Renell Lettsome, the sole suspect arrested in relation to the October 29 murder of David Geiger who remains in custody, faces life in prison if convicted of first degree murder, the most serious of the 12 criminal charges against him.
If convicted of second degree murder, the second highest of the six crimes he is charged with in addition to six related weapons charges, the Coral Bay man faces a minimum of five years in prison.
Lettsome, 21, is accused of bludgeoning the St. John businessman David Geiger to death and severely beating his teenage son, Nathan, before setting their Estate Grunwald home on fire with both victims still inside to cover up the crime.
Lettsome Faces 12 Criminal Counts
Lettsome faces charges of murder in the first degree; use of a dangerous weapon during a first degree murder; second degree murder; use of a dangerous weapon during a second degree murder; attempted murder in the first degree; use of a dangerous weapon during an attempted first degree murder; first degree assault; use of a dangerous weapon during a first degree assault; third degree assault; use of a dangerous weapon during a third degree assault; arson in the first degree; and use of a dangerous weapon during a first degree arson.
If convicted of first degree murder and given the maximum penalty, Lettsome could be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Second degree murder carries a minimum penalty of five years to whatever the judge decides, according to Ernest Bason, chief of the criminal division of the V.I. Attorney Generals office for St. Thomas and St. John.
The judge could sentence him to hundreds of years in jail for the second degree murder, he said.
Must Win Suppression Hearing
Lettsome was offered a plea deal on Friday, March 17, according to Bason, who would not disclose the details of the plea bargain.
The murder suspect is not expected to accept or reject the deal until after the suppression hearingwhich Bason has pledged to win.
We cant have Lettsome win the suppression hearing, said Bason. I have to do my best job serving the public.
Attempted murder in the first degree and first degree assault both carry maximum penalties of 15 years. Third degree assault carries a maximum sentence of five years, and the maximum penalty for first degree arson is 20 years.
Additional Years for Weapon
Five additional years can be added to each sentence if Lettsome is convicted of using a dangerous weapon during any of the crimes of which he is accused.
A trial date has not been set, but Lettsomes attorney filed a motion to suppress the statement he made to V.I. Police Department officers after his arrest.
This happens regularly, Bason told St. John Tradewinds in early M arch about the suppression motion. I knew that it was coming.
Hollar Schedules Hearing
V.I. Superior Court Judge Brenda Hollar scheduled the suppression hearing for Monday, March 27. After that hearing, Hollar will hear arguments for Basons motion to join three of the four cases related to the murder.
Bason filed a motion to join Lettsomes case to those of Nester Colaire, 18, and Robert Ferguson, 19who are both charged with attempted murder, arson and being an accessory after the fact. The two men are accused of returning to Geigers home with Lettsome and setting the house on fire, leaving the unconscious Nathan inside.
They have both been released from prison, along with Tullius Stewart, who faces charges of grand larceny and possession of stolen propertywhich occurred at least a week before the murder, attempted murder and arson, according to Bason.
Bason is not attempting to join Stewarts case to those of Lettsome, Ferguson and Colaire.
Although Hollar was scheduled to hear both the suppression motion and motion to join the cases on Monday, March 27, a decision is not expected for at least two weeks, Bason explained.