Jason Christian was just 18 when he was ambushed and killed in September 2011.
Ten years later, his family and friends still mourn his death and police continue to seek to bring all involved in his murder to justice.
Christian’s murder was one of four back-to-back killings that month that shocked many in Cayman and left a cloud of fear over the islands as gang-related disputes played out on the streets in 2011.
Next in the series of the Cayman Compass Cold Case files, in partnership with the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, we will delve into those killings, labelled by the media at the time as “the week in hell”.
Lured to his death
Retired detective inspector Livingston Bailey, the lead investigator into Christian’s killing back in 2011, said that week of death still haunts him.
“There were a number of murders that were happening, especially in the period from September 13th up to the 19th where very young men… were viciously gunned down for no apparent reasons,” he said, adding, “The gangs seem to have a culture at that time to use their guns to send a message to their colleagues and that was exactly what was happening during that period.”
That is what police believe occurred in Christian’s case.
He and another man, Keith Montique, whom police believed was the intended target, were lured to their deaths on Cranbook Drive, Crewe Road.
Peter Dean, head of the RCIPS Serious Crime Review team charged with solving Cayman’s cold cases, said this particular series of murders, especially Christian’s, was troubling.
“Jason was an expectant father and, just a few months after that, a child was born. He was a young 18-year-old man that may very well have been easily led by others. His family, a good family… nice family… they would like some answers regarding why this young man’s life was cut short at such an early age,” Dean said.
On the night of 19 Sept., Christian and Montique – both of whom, Dean said, were affiliated with the Birch Tree Hill gang at the time – were together in a van when they went to an area off Crewe Road on Cranbook Drive.
Dean said, while there, “two unknown assailants attacked the vehicle whilst it was stationary. Unfortunately, Jason was shot once and received a fatal gunshot wound to his head. The passenger in the vehicle, another young man… he actually received four gunshot injuries, but he managed to escape,” Dean said.
Montique, the second victim, stumbled upon a uniformed police officer on patrol nearby.
“The officer, clearly realising that this man was seriously injured, immediately took him straight to the hospital. The officer gleaned as much information as possible from this guy and as a result of that, officers were sent to the location and that’s where Jason Christian was subsequently pronounced dead,” he said.
Persons of interest were identified from the outset of the killing, Dean said, and many interviews, both from significant witnesses and suspects, were conducted.
“However, to date, no person has been brought to justice in regard to the murder of Jason,” Dean said.
Dean said they suspected at the time those involved in the incident were engaged in some criminality, but “this young man did not deserve to die in the manner in which he did”.
“It’s important, if we are to move forward from the senseless murders, that we get some assistance from the public, because there are people out there that do know what happened and they do know who was involved and why it happened,” he said.
Too many young lives lost
Bailey said the week of killings which culminated in Christian’s murder was a “torrid time” for the RCIPS and the community.
He said Christian’s killing was upsetting because the teen never stood a chance.
He was fatally wounded with a single shot.
Bailey said crime personnel gathered about 10 40-millimeter bullet casings at the scene of the shooting.
“So, it’s a number of shots that were fired that particular night,” he said.
Bailey said the events of that week still remain with him.
“Heinous crimes happening every other day… young men involved in shooting and young lives being taken away for no specific reason… all gang-related because our local youth have involved themselves in cultures that are expressed in other societies, which was not fitting for the Cayman Islands. I’m sure even 10 years [later], we’re still grieving the loss of those who have passed during that period,” he said.
Both investigators said they believe they can close the case, but only with the public’s input.
“I would encourage members of the public, in situations like these, that they come forward to assist us with anything they know no matter how simple, because the reality is simple information that you give could be a crack in a big case,” he added.
A brother and father taken too soon
For Seaford Russell Jr and his family, September has always been a difficult month, but this year it is particularly tough as it marks the 10th anniversary of the murder of their loved one.
Even though time has marched on, Russell Jr said, the memories remain.
“He was like my father figure growing up and he looked out for me. Anything I needed and he had, he would give it to me. If we went out in town together, I remember he had this thing where, instead of holding my hand, he would put his hand on top of my head… and kind of steer me,” he said, smiling as he reminisced.
Russell Jr, who was also a teen at the time of Christian’s killing, said a lot of things were said about his elder brother, but to him, the 18-year-old was a family man.
“He always loved his family, took care of his family from a very young age. He was built to be sort of the man of the house. He was just like the armour that everyone needed, old or young, in the family… my grandmother, my mother and myself,” he said.
Christian was killed weeks before the birth of his only child.
Russell Jr said he feels a special attachment to her, and tries to do right by her as his brother would have wanted him to.
“She’s been a true blessing for our family, in terms of my brother’s legacy living on. She is the person that we look at when we want to see Jason. She looks just like him, she smiles like him. She has a little sassiness about her, my brother was always a little sassy. But she’s everything to the family, my mother adores her, that’s like my mother’s pupil of her eye,” he said.
Russell Jr said the pain of the loss of his sibling remains fresh in his mind, especially with the anniversary.
“I was looking at some of the pictures of him just the other day, because this whole cold case thing came up and again, it’s like I became complacent to everything. I was looking at his picture it was almost like, I didn’t realise how young my brother was until I looked back at his photos and realised that I have outgrew him and the life that he had on this earth,” he said.
He said he remembered looking at his brother as a man, but seeing his photos now it hit home how young he really was at the time.
He said he knows police connected his brother’s murder to gang activity, but he knew that was not who Christian was.
‘That’s what they’re going to do and I understand that. But you don’t have to keep on doing it, you don’t… there’s change. And if you have kids – I am so sick and tired of seeing young Caymanian men dying and never getting to see their child… and mothers of that child having to grieve because somebody’s life got cut… short over stupidness,” he said.
Anyone with information relating to Jason Christian’s murder can call the Serious Crime Review Team confidential tip line at 649-2930.
He called for an end to gun violence and for young men in the community to seek alternative ways of settling their disputes.
“Tell me how much things gangsters have? Gangsters suffer. They live a hard life. They [would like] to see their children [grow up]. That’s what a gangster is… and that’s what you want to be? [They] don’t have nothing… they have grief and struggle,” he said.
He added that while government is taking some action, more needs to be done to support those who are rehabilitated to stay on the right track.
“The reality is there are people out there that really want to change and they just feel hopeless. A lot of this lifestyle is rooted in them. This is how they were raised up all their life. That’s just who they are,” he added.
Editor’s note: Seaford Russell Jr is employed at Compass Media.