Young wife pleads guilty to arson

Sentencing adjourned for social inquiry report

Shaneeke Julanie Wellington, 19, pleaded guilty on Friday to a charge of arson relating to a house fire in Windsor Park in Grand Cayman on 17 June. 

Crown Counsel Tanya Lobban said the offence arose out of a domestic situation between Wellington and her husband, Mark Ebanks. 

The couple had an argument on the morning of 17 June and parted company, with Wellington being upset. She later went to No. 9 Oakmill Street, where he had a room in a house owned by his father. She had a key to the room. She lit a fire and it spread to other areas 
of the building. 

Details of the fire were noted when the matter first came to Summary Court and in Grand Court when defence attorney Morris Garcia successfully applied for bail.  

Wellington is alleged to have poured a bottle of rum on a mattress where there were clothes, bedding and tissue paper, then dropped a lit lighter on the bed, closed the door and left. 

At the bail hearing, Crown Counsel Nicole Petit told Justice Alexander Henderson that when Mr. Ebanks returned, he realised that the area of his room and a wash room had been gutted. The house was a six-bedroom structure owned by Mr. Ebanks’ father. Four other people were on the property as tenants. 

After setting the fire, Ms Petit said, Wellington sent Mr. Ebanks three BlackBerry messages and three smiley faces. She told police she wished the house had burned down and he had been in it. Previous reports indicated that the tenants had to vacate the premises, leaving valuable things behind. Police and fire fighters responded around 3.20am to a report received. 

Mr. Garcia told the court that Wellington was still 18 when the incident occurred and she turned 19 on 1 July. She was not a flight risk, he maintained, and she could stay with her mother, who would stand surety for her.  

The judge said because of her age and clean record he was prepared to grant bail with a recognizance in the sum of $50,000 with one surety. However, he added conditions that she be electronically monitored, not consume any alcohol or drugs, and remain in her mother’s residence at all times. “You are, in effect, in jail in the house,” he told her. 

After the guilty plea this past Friday, Justice Henderson pointed out that arson is the intentional destruction of or damage to property by fire, while intending by the damage to endanger the life of another or being reckless as to whether the life of another would be endangered. He asked whether Wellington appreciated the seriousness of the charge and whether she intended the endangerment of life. Mr. Garcia said the plea was entered on the basis of being reckless. 

The judge said imprisonment was almost inevitable, but he allowed Wellington to remain on the same bail conditions until the sentencing hearing 
in August.