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News Alert: Judge D'Eramo Found Dead in His Home

April 27, 2009 — Superior Court Judge Francis J. D'Eramo was found dead in his Gallows Bay condominium Monday morning.
Jean P. Greaux, Jr., the director of communications for the governor's office, said D'Eramo's body was found hanging in his condominium, but would not speculate over what led to that scenario. He did confirm that there was no evidence that the judge had been shot, despite rumors to the contrary.
"That is the report we got from the top brass at the police department," Greaux said. "Until an autopsy is completed we're going to avoid speculating on the cause of death."
Greaux said the territory's chief medical examiner, Dr. Francisco Landron, was traveling to St. Croix today in the hopes that the autopsy could be conducted today. Until that determination is made by the medical examiner, police will not speculate on the exact cause of death.
According to Assistant Commissioner Novelle Francis Jr. and St. Croix Deputy Chief Christopher Howell, speaking from the scene, police received a 911 call at about 8:30 a.m. advising them of a possible death at the Schooner Bay Condominiums in Gallows Bay on St. Croix.
The Investigation Bureau and Forensic detectives, along with other police units, arrived on the scene and determined that the judge was unresponsive. Emergency Medical Technicians also examined the victim and determined he had no vital signs.
D'Eramo was scheduled Monday to preside over the murder trial of St. Croix police officer Jeffrey Browne, his wife Marcella Browne and brother-in-law Luis Melendez. (See "Venue Change in Browne Murder Trial May Be Nixed.")
Jury selection in the case, which was supposed to start Monday morning, has been continued, according to the V.I. Superior Court.
Assistant Commissioner Francis emphasized that evidence found at the scene did not indicate that D’Ermao’s death was in any way linked to any ongoing Superior Court trial or any trial that may be upcoming.
Earlier media reports indicating the victim died from gunshot wounds are inaccurate, said Howell, as there were no visible signs of damage to the body.
V.I. Police spokesperson Melody Rames said she could not confirm or comment on the cause of death, but said police were on the site.
"We're really not releasing any additional information," she said. "His family needs to be notified."
In a statement released Monday afternoon, Gov. John P. deJongh Jr.expressed shock and sadness at the news of D'Eramo's death, and expressed his condolences, those of his family and all Virgin Islanders to the family of D'Eramo.
He also urged residents to avoid speculation and rumors until the investigation plays out and the circumstances are known.
"We should all focus on this personal tragedy and the he loss of this dedicated public servant and make any and all assistance available to his family during their time of grief and sorrow," he said.
Judge Darrel Dean Donohue, presiding judge of the Superior Court, said the entire court staff was shocked by Monday's news.
"The court family is severely affected by these events, and counselors have been called in to assist court staff in coping with these events," he said in a statement released by the court.
To facilitate counseling, Donohue said the court Monday was operating on a limited basis, accepting filings and hearing only previously scheduled matters. Regular court activities will resume Tuesday.
D'Eramo joined the Superior Court on Dec. 8, 2006. Prior to that, he spent more than 20 years in private practice in Christiansted, specializing in banking law, management employment law, civil litigation and contract litigation, according to the legal research website martindale.com. He was born in Pennsylvania in 1959, received his bachelor's degree from the University of Notre Dame and his law degree from the University of Pittsburgh.
He moved to the Virgin Islands in 1985 to work as an attorney.
He was appointed to the court by then Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, who said of D'Eramo at the time, "Attorney D'Eramo has demonstrated his commitment and dedication to the community and his support of projects to aid the less fortunate. These are important qualifications when seeking judicial appointees."

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