The family of hit-and-run victim Donnie Ray Connor say they did not want to see the man responsible for his death go to jail.
Many in the community reacted with anger and disbelief at the three-and-a-half month sentence handed down Friday for the driver, Nicholas Tibbetts, who fled the scene after knocking the 59-year-old cyclist off his bike in April 2015.
Mr. Connor’s family were not among those who were angry.
His nephew, Edlin Moore, wrote a letter to the court on behalf of the family, saying they felt a custodial sentence was not necessary.
“My uncle’s life was sadly lost and he is truly missed by members of my family, but we felt that a sentence in Northward Prison wouldn’t have brought justice for him or for the young man,” Mr. Moore, a political field coordinator and strategist, told the Cayman Compass on Monday.
“Nothing would bring back the life of my uncle, and I felt that probation or community punishment and education along with a driving ban would help the young man to make better decisions in future,” said Mr. Moore.
He said he did not believe in sending young people to prison unless it was truly necessary for violent or repeat offending.
“We considered his age and his role in his community and that he was working a good job and wasn’t involved in general criminal activity, and didn’t think it would serve any great benefit for him to go to prison.
“A long sentence could have indoctrinated this young man to criminal behavior,” he added.
Mr. Connor was an odd-job man, a house painter and a coconut seller who had struggled with drug addiction and learning difficulties throughout his adult life. He lost his mother as a child and was raised by his sister, Mr. Moore’s mother.
He spent some time at sea as a deckhand in the merchant shipping trade and returned to work for the Public Works Department, where he suffered a fall and a head injury that affected him throughout his life.
He was first sent to prison in Jamaica in the 1970s after being caught with marijuana. He later got involved in harder drugs and petty thefts to fuel his habit.
“Prison wasn’t anything that helped him as a young man. If someone had given him a chance back then, things might have turned out differently,” said Mr. Moore.
He said his uncle, despite his run-ins with the law, had a good heart. He was never involved in violent or serious crime and his rap sheet consists of mostly petty thefts to fuel his drug habit.
“He was still close with his family. Whenever he was out of prison, he always made sure that my mother’s house was looked after, that her yard was done. He did anything possible for her.
“I felt the loss, my mother felt the loss, but we didn’t feel that anyone would be served by this young man going to prison and we wrote to the court to say that.
“I think we all make mistakes as young men. I believe that one of the mistakes this young man made was to leave the scene of that accident.”
Tibbetts claimed in police interviews to have no recollection of the incident, saying he must have fallen asleep at the wheel. He accepted responsibility after officers searching for a silver Honda seen on traffic cameras tracked him down and linked his car to the crime scene.
In passing sentence last week, Acting Justice Dame Linda Dobbs said she found it hard to believe that Tibbetts had slept through the accident.
Mr. Moore said, “That is between him and God.”
Even so, he believes a longer jail sentence would not have served anybody.
“I think if he could be involved in some community education, teaching his peers about the dangers and the consequences of this type of thing, then that would be more powerful than prison,” he added.