When Elsy De Ortega Barralga administered the “fatal blow” to her lover in their Little Cayman home last November, it was “out of fear and desperation and sheer blind panic,” a court heard this week.
Defence attorney Maura McGowan, Q.C, told the Grand Court on Wednesday that Ms. Barralga, 28, had feared for her life when a domestic argument escalated between her and her boyfriend Perry McLaughlin.
Ms. Barralga had been charged with murdering the 54-year-old businessman but the crown accepted a plea for manslaughter on Monday after she claimed self-defense.
Justice Charles Quin heard that Ms. Barralga had feared for her life after Mr. McLaughlin forced her to the ground, ripped out her hair and repeatedly punched her in the head.
Ms. Barralga had reached for one of the knives Mr. McLaughlin had thrown onto the floor and inflicted injuries to his arm, thigh and groin area.
The court heard after then breaking free, she had ran through the house and tried to escape, but Mr. McLaughlin had followed her with a knife and told her that he would rather kill her than let her leave him.
After stabbing him a total of seven times, Ms. Barralga “ran straight through broken glass and kept going” in a state of panic. She ran to the couple’s neighbors for help but was not aware Mr. McLaughlin was dead.
Stating that Ms. Barralga is a slight woman of only five feet, the defense argued she did no more than what a reasonable person would have done under the circumstances.
Her lawyer stated her “eyes bulged” and she had appeared in physical shock when she learned of his death in the early hours of the following morning. The court heard she had lost her good character and had shown “obvious remorse, obvious regret, and an obvious demonstration of guilt” after losing the man she loved.
The court heard that, although the couple did not have a violent relationship, Mr. McLaughlin was described as “jealous” and “controlling” and was “the more powerful of the two.”
Ms. Barralga offered personal, hand-written letters to the court and also to Mr. McLaughlin’s family. She moved to the Cayman Islands in 2006 with her now ex-husband and has a 12-year-old daughter in Honduras who she financially supports,
Justice Quin said after receiving extensive evidence, and due to discrepancies between the sides, he would need more time to reach a decision.
He will present sentencing on April 15.