The shooter who died in an alley in Middle Region after in a failed contract killing on October 28, 2019. (File photo)
PHILIPSBURG--The Court of First Instance on Thursday sentenced Shaville Azeem Tarez Parris (29) to life imprisonment for his involvement in four contract killings between June 2018 and January 2020, while Felito Akim Rombley (29) received eights years in prison for being the getaway driver in one of these hits.
Parris, also known as “Heart”, was found guilty of the murders of Ishmael Brumant and T. Bass in 2019, and of Jonathan Williams in 2018. He was also found guilty of attempting to murder some five other persons, as well as for gun possession.
Guilty on all counts
The Court found it legally proven that Parris was the getaway driver in a shooting that took place in front of Stephanie Mini Marche in Middle Region on October 28, 2019.
Surveillance camera footage shown during the trial on October 8, 2020, depicted Bass and another masked man stepping out of a white Kia Cerato on Middle Region Road. With pistols in their hands, they ran towards the supermarket where Brumant and three other men were sitting.
The armed men opened fire on them, killing Brumant and injuring two of the three persons he was socialising with.
It had rained earlier in the day and Bass slipped and fell during the shooting. While getting up, his accomplice – who had been continually ﬁring since the beginning of the attack – accidentally shot him in the abdomen.
While his accomplice chased after the surviving victims, Bass ran away in the other direction, collapsed in a nearby alley and died.
The surviving shooter then jumped into the passenger seat of a white Kia Picanto, which had been parked next to Sister Marie Laurence Primary School at the start of the attack. The car fled towards Dutch Quarter.
The prosecutor argued during the trial that Parris was the getaway driver. His mobile phone was tracked to Middle Region at the time of the shooting. Additionally, 10 minutes after the shooting he placed two calls to Bass’ mobile phone.
About three weeks later, police tapped Parris’ mobile phone, as well as the mobile phone of a man R.J.K.R. (21), also known as “Fire”. Authorities then listened to Parris and R. speak about hiding the getaway car’s licence plate, which was subsequently found on a car driven by R.’s girlfriend.
Despite Bass being an accomplice, the Court agreed with the prosecutor’s argument that his killing should be considered a homicide because the hit squad had attacked with the intention to murder. His death, although accidental, was a consequence the perpetrators accepted when they started firing, said the prosecutor.
The Court found both Parris and Rombley guilty of attempting to murder a man in the parking lot of Abu Ghazi Shwarma in the early morning hours of January 5, 2020.
During the trial, the prosecutor had argued that Parris, Rombley and R. had followed the man from Maho to the popular late-night eatery. All three were caught planning the hit on the police wiretap in the days before the attack, and all their mobile phones had been picked up by telecommunications towers in Maho some two hours before the shooting.
Six hours before the shooting, Rombley told Parris in a WhatsApp voice note, “I bet you tonight the dog [going to – Ed.] fall.”
Surveillance camera footage shown during the trial depicted the victim standing in the parking lot and leaning into a vehicle’s window to speak to someone.
Another car appears and stops close to the victim. Two armed men started shooting, but the car suddenly jerks forward, stops again, then ﬂees the scene in a hurry. The victim was shot in the leg, but survived.
The driver suddenly moving the car apparently botched the hit, and R. expressed anger over the phone about it. Parris later berated Rombley for the mistake, telling him that they now could not earn any money for the deed.
Rombley expressed regret to Parris in a WhatApp message, telling him that he moved the car to protect the shooters from counterfire. “I see the man, like, was going pull something. I just move a li’l more, like behind the jeep, nuh dawg. I just ain’t wanted none of you man get hit same way,” said Rombley.
The Alpha Team arrested Parris while he was driving a white Kia Sportage near the old Harold Jack lookout point on Cole Bay Hill on January 23, 2020. At the time, Rombley was sitting next to him in the passenger seat.
A Smith and Wesson pistol with 10 bullets was found in Parris’ possession. The ballistics from this gun matched the botched hit in Abu Ghazi’s parking lot. Police also found an automatic rifle in Parris’ house.
A facemask like the one worn by the surviving shooter in the Middle Region shooting was found in Parris’ car, and later investigation uncovered R.’s DNA on it.
- was arrested by French side authorities on the same day as Parris, part of a joint operation to bring them to justice. A Glock 17 handgun was found in R.’s home during a search, and the ballistics matched the Middle Region and Abu Ghazi shootings.
- is currently incarcerated in Guadeloupe.
During the trial, the prosecutor argued that Parris and R. were the main players in a “professional murder team”. While they were not part of a “real criminal organisation”, the prosecutor said Parris and R. had “intensive collaboration”.
From November 2019 to January 2020, authorities heard Parris and R. on the wiretap discussing buying guns and ammunition and putting targets under surveillance. They also had planned two hits that never came to fruition.
The prosecutor argued that the motives for the Middle Region and Abu Ghazi shootings cannot be determined for certain, especially because Parris never gave a statement to police and invoked his right to remain silent during the trial.
The prosecutor argued that these shootings were failed contract killings.
Intelligence gleaned by police indicated that Parris has ties to No Limit Soldiers (NLS) member Urvin “Nuto” Wawoe and may have been working for him as a hitman. Wawoe once lived in St. Maarten and his associate and girlfriend were shot dead here.
Wawoe’s hitlist included one of the surviving victims in the Middle Region shooting and the attempted murder victim in Abu Ghazi’s parking lot, said the prosecutor. Brumant was thus not a target, but collateral damage.
The Court found Parris guilty of being the gunman in the cold-blooded, execution style murder of Jonathan Williams on August 5, 2018.
Jonathan was ambushed and shot in his car in Simpson Bay after a night of partying at popular club Soggy Dollar. Another car had blocked in Jonathan while he was reversing out of a parking space. A masked man had stepped out of the back seat with a ﬁrearm in his hand, walked up to Jonathan’s car, and shot him three times in the head at point-blank range. The shooter then got back into the car, which ﬂed in the direction of the French side.
The getaway car was found abandoned in French Quarter about three weeks after the murder, and Parris’ DNA was found on handle of the left rear door – the same one that the shooter had jumped out of.
Earlier this year, Akeba Sambo Williams – no relation to Jonathan – was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for being the getaway driver, among other crimes. Parris’ phone records show that he and the getaway driver, both of whom hail from St. Kitts, had frequent contact in 2018.
The gun used to murder Jonathan was also used in the attempted murder of a man on Union Road on June 19, 2018. In this shooting, two men had opened fire on the man without warning. He survived the attack after seeking emergency medical care on the French side.
One of the potential hits that never came to be – which Parris and R. discussed on the wiretaps in January 2020 – was the victim in the Union Road shooting. The Court thus also found Parris guilty of attempting to murder this man on June 19, 2018.
In finding Parris guilty, the Court considered a life sentence justified as retribution for his heinous crimes.
“From the case file and the proceedings at the hearing, the picture emerges of a ruthless criminal who, together with others, used contract killings as a business model … The seriousness of the facts is emphasised by the apparent context of a team of hit men finishing a list of targets,” said the Court about Parris.
Parris was also ordered to pay Brumant’s mother approximately US $2,100 in compensation.
The pistol and rifle in Parris’ possession will remain confiscated.
Parris and his lawyer immediately filed an appeal after the verdict was given.
Although the prosecutor demanded 15 years in prison for Rombley’s role as the getaway driver in the Abu Ghazi shooting, the Court sentenced him to eight years in prison, minus time served.
“Prior to the attempted murder, Rombley agreed with his co-perpetrators what his role would be in committing that offense, he was fully informed, drove the shooters’ car as a driver, put the car in such a position that the shooters would be able to carry out the intention and/or avoid possible counter fire, and drove the gunmen away from the crime scene after the assassination attempt,” said the Court.