A coroner’s jury considering the deaths of Nichelle Anna-Kay Thomas, 21, and Devon Roy Campbell, 39 returned verdicts on Friday after hearing evidence about the couple’s volatile and abusive relationship.
They found that Ms. Thomas had died from multiple chop wounds and the manner of death was unlawful killing. For Mr. Campbell, they found that the cause of death was hanging and the manner of death was suicide.
The jury of three men and four women heard evidence over three days, starting last Monday. At that time, Queen’s Coroner Eileen Nervik explained that the function of an inquest is to seek out and record as many facts as the public interest requires. In this case, there were two inquests and the investigations were intermingled, she said.
Ms. Thomas’s body was found on Sunday morning, Feb. 9, 2014, in a closet in the Bodden Town home of George Wood, an elderly man who had Parkinson’s Disease; Ms. Thomas provided part-time relief for the his full-time helper. When police were called to the scene by his business partner, Philippe Gros, they found Mr. Campbell’s body hanging from a tree in the back yard.
Evidence from relatives and acquaintances showed that the couple met in Jamaica when Ms. Thomas was 17 and still in high school. She came to Cayman in May 2012 and lived with Mr. Campbell, also a Jamaican national, at an apartment complex also in Bodden Town but at a different address. He was jealous and controlling and various witnesses heard him threaten to kill her. He also threatened to kill her if she tried to leave him.
The evidence was clear that they separated on Jan. 28, 2014 and she intended to return to Jamaica. That date was one of the occasions when police were called to an incident between Mr. Campbell and Ms. Thomas, but she did not want him arrested or have any criminal charges laid against him.
It was clear Mr. Campbell did not accept the separation. He continued to call her, try to see her and stalk her, the coroner noted in her summing up.
Ms. Thomas was working on Feb. 9 to earn more money for her plane ticket back to Jamaica. A friend dropped her at her employer’s home. There was no one there except Mr. Wood. When Mr. Gros returned from opening his business, he found Ms. Thomas in a closet and observed that her throat had been slashed. He called 911.
Scenes of crime officers took photographs, which the jury saw. Evidence included a machete identified as belonging to Mr. Campbell. Expert witness Angela Tanzillo-Swarts of the Health Services Authority said blood on Mr. Campbell’s feet and clothes, as well as on the machete and curtains on a sliding glass door, came from Ms. Thomas. The patterns of blood stains on his clothes indicated he was the one who struck Ms. Thomas with the machete. Ms. Tanzillo-Swarts said footprint transfer stains depicted the path the suspect took to exit the room and the house.
Police found no evidence of any third party involvement, the coroner pointed out. Mr. Campbell took his machete to Ms. Thomas’s workplace, thereby showing he intended to cause her bodily harm, which led to her death.
Jurors deliberated privately for eight minutes before the court marshal was advised they had reached their unanimous verdict of unlawful killing.
The corner then summed up the evidence in the case of Mr. Campbell. The post-mortem examination had shown no sign of injury from any struggle or fight. But for the jury to reach a verdict of suicide, there had to be positive evidence of intention to kill oneself. Mr. Campbell did three things that could lead to that conclusion.
One, at some point he went to a shed on the farm where he worked and removed his machete and a 30-foot length of rope.
Two, on Saturday, Feb. 8, he went to a friend and handed him a pouch. After hearing about Mr. Campbell’s death, the friend handed the pouch to police: it contained Mr. Campbell’s wallet with pictures of his children, his driver’s license, two passports, documents for motor vehicles and a money transfer, an airline ticket and some cash.
Three, on Sunday, Feb. 9, around 7:10 a.m., he phoned his cousin. When she answered, she heard him say in patois, “Take care of my children” and then hang up. She tried calling him back, but there was no answer.
The coroner reminded jurors that they had to be satisfied so that they were sure Mr. Campbell intended to cause his own death and did act with that intention.
This time the jury deliberated six minutes before returning a verdict of suicide.