Released murder convict back in jail for burglary offenses

Defendant blames drugs for relapse

A man released from prison three years ago after serving 24 years for murder was sentenced Monday to four years’ imprisonment for two burglaries.

Philip Glennon Ebanks, 51, who was released from prison in May 2013 “on license” (conditional release), pleaded guilty to burglaries on May 15, 2015 and Oct. 16, 2015, both in West Bay.

Ebanks initially denied the first burglary offense and was granted bail with conditions that included wearing an electronic monitor and a curfew. Brought to court on Nov. 11 for the second offense, he has been in custody since.

“I’ve never done burglary unless I was on drugs,” Ebanks told Magistrate Valdis Foldats. “If I hadn’t touched drugs, I would still be in the community.”

Informal records kept by the Cayman Compass indicate he had been back in the community since being given a conditional release on May 16, 2013.

Murder conviction

In 1989, when he was 24, Ebanks was convicted of murdering West Bay shopkeeper Una “Miss Che-Che” Yates. She was found fatally shot in December 1982 in the living quarters that adjoined her small store.

In 1989, the only sentence for murder was the death penalty. However, Ebanks had not yet turned 18 when Ms. Yates was murdered, and so he was ordered to be detained “at the Governor’s [now the court’s] pleasure.”

Prison escape

In November 2001, Ebanks and another inmate escaped from Northward Prison by cutting through several fences with a small pair of pliers. They were captured within two or three days, but had committed one commercial and four residential burglaries in that time.

Their attorneys noted that they had taken special care to choose unoccupied premises to make sure that no one would be endangered, but the sentencing magistrate said victims had lost their “sense of security … [and] peace of mind” along with stolen goods.

In February 2002, terms of seven-and-a-half years were imposed for each. Ebanks’s sentence was upheld on appeal.

At his sentencing hearing this week, Ebanks told the court, “I know I have a background that’s messed up. I know I have a lot of things to change. I wish I could get to do it outside, in the community.”

He pointed out that when he was released, it was with a lot of conditions; he was doing so well that these conditions “got less and less. I want to go back on that track. I don’t know why I touched drugs,” he said.

Defense attorney Lee Halliday-Davis enlarged on Ebanks’s plea, asking for him to be placed in a halfway house again with electronic monitor and curfew so that he could continue his rehabilitation. She also urged the court to consider that the first burglary was more of an opportunistic “smash and grab” offense.

Crown counsel Kenneth Ferguson said the offense occurred when the apartment window was smashed. A woman’s purse and a man’s wallet were removed from a table under the window.

The magistrate said Ms. Halliday-Davis had persuaded him that this burglary could be treated as more of a theft, since only the burglar’s hand had gone inside. The second burglary was far more serious, he pointed out, with the 76-year-old victim awakened in the middle of the night by an intruder in his bedroom.

Ebanks repeated his explanation that he committed the burglary only because he was on drugs.

The magistrate replied, “What can be more frightening than a healthy, strong man on drugs in my house when you’re not in your right mind?”

For the protection of the public, he said, the message had to be, “You can’t commit crime without consequences.”

For Ebanks, the aggravating factors of his offending was that both burglaries occurred at night and the residents were home. “Residential burglaries violate our right to be secure and feel secure in our own home,” the magistrate pointed out. “That sense of security is shattered by a burglary.”

Also aggravating the second offense was that it was committed while Ebanks was on license and on bail for the first burglary.

The mitigating factors, as enumerated by Ms. Halliday-Davis, included Ebanks’s efforts to rehabilitate himself. However, when he had been at the Caribbean Haven residential treatment center, he had been obliged to leave because an infraction. After transferring to a halfway house, he had been obliged to leave there for not obeying house rules; then he was allowed to stay in a private residence. The second burglary was committed days after this last change in bail conditions. She also cited her client’s guilty pleas.

“To release you today would be contrary to everything in the law,” the magistrate said. “I feel it would be inappropriate to release you today.”

With a starting point of five years for the second burglary, he increased the sentence to six years because of the aggravating factors, but then gave Ebanks full credit for his guilty plea, even though it was not immediate. That one-third discount brought the sentence down to four years and he imposed two years for the “smash and grab” burglary, making this term run concurrently.

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