Akeel Mitchell and Richard Chatoo, the two men convicted of brutally murdering six-year-old Sean Luke as teenagers over 15 years ago, have been sentenced to 17 and a half years and 11 and a half years in prison respectively.
High Court Judge Lisa Ramsumair-Hinds set the minimum mandatory terms for the duo, who she found guilty of the heinous crime on July 23, during a virtual sentence hearing yesterday afternoon.
Justice Ramsumair-Hinds began the sentencing exercise by reiterating that the mandatory death sentence for murder could not be applied to Mitchell and Chatoo, as they were 13 and 16 when Luke was killed in March 2006.
In passing the sentences on the duo, Justice Ramsumair-Hinds explained that they would only be eligible for release, on a licence, after serving the periods in prison if a judge is convinced that they have been sufficiently rehabilitated and are no longer a threat to society.
She noted that there is a possibility of the mandatory minimums being reduced if there is evidence of their exceptional rehabilitation during periodic sentence reviews, which are scheduled to take place every three years.
“Even when you are released on licence you have not served sentence, which will continue for rest of your life,” Justice Ramsuamir-Hinds said.
She also advised the duo that they had work to do to earn their eventual release.
“The nature of the appalling circumstances suggests that reintegration and rehabilitation, though a possibility, are a long way to go. You have a lot of work to do. May God have mercy on your souls,” Justice Ramsumair-Hinds said.
Referring specifically to Mitchell’s bio-social report from prison, Justice Ramsumair-Hinds questioned claims that although he attained one CSEC pass in prison, he has ambitions of getting a job in information technology or animation after his release. She also noted that Mitchell claimed that he was engaged and planned to get married.
“That defies mature reason and logic. Without a doubt, he has talents and abilities with computers but there is an absence of reality that can only be corrected by the prisoner himself,” she said.
In calculating the mandatory minimums for the duo, Justice Ramsumair-Hinds began with a starting point of 35 years for Mitchell and 33 years for Chatoo. Chatoo’s starting point was lower as he played a secondary role in Luke’s murder.
Mitchell’s starting point was increased by five years based on his principal actions in Luke’s murder, which included him placing himself near Luke’s mother after the murder to give him an alibi.
“It is the chilling realisation of the absence of remorse, worry and fear in someone so young. I know children who are terrified of being caught,” Justice Ramsumair-Hinds said.
She added: “I cannot quite capture the nature of the criminal deviance of a 13-year-old in killing a woman’s son and moments later sitting feet from her.”
However, Justice Ramsuamir-Hinds reduced his sentence by seven years due to his age at the time of the murder and the fact that he had a positive report from prison in terms of disciplinary infractions and participation in educational and vocational programmes.
Chatoo did not receive an uplift in his sentence but was afforded a six-year reduction based on his age and positive prison record.
After the time they served in prison awaiting trial and after they were convicted was deducted from their sentences, Mitchell and Chatoo were left with sentences of 17 and a half years and 11 and half years.
Luke, of Henry Street, Orange Valley Road in Couva, went missing on the evening of March 26, 2006, and his decomposing body was found two days later.
An autopsy revealed that he died from internal injuries and bleeding arising out of being sodomised with sugarcane stalk.
Chatoo and Mitchell, who is the stepson of Chatoo’s brother, were charged with the crime.
Mitchell is being represented by Mario Merritt, Randall Raphael and Kirby Joseph, while Evans Welch, Kelston Pope and Gabriel Hernandez represented Chatoo.
Sabrina Dougdeen-Jaglal, Anju Bhola and Sophia Sandy-Smith are prosecuting.