After Ashanti Riley’s killers unsuccessfully tried to strangle her with a belt, they stabbed her repeatedly in the chest and abdomen before disposing of her body in a Santa Cruz river.
Those were the results of an autopsy performed on the 18-year-old’s body at the Forensic Sciences Centre in St James yesterday. It found that Riley suffered sharp force injuries to the chest and lower abdomen as well as blunt force trauma to the back of the left chest. This suggested she was brutally beaten before being stabbed and left to die in a watercourse off La Canoa Road, Santa Cruz, last week. Sources familiar with the investigation said her killers first attempted to strangle her using a belt but when that did not work, they used a knife to end her life.
Riley had left her home two Sundays ago after taking a taxi outside her Sunshine Avenue, San Juan home and her nude body was found four days later in Santa Cruz.
Investigators told Guardian Media that a belt and a knife they believe were used in her killing were recovered from two suspects currently in custody. A 32-year-old taxi driver, who had picked up the teenager, was detained by police one day later and mere hours after the discovery of Ashanti’s body last Thursday, another man from Laventille Road, San Juan, was held. Police are searching for a third suspect. Sources said the taxi driver returned the PH car to the owner the day after the murder and told them “he had gotten a better offer.”
Meanwhile, Ashanti’s grandmother was yesterday still disturbed over the fact that no one in the community had warned them about the driver’s past before Ashanti disappeared.
Karen Riley told Guardian Media this silence from within the community before her granddaughter’s passing has haunted her the most since they earned on Ashanti’s brutal end.
“Nobody was saying anything and that is what is bothering me to know she walk from here to that corner and everyone now saying they hear this, they hear that, they hear the other, that is hurting me. This is something that I never thought would come to my doorstop,” Riley said yesterday.
The family was not told if she was sexually assaulted before she was killed.
Candice Riley and her sister Lisa Riley, after receiving the autopsy results yesterday, were ushered away from media attention by police at the Forensic Science Centre at Federation Park, St James.
They spent much of yesterday afternoon registering Ashanti’s death, so much so that they had not reported the autopsy results to her grandmother when the Guardian visited the family home. She instead learned of the gruesome details via social media reposts of media reports.
“That I would have to be burying my grandchild instead of her burying me. It’s a hard thing, it’s a hard thing for the whole family, and then it have family abroad, her mother brother and sister and aunt can’t come in so they are frustrated, so it is not a nice feeling and right now I don’t know how to feel,” she said.
However, while she had her own pain and opinions on her granddaughter’s killers, she expressed even more concern for the state of her daughter.
“I have to be strong for everybody, my daughter, for my granddaughters, for everyone. It is a hard thing. But I would like her to be here for how she feel. Right now she crying and tears not coming,” she said.
She explained that her daughter had only moved into the community two months ago and this also was weighing on her mind.
“I know deep down inside she is hurting. She figure she made a mistake by coming into this community to live. That is how she is feeling now. She feeling like she put her child in harm’s way. But it wasn’t, she was just getting a better place and not knowing,” Karen said, as she expressed frustrations that none of the family’s new neighbours gave them a warning concerning the potential threat.
“Because if they knew certain things and they talk up, maybe the police might have done, you know. These people not supposed to be driving. We supposed to have some kind of thing when perpetrators do that, they face supposed to be plaster all over Trinidad and Tobago. Let us know who are these monsters because that is what they are,” she said.
Ashanti’s mother Candice was visited by police and Witness Support Unit officials after they returned home yesterday evening.
The funeral has been set for next Monday.
Taxi drivers from the area have reportedly decided to pool funds to assist the family with the funeral expenses.
Two men are currently in police custody in connection with Ashanti’s death and a third suspect has so far eluded police.
In an unrelated incident, the autopsy of Krystal Primus-Espinoza, whose body was found off the East coast after her crashed Toyota Hilux was discovered along the beach in Balandra, revealed that she died from asphyxiation due to drowning and the other injuries she sustained were consistent with a fall.
Primus-Espinoza’s gold-coloured Hilux, which she had left her St Ann’s Village home in last Wednesday, was found the following day on the shoreline at a Balandra beach, having apparently gone off the road and over a 50-foot cliff. Officers were able to immediately identify it was Primus’ vehicle, as her driver’s permit and that of her husband, Alvon Espinoza, were still in the vehicle.