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Kyle Christopher Receives 24-Year Prison Term in Heartbreaking Child Abuse Case on St. Croix

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In a somber conclusion to a distressing case of child abuse on St. Croix, Kyle Christopher has been sentenced to a 24-year prison term after entering a guilty plea on a charge of aggravated child abuse and neglect related to the death of 4-year-old Aaron Benjamin. On October 18, 2019, the child was tragically discovered deceased in his mother’s apartment at Lorraine Village, showing signs of both recent and past physical trauma, including bruises and bite marks.

According to reports, the deceased’s sibling disclosed to authorities that Christopher had a pattern of physically punishing the children using a black stick. In a harrowing confession, Christopher acknowledged the beatings, indicating a particular incident where his actions caused the boy to fall and sustain a fatal head injury against a piece of furniture.

Initially charged with the murder of Aaron Benjamin, Christopher entered into a plea bargain shortly before the scheduled commencement of his trial. The agreement saw him pleading guilty to the charge of aggravated child abuse and neglect, leading to the dismissal of additional charges, which included allegations of murder, aggravated assault and battery, and third-degree assault. The plea bargain could have subjected Christopher to a maximum of 30 years in prison for the atrocities committed against the child.

The plea arrangement followed the introduction of a revised agreement after a prior one was acknowledged by the V.I. Department of Justice in 2020 but was only filed in 2022. By this juncture, the agreement had been rescinded by the acting assistant attorney general, rendering it invalid in the eyes of the judiciary.

Delicia Daniels, the mother of Aaron Benjamin, is also serving a prison sentence, which stands at 18 years, after accepting a plea deal where she confessed to a charge of child abuse.

The tragic circumstances uncovered systemic issues when it was revealed that the father of Aaron and his sibling had made repeated, yet fruitless, appeals to the Department of Human Services (DHS) to investigate suspicions of abuse. This prompted an internal review within DHS, with the agency’s commissioner at the time, Kimberly Causey-Gomez, announcing in 2020 that the investigation resulted in staffing changes and disciplinary actions. Nonetheless, the detailed outcomes of this internal probe remain confidential, with no public disclosure.

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Crime

Violent Encounter in St. Croix: Tenant Accused of Assaulting Maintenance Staff with Machete and Stun Gun

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A St. Croix woman, Christin Willie, faces serious legal challenges including felony assault charges after a disturbing incident involving physical attacks on maintenance staff within her apartment. The event unfolded at the David Hamilton Jackson Terrace, prompting police intervention on a Tuesday afternoon.

A senior employee of the Virgin Islands Housing Authority (VIHA) was overseeing urgent electrical repairs in Willie’s apartment following a health inspector’s warning about significant safety risks. Despite the short notice, which deviated from the usual 48-hour rule due to the urgency, Willie initially allowed the repairs.

However, the situation escalated when Willie, citing a need to pray, attempted to shut her apartment door. The VIHA supervisor, wary of being locked out, advised against it. As another maintenance worker arrived, tensions heightened; Willie pushed the supervisor out and subsequently retrieved a machete from her living room. In a violent outburst, she swung the machete, striking him with the flat side of the blade before he could disarm her.

Undeterred, Willie then grabbed a stun gun from the same table and assaulted the supervisor multiple times. Amidst her attacks, she bit his forearm, forcefully holding on until separated by his coworker who also experienced a shock from the stun gun. The altercation ended when Willie’s minor son intervened, calming his mother and allowing the workers to exit.

Upon police arrival, officers noted Willie’s distress and detected alcohol. After refusing to give a statement, she was arrested and charged with third-degree assault, simple assault and battery, and misuse of a dangerous weapon during a violent crime.

Initially unable to post the $25,000 bail, Willie was detained pending a court hearing. The subsequent day, Magistrate Ernest Morris Jr. granted her a pretrial release, though specifics remain undisclosed. Willie is set to appear in court on May 1, with a public defender assigned to her case.

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St. Thomas Resident Receives 43-Month Sentence for Fentanyl Trafficking

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A federal court in St. Thomas has handed down a 43-month prison sentence to 43-year-old Tahir Donadelle for his role in attempting to distribute fentanyl. Chief District Judge Robert Mollow delivered the sentence this past Monday, following Donadelle’s earlier admission of guilt.

United States Attorney Delia Smith highlighted the lethal nature of the opioid crisis in America, noting that fentanyl claimed over 80,000 lives in 2021. “While the Virgin Islands have been relatively shielded from the brunt of the opioid epidemic, this incident underscores our vulnerability,” Smith stated. She commended the Customs and Border Protection officers whose alertness thwarted the potential distribution of these dangerous substances.

The charges stem from an incident on September 8, 2022, when Donadelle, arriving from Atlanta at Cyril E. King Airport, was subject to a random luggage inspection by Customs and Border Protection. The search revealed 14 vacuum-sealed packages in his bags, three of which contained 964 fentanyl pills marked with an “M” on one side and “30” on the other, while the rest held marijuana.

This case is not isolated in its severity; similar sentences have been meted out recently. In 2023, Elijah Hakim received an 85-month sentence for a related conviction. That same year, the Virgin Islands Police Department linked three deaths directly to fentanyl, underscoring its deadly presence even with relatively few cases locally.

Roberto Vaquero, Director of Field Operations for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, expressed his concerns about fentanyl’s dangers. “Fentanyl is among the most lethal drug threats to our nation. Our diligent officers are crucial to preventing this toxin from penetrating our borders and harming our communities,” he said.

The successful prosecution of Donadelle, led by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyle Payne, was a collaborative effort involving Homeland Security Investigations, Customs and Border Protection, and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Homeland Security Investigations Assistant Special Agent in Charge Eugene Thomas emphasized the community’s gain from such vigilant enforcement efforts against drug smuggling in the territory.

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St. Croix Man Arrested Following Alleged Firearm Incident and Dispute Over Relationship

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ST. CROIX — Daniel Hernandez faces serious felony charges following an incident where he allegedly fired a weapon during a confrontation that stemmed from a romantic dispute.

Late in the evening on April 13, just before 10:30 p.m., a distress call was made to 911 by a man reporting gunfire at his home in Frederiksted. He claimed that Daniel Hernandez, whom he identified as his girlfriend’s husband, arrived at his Estate Carlton residence, leading to a physical altercation. The caller reported that after he and his girlfriend retreated inside, Hernandez fired a shot through the glass door and reached in to unlock it, subsequently forcing his wife to leave with him under threat of violence.

According to the caller, Hernandez and his wife left the scene in his vehicle. The woman contacted 911 from a hotel several hours later to report her whereabouts. Upon arriving at the hotel, officers detained Hernandez without incident and discovered ammunition in his vehicle.

During the investigation, the woman provided a different perspective, indicating she was picked up by Hernandez after work, had dinner, and then went to a hotel to make a reservation. She recounted that she went to her boyfriend’s residence to avoid her husband seeing her there, but Hernandez unexpectedly showed up, leading to the altercation.

The woman expressed her intention to not remain with her boyfriend, describing ongoing harassment and assaults from him. She returned to the apartment to preempt further conflicts, which escalated when both men confronted each other.

Police found physical evidence of the shooting at the boyfriend’s home, including a bullet hole through a door. Hernandez, however, denied possessing or firing a gun. Despite his denial and lack of a gun license, the visible injuries to all parties and the forensic evidence led to his arrest on multiple charges, including home invasion, burglary, illegal possession of a firearm, assault, property destruction, and disturbing the peace.

After appearing in court before Magistrate Yolan Brow Ross, Hernandez’s initial charges were adjusted following a motion from the prosecution to amend the complaint, which was unopposed by the defense. The judge set bail at $100,000, with a portion paid in cash and the remainder secured through a bond.

Daniel Hernandez is slated to return to court on May 1 for further proceedings in this complex case.

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