Hit-and-run victim’s family offers forgiveness

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.

 

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7 COMMENTS

  1. I’m sorry but I don’t agree with these sentiments, although they are sincere and mean well.

    This young man was sentenced to a minimal custodial sentence, not because he knocked down a man off his bicycle and killed him in an accident…that could have happened to anyone.

    He has been sentenced because he fled the scene of the accident, leaving a human being lying there on the side of the road, as one would a dog…and then tried to cover up the incident.

    In my humble opinion, that deserves the custodial sentence that was handed down…and in others’ opinion, the sentence should have been longer.

    Donnie Ray came from my original neighbourhood and was well known to all…my family, as well as others, tried to help him as much as we could; he was a well loved person in spite of his problems.

    He had tried desperately to turn his life around and was doing quite well when this tragedy occurred.

    It broke our hearts when we heard that he had been killed in this manner, no one deserves to die like that, regardless of what their life had been.

    I, for one, am happy that Donnie has received some small measure of justice and may his soul rest easier because of this.

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  2. I fully support Ricardo’s comment ( and wish I could just click the voting button, but they still don’t work).
    Last night I was watching a movie,” La fille inconnue.” It has some parallels to this case. “why should I screw my life if she’s already dead?” a man asks? Because healing can only begin when there is a willingness to be responsible for one’s actions.

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  3. Caymanians are deservedly well known for their generosity and kindness to those in our society who have problems. However in this case I must wholeheartedly agree with Mr Tatum, it was the defendant’s acts after the accident that were so reprehensible, and not to give him a custodial sentence would make a mockery of our justice system and send the wrong message to all drivers.

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  4. Seems to me it should be for the judge to set the sentence and not rely on the opinions of family members of the victim.

    Had he stopped immediately and called 911 it is even possible Donny’s life could have been saved.

    He claims he wasn’t aware he hit anyone.
    He was obviously aware he was in an accident as he had it repaired immediately.

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  5. Ron

    ‘And you shall love your neighbour as yourself’…..Donnie was our neighbour…and we all loved him, in spite of his problems.

    His family loved him….and….’let him who is without sin, cast the first stone’.

    Obviously, the love is for a man who was run over and left to die like a dog on the roadside.

    Would you not feel the same way we do if he had been a member of your family ?

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  6. Ricardo ,

    I can tell that you have true love for Donnie , and so do I , and believes that what happened to Donnie on the road and in the court was wrong , but you are not reading in my comment . Do you know that we LOVE different people and different things , and that’s what some kind of LOVE mean .

    Merry Christmas and a happy new year.

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