Mitchell said Ebanks told him Tyrone was a spy carrying news between the Birch Tree Hill gang and the Logwood gang and had “shot up” the house of Devon Anglin’s grandmother. Further, Ebanks named Tyrone as one of the persons who wanted to set him (Ebanks) up to be killed.
The evidence of Arlene White was that Ebanks had shown her a gun he carried in the waist of his pants.
She had seen it numerous times and knew it was a .38 because she used to work at a police station in Jamaica and was curious about guns. She said Ebanks had told her he carried it for protection.
The evidence of opportunity related to the place and the timing. Ms White worked for the people who lived in the yard where the shooting took place. She said Ebanks was like family to them and was often there.
On 8 September, 2010, he was at the yard during the day.
Ms White saw him around 4pm, when he was wearing short jeans pants and a white merino.
There was CCTV footage from the West Bay Police Station at 5.01pm confirming this clothing, plus a red cap.
There had been people in the yard and music playing; Ms White said she was in the kitchen making burgers and fries and Tyrone came in and asked for a burger.
She said she went outside and handed him the burger some time between 6pm and 6.30pm.
Ms White said she was in the kitchen around 7pm when she saw Ebanks pass the door swiftly, dressed all in black and with a black and white handkerchief wrapped around his hand.
It was very unusual for him to pass without greeting her and she went to the door to look.
She went back to what she was doing and about five seconds after seeing Ebanks, she heard a gunshot.
The defence argued Ebanks could not have gone around the house in five seconds to shoot Tyrone.
But Justice Quin said the five seconds was only an estimate by Ms White – there was no reference to a watch or clock. He noted that he, the defendant, attorneys and court staff had visited the scene of the crime: it clearly was possible to get around the house in a matter of seconds and there was nothing to impede movement.
Continuing his summary of Ms White’s evidence, he said when her employer came into the kitchen and they both went out into the yard, they saw Tyrone lying near a boat that was near the front of the house. No one else was there. They got the employer’s baby and went to the police station to report the shooting. Station records show the report was made at 8.05pm.
Meanwhile, Nora Ebanks was talking with her brother, whose yard is behind the yard where the shooting took place. A path through grass and bush connects the yards. Miss Nora said she heard a noise she thought was firecracker and about 10 seconds later saw Ebanks come from the path. The next day he told her he was glad she had seen him before the gunshot because she gave him an alibi. But Miss Nora maintained she saw him after the sound.
When formally interviewed by police, Ebanks said he had no ill will toward Tyrone Burrell because “he never did nothing good for me and nothing bad for me.”
On the night Tyrone was killed, Ebanks said, he went to see Miss Nora’s brother to ask for money; he did not want to ask in front of her, so he went home and had a shower with his wife and it was while they were bathing that he heard a clap like a firecracker. He didn’t know what time it was, “but my wife did tell Officer Brown that it was like after 7.55pm when I came to get her to go and bath.”
Justice Quin recalled Ms White’s evidence that there were approximately eight people in the yard on 8 September, 2010. The music was loud during the day, but was turned down by about 6pm. Although Police Inspector Burton said he had received information from his inquiries, including anonymous sources, that there were 10 to 20 people at the scene at the time of the shooting, the judge said this was equivocal hearsay evidence. He said he preferred the unequivocal direct evidence of Ms White, who said she saw nobody around when she discovered the deceased.
Finally, he accepted Ebanks had confessed to Ms White and he found the confession was true. He had observed and listened as Ms White gave her evidence over four days, which included extensive cross-examination by defence attorney Martin Heslop.
“I have been very impressed by Ms White as a courageous woman who told police and the court the truth about how young Tyrone Burrell was murdered and about who committed the murder. I found her to be an honest and reliable witness,” the judge said.
He also found Miss Nora to be honest and reliable and accepted her evidence.
He agreed there were inconsistencies in both women’s evidence when compared with what they had told police, but, “I cannot find that any of these issues are serious or central to the Prosecution’s case,” Justice Quin said.