Fashion designer and photo studio operator 37-year-old Cornelius Robinson, who pleaded guilty to the murder of 14-year-old schoolgirl Santoya Campbell, was sentenced to life when he appeared in the Westmoreland Circuit Court yesterday.
The businessman, of a Shrewsbury, Westmoreland, address, will become eligible for parole after he spends 25 years behind bars.
Prior to handing down the sentence, Justice Martin Gayle gave Robinson an opportunity to speak. During his address to the court he broke down in tears as he apologised to family members of the deceased, as well as people who he said “looked up to him”.
On Tuesday, January 27, Santoya’s body was found in garbage bags under a bridge, near a river close to the Frome Technical High School, where she was a grade eight student.
Subsequent post-mortem results, which proved that the young student was pregnant, also showed she was strangled.
Two days after the discovery of the body, Robinson turned himself over to the police, in the company of his attorney.
He was afterwards charged by the Westmoreland police after admitting to the murder.
The matter was first called up in the Savanna-la-Mar Resident Magistrate’s Court for mention on Tuesday and Wednesday, last week. The case was subsequently transferred to the Westmoreland Circuit Court where Robinson was sentenced yesterday.
A remorseful-looking Robinson, clad in a pair of blue jeans pants, blue and white plaid shirt, and a pair of Levi sneakers, held his head down throughout most of yesterday’s procedure.
The court heard that Robinson, who had no previous conviction, admitted to the police and the probation officer that he knew Santoya, who lives in the same community as himself, since she was attending primary school and that her mother asked him to assist her with lunch money, to which he agreed.
Robinson claimed that the young schoolgirl, who used to visit his photo studio, started to make sexual advances on him to which he finally yielded once between late September and October 2014.
He also claimed that he was blackmailed by Santoya who started to make demands, including that he buys her a smartphone, to which he agreed.
Robinson said that before Santoya went to school on the morning of January 26, she visited his business place in Savanna-la-Mar where she aggressively demanded $6,000 to purchase the cellular phone.
He claimed that when he told her he did not have that amount of money she became boisterous and threatened to report their relationship to her mother and Robinson’s wife.
It was at that time that Robinson said he became frustrated and held the little girl from behind and strangled her to death.
He confessed that he hid the corpse in a back room of his businessplace where it remained throughout the day while he conducted his regular business.
About 11:00 that night, he transported the body, which he placed in two garbage bags in the trunk of his motor car and dumped it under the Cabaretta River bridge, near to the girl’s school.
Yesterday, Robinson’s legal representative, Herman Smart, who pleaded for mercy for his client, pointed to the social enquiry report which painted Robinson, as a well-behaved individual, who acted out of character. He also stated that his client did not waste the court’s time.
But, Justice Gayle, in handing down judgement, reminded Robinson, who is married with one child, that he took two young lives, including that of the unborn foetus.