It has been less than 48 hours since convicted killer Arleigh Hector James was released from prison, but already his unceremonious return to society is generating much public consternation.
Wednesday, when a Barbados TODAY team visited Newbury, St George, where James previously lived, residents were clearly incensed by the decision of this island’s prison authorities to release the infamous prisoner, but none more so than Kenneth George who said he would like nothing more than to see James, who is a Vincentian by birth, put on a plane and sent back to his neighbouring homeland.
It was at George’s house that James beheaded his 35-year-old wife Debra James and slashed his 14-year-old stepdaughter Sabrina to death back in 1994. However, James’s son managed to escape unharmed after he hid under a bed during the vicious attack.
Sitting on his gallery Wednesday morning, still digesting the news that James, who spent 22 calendar years in prison, was released from HMP Dodds, George told Barbados TODAY he was made to understand that James was staying with family in Lowlands, Christ Church, which he said was too close for comfort.
“Put he in the plane, and not a boat because he might jump off the boat. Let he go back home to St Vincent. I don’t want to see he, because every time I see he my heart does swell,” said George.
“He kill he own people. He bring the wife and daughter from St Vincent with he. Let he go back to prison or St Vincent,” the angry resident added.
Speaking on behalf of other members of the Newbury community, he said residents hoped James would never show his face in their neighbourhood ever again, while suggesting that the outcome would not be a favourable one.
George said residents, especially his daughter who was sitting on a step with James’ stepdaughter Sabrina and had witnessed Debra’s murder, were finding it very difficult to deal with the news of the killer’s release, and simply could not endure the torment of seeing him walking through the area.
“He don’t got anybody out here. I don’t want to see he around here because he killed two innocent people. I know he will want to come back around here, but I don’t want to see him,” George insisted.
“We don’t want to see him in Newbury at all. But I want to see the picture of him in St Vincent,” he stressed.
The disabled man said he had to quickly ask for a glass of water to revive himself and that he felt an unpleasant tingling feeling in his stomach when he received the news yesterday evening.
However, he said nothing could compare to his memories of the unforgettable tragedy, which occurred over 20 years ago but still haunts him to this day.
George recalled that he was not at home when the tragedy occurred. However, he said he arrived home to be greeted by a large, silent crowd of onlookers. Immediately, he was told that tragedy had struck at his home. And though in a hurry to find out if all was well with his family, George said his knees became weak and nearly gave out on him as he caught his first glimpse of Debra’s lifeless body outside.
Not able to hold back the tears, he proceeded to follow the trail of blood that led him into his house and into the bedroom where Sabrina’s body was waiting to be removed.
“All of that child’s blood was in that bedroom and for days I could smell it. And the police say somebody would come and help to clean it, but I had to clean it myself because my wife and daughter could not take it.
“It was sad to have to clean up that girl’s blood. That is what he did to that child and her mother and only spend 22 years behind bars,” a disgusted George said.
Barbados TODAY also spoke to George’s daughter Susan who was a teenager at the time of the incident.
Dressed in black and white and with tears streaming down her face, she said she was simply in disbelief, following the prisoner’s release from jail.
“My mother told me about it [James’ release] last night and I was like, ‘what?’” a shaken Susan said before walking away, saying she could not take it.
“She can’t handle that now because it ain’t easy,” her father lamented.
Meanwhile, George’s wife Fadelma who ran to her front door on the day of the killings after hearing Debra’s cries for help, said it was not easy informing her daughter that James was no longer behind bars.
She said over the years, she had comforted a traumatized Susan who had barely managed to escape James’ swinging cutlass that night, by running onto the road, by saying that James was behind bars and could not get to her.
“I can’t tell her that now. She ain’t gine walk bout or nothing now. She frighten because she sat there on the step and see everything that he do. And when he tell the stepdaughter don’t worry to run, she next. My daughter cross the road and the stepdaughter run in the house and he still run behind her,” Fadelma said during an interview at her workplace.
Carrying out her duties, Fadelma said while she understood the law was more powerful than the cries of her entire neighbourhood, she struggled to understand how a man who had committed such a heinous crime could be released back into society.
Showing the scar left on her hand from her attempts to shove James from running after his daughter, Fadelma said at the very least the authorities could have informed residents that the former inmate would be enjoying a taste of freedom.
“Lifetime is when you got to dead in jail. Not spend 22 years and come out. A lot of people gine be scared to walk bout because it is terrible. But it is my daughter that I scared for, because I know how it is with her,” she said.
So far no official reason has been given for the prisoner’s release but James has been quoted as saying that he understood the position of the residents, even while maintaining that he was a changed man.