Renell Lettsome was found guilty of murder in the second degree, among other charges, on Friday afternoon, August 11, following one and a half days of deliberations by the jury.
12 Felony Counts
Lettsome, 21, was accused of bludgeoning David Geiger to death and savagely beating his teenage son Nathan during the early morning hours of October 29, 2005. The prosecution also alleged that Lettsome returned to the Geigers Estate Grunwald home and set the house on fire to conceal the crime, leaving the unconscious Nathan inside.
He faced 12 felony counts including first degree murder, attempted murder in the first degree and first degree arson.
Lettsomes murder trial began on Monday, August 7, in V.I. Superior Court before Judge Brenda Hollar. The trial lasted three days before the jury went into deliberations.
A Day and a Half of Deliberations
After a day and a half of deliberations, Lettsome was found not guilty of first degree murder, which would have carried a life sentence.
Murder in the first degree in the Virgin Islands requires the jury to find that a murderer killed the victim maliciously, willfully, deliberately and with forethought and premeditation.
The law does not set out a time frame for how long the thought process must last, with only a brief moment of thought being sufficient to find a defendant guilty of first degree murder.
Instead, the jury found Lettsome guilty of second degree murder of David Geiger, attempted murder in the second degree of Nathan Geiger, third degree assault of Nathan Geiger, first degree arson and accompanying use of dangerous or deadly weapons in conjunction with each of the charges.
Not Guilty of First Degree Murder
The defendant was found not guilty of murder in the first degree, attempted murder in the first degree, assault in the first degree and accompanying weapons charges for each count.
During the three day trial, prosecutors showed grisly pictures of the bloody murder scene as well as photographs of Nathans severe injuries and the burnt corpse of David Geiger. Federal Bureau of Investigation examiners testified that they confirmed Lettsomes blood and DNA were at the scene of the crime.
Bason Says Difficult Not to Convict
These facts made it very difficult for the jury not to convict, according to Assistant Attorney General Ernest Bason, who prosecuted the case.
Im very happy with the results of this trial, he said after the verdict was read.
The 12-member jury began deliberations on Thursday morning, August 10, and sent a note to Hollar around 11 a.m. that morning asking why Amber Taylor was not able to testify.
Jury Asks About Taylors Whereabouts
Taylor, Lettsomes girlfriend and the mother of their young son, signed a lengthy affidavit which recounted the events leading up to and immediately following the October 29, 2005 murder. Taylor house-sat for Geiger the week before he was murdered. Fifty thousands dollars in cash went missing from Geigers house while Taylor was staying there.
V.I. Police Department officials used her affidavit in securing an arrest warrant for Lettsome and for Tullius Stewart, who Taylor said stole the money. Stewart faces charges of with grand larceny and possession of stolen property.
Prosecution Paid for Taylor to Leave V.I.
In November, 2005, prosecutors paid for Taylor and her two children to stay at a local hotel before purchasing airplane tickets for the three to travel to Florida. Taylor was afraid for her life and the lives of her children, Bason said, explaining why the government assisted her in leaving the territory.
Taylor was not able to testify in Lettsomes murder trial because she is more than 90 miles outside of the territory and the V.I. Superior Court only has subpena power within 90 miles of the territory.
On Thursday afternoon, August 10, the jury sent another note to Hollar, asking to be excused for the day because they could not reach a decision. Hollar excused the jury around 5 p.m. that day.
Verdict Reached Friday Afternoon
The jury reconvened at 9 a.m. on Friday morning, August 11, and returned a verdict shortly after their lunch break, around 2:30 p.m.
Murder in the second degree carries a minimum sentence of five years, but is open ended, giving the judge room to set whatever number of years she deems appropriate. Attempted murder in the second degree also carries a minimum of five years with no maximum.
Lettsome faces an additional 20 years maximum for first degree arson and a maximum of five years, plus a fine, for third degree assault. The accompanying weapons charges could add even more years to his sentence.
Sentencing September 18
Some of those charges might be merged during sentencing, which is scheduled for Monday, September 18, at 3 p.m., when Hollar will decide how many years Lettsome serves.
Nathan has the right to file a victims impact statement and testify at the time of sentencing, Hollar explained.