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State witness murdered

Relatives say State failed to protect him
Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Mere hours before Palo Seco father Ricaldo “DJ Pappy” Sanchez was supposed to testify in a three-year-old murder trial at the Siparia Magistrates Court, Petrotrin workers stumbled upon his corpse in a Santa Flora field road. After he was reported missing on Sunday, police believe the 51-year-old father from Mitchell Trace, Los Charos, was taken to the lonely Skinner Trace Extention on Sunday morning and killed with a single shot to the head. The murder occurred just two days after Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar appealed to citizens to help her win the war against crime by providing police with information. Distraught relatives said Government had failed Sánchez, who, despite countless death threats, was going to give evidence in the case in which Fermin Carrabai is accused of murdering 30-year-old Kwasi “President” Chakumba-Muraldo on December 28, 2010. 


The case was proceeding by way of paper committal and Sanchez’s statement had already been tendered. He had been summoned to appear in the Siparia First Court to be cross-examined by defence counsel Earl James. A relative, who did not want her name used, said: “He did not deserve this kind of death because he was trying to do the right thing. “Probably he was the only person willing to stand up and testify against what is happening in Trinidad right now and they kill him for that.” Even more disheartening, she said, all three men were once friends and played as children in Los Charos but after witnessing Chakumba-Muraldo’s death, Sanchez wanted to get justice for his murdered friend. “The State failed him in a sense but what I am saying is the people also failed him. The people in the neighbourhood failed him more than the State because when you think about it, it is the people around who knew what was going on. “What the Government can do is to offer the people who are willing to come forward protection. They need to take it up instantly. “If a man said he witnessed a murder, take him one time and keep him away from the neighbourhood because we need this case to get solved. Although no suspects have been arrested, Sanchez’s relative said everyone already knew why he was killed. She said the last time she spoke to Sanchez was on Friday, when he went to the court to find out when he was supposed to testify. “I met him in Siparia and he had on his court clothes. He said he was by the court all the time. He went back and they told him the case was today. 



How he died

Around 7.45 am, a crew was on their way to work when they found Sanchez’s body in the road. Police, led by Snr Supt Cyril Harry and Insp Granger, found the body lying face-up with a gunshot wound to the back of the head. He was dressed in a three-quarter khaki pants and white socks and had a bandana around his neck. Police found what appeared to be a 9mm bullet casing.
Around 10 pm on Saturday, Sanchez, a DJ and part-time electrician at Petrotrin, left home to play music at Station 22 Bar at Los Charos Junction. After the bar closed, he went to a party next door. On Sunday morning when he did not return home, his wife, Mahalia Floyd, went in search of him and found his jersey, shoes and bicycle near the junction. A report was made to the Santa Flora Police who even got Petrotrin to empty a pond during their search.



The killing he saw

On December 28, 2010, Sanchez explained to the T&T Guardian how Chakumba-Muraldo, the father of four, was shot at point-blank range. He said that around 9 pm, the victim and several other workers from Quality Environmental Services were waiting for transport to enter a forested area in Erin where seismic surveys were taking place. Chakumba-Muraldo and another man got into an argument, during which he was shot. After hiding for six days, the suspect, accompanied by his attorney Dexter Bailey, surrendered to acting Sgt Salick Jagroop at the Santa Flora Police Station.


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