May 17, 2004 – At an advice of rights hearing Monday morning on St. Croix, Territorial Judge Edgar Ross found probable cause to charge Jose Carrillo III with three counts of first-degree murder and unauthorized use of a firearm in the commission of a violent crime.
Ross set bail at $500,000. Carrillo, unable to post it, was remanded to custody at the Golden Grove Correctional Facility.
Sgt. Thomas Hannah, Police Department spokesman, said it was "apparent" to authorities that Carrillo was involved in the shooting deaths on Saturday morning of his girlfriend, Natasha Cummings, 28; their 6-week-old son, Tai, and Carrillo's brother, Wayne Walcott.
According to Hannah, Carrillo, a 10-year veteran of the V.I. Fire Service, was involved in a fight on Saturday morning with customers at the Phat Fades barbershop in Estate Peters Rest, which he co-owns. Friends drove Carrillo to his Barren Spot home and came upon the grisly scene of his baby son, the child's mother and Carrillo's brother shot dead.
Police arrived at the scene at 11:57 a.m. Hannah said Cummings and Walcott were shot multiple times, and the couple's infant son died from a single gunshot wound. The baby reportedly was born prematurely and had been hospitalized in Puerto Rico for an extended period of time.
The couple's other child, a 4-year-old son, reportedly witnessed the shootings. Although the boy appeared unharmed, he was taken to Juan F. Luis Hospital, but was subsequently released, Hannah said. Police have not released the names of the children.
Police found a 9-millimeter semiautomatic handgun at the scene that is believed to be the murder weapon, Hannah said. The shootings took place inside the family's residence. The bodies of the mother and baby were found in the living room; Carrillo's brother's body was found in another room. All were shot at close range and all died at the scene.
Carrillo was arrested there at 2:21 p.m.
Natasha Cummings taught English at St. Croix's Central High School. On Monday, grieving students erected a memorial to the teacher they described as "bright and bubbly" and well liked. Cummings was the faculty coordinator for this year's Prom Committee. The prom is scheduled to take place later this month.
In the wake of the killings, the Virgin Islands community expressed shock, sorrow and concern. Senate President David Jones issued a statement expressing sympathy for the families and calling on the community to resolve disputes peacefully. He also asked Gov. Charles W. Turnbull to declare a day of mourning in the territory.
"This tragedy has caused every man and woman in the Virgin Islands to reflect on the frailty of life and count our blessings to be alive," Jones said. "This is a time not only to reflect on the sacredness of the human experience but also to expose the difficulties that sometimes come from human interaction. The people of the Virgin Islands enjoy a close association with one another, and we have the responsibility to learn to live together in a social and civilized way in spite of our differences of opinion and outlook."
St. Croix Fire Chief Ovaldo Graham told WVWI Radio on Monday that Carrillo was a good firefighter who "always did what he had to do." He had recently been sent to Alabama for a special training course, Graham said, "and we were getting ready to send him off to another one." Carrillo's immediate supervisor "told me that he hadn't seen any sign of any problem, any personal or other problems, affecting him," Graham said.
Tyrone Molyneaux, head of the St. Croix Teachers Union, recalled working with Cummings when he was a teacher at Central High School. Calling her a friend, he told WVWI on Monday that she was "well liked by all" and was always ready and willing to "work beyond her regular duties to assist the students." Whenever there was a student activity, she was "right in the forefront," he said.
He expressed the hope that the Education Department would take the steps necessary to provide counseling for the teachers as well as the students at the school.
On Sunday, at the "Laws of Life" essay awards presentation ceremony on St. Croix, teachers wore black ribbons and a moment of silence in honor of Cummings was observed.
Mary Mingus, co-director of the Women's Coalition of St. Croix, issued a plea Monday on WVWI to "any family or any person who's in crisis, or group that might be having a crisis: that they would please reach out to ask for help. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness." She noted that there are many agencies in the territory that can provide help of various kinds.
According to Hannah, a motive for the shootings has not yet been confirmed, and investigation of the case is ongoing. By law conviction of first-degree murder carries a mandatory penalty of life imprisonment without possibility of parole.
On Monday night's WSVI-TV newscast, Hannah referred to the killings as a case of domestic violence.
Saturday's deaths bring this year's total homicides to 16 in the territory — 10 on St. Croix and six on St. Thomas. Of those, Saturday's three slayings on St. Croix and one on St Thomas were attributed to domestic violence.
In 2003, there were two domestic violence deaths — one each on St. Thomas and St. Croix. In 2002, there were five — four on St. Thomas and one on St. Croix. In 2001, there were two one on St. Thomas and one on St. Croix.
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