Sunday, May 4, 2014

A Sad Day For All St. Lucians

Kendal Felix                           Menachem Stark
Crime is a terrible thing when it strikes close to home, and this week it reared its ugly, despicable head and struck too close to home for St. Lucians in New York. Wednesday April 30th. 2014, just a few days ago, caused many St. Lucians in New York City to bow their heads in shame. I, too, was one of those saddened, dismayed, and ashamed by the purported actions by one of our very own. Not that crime does not exist in our midst but the fact that such a heinous and callous act was committed by one of us was just too much for some. A people known for being friendly and compassionate, it was indeed a tough pill to swallow that such a young member of our community was arrested for kidnapping and murder resulting in a charge of second-degree murder. 

A mere 26 years old and in the prime of his life, Kendal Felix in concert with others kidnapped Menachem Stark, a Hasidic Jew, off the streets of Brooklyn at 331 Rutledge Street in Brooklyn on January 2, 2014 on a cold winter day and whisked him away in a minivan. Felix lived in nearby Crown Heights, and had done about $20,000 worth of construction work for Stark but had not been paid. He said he and two accomplices had kidnapped Stark hoping to get the money. According to the New York Post, Felix confessed to the killing and admitted to being the driver of the van, as well as one of the men who wrestled with Stark on the sidewalk. The Post said Felix implicated two other men in the murder, but that they had been arrested and then released. Stark died from compression suffocation. Felix indicated that the death was unintentional, and occurred after one of Felix's accomplices sat on Stark inside the minivan.

Kidnap vehicle captured on video driving off
With temperatures below freezing most of that day and the forecast of a snowstorm looming over the city, the trio must have been determined in executing their plot to get Stark. I mean seriously, who wants to be out in this weather other than someone determined with a will cast in stone to exact whatever dastardly deed had already been planned. According to reports corroborated by video footage outside Stark's office, he was snatched and driven away. Surveillance video captures the vehicle driving through the snow eventually heading to Long Island. As relatives prayed for a miracle, Stark’s burning body was found  just before 4 p.m. Friday, January 2nd. in a dumpster at a Getty gas station in Great Neck, Long Island — 16 miles from where he was abducted. Stark was burned from the waist down, a source said.
Vehicle making getaway with kidnapped man inside

Dumpster where body was found

A few employees shoveling snow near the gas pumps threw snow into the dumpster. Fernando Cerff, the owner of the gas station, arrived at the Cutter Mill Road business early Friday to shovel snow and get his fleet of plows on the road. “There was smoke coming from the dumpster,” Cerff told the Daily News. “I thought someone threw a cigarette in there. There was a smell,” he said. “It was horrible. I got a really bad feeling about it. I knew something was wrong by the smell. It was just too strong. So I called the cops.” Investigators discovered Stark’s body beside the trash and under a few inches of snow. The gas station was closed immediately.

Two of the suspects were linked to a cellphone that was found attached to the undercarriage of Stark’s car in the days after the murder. It belongs to one of the suspects and calls were made to it by one of the other two, according to reports.

And so, the police finally arrested and charged Kendal Felix in this whole sordid affair. What seems to have many upset is the fact that Felix has been identified as a St. Lucian on social media sites and not on the mainstream news outlets. Many believe that his identification as a St. Lucian will sully the name of St. Lucia. Helloooooooooo.....shouldn't Felix have been the one to realize that his actions would have had a negative impact on St. Lucia? Do you all not think that the relevant authorities already know his status and nationality? I may be ashamed of his actions but I am still a proud St. Lucian. Identifying him as a St. Lucian makes absolutely no difference to the price of coffee; he's still in the calaboose!

Sometimes my people have a very misguided sense of loyalty and patriotism. Isn't it important to know who is in our midst? One of the first responses of many people I have spoken to regarding this case has been an almost instant, "A nice fella like that!" As if crimes are only committed by ugly people!

For sure the police must be looking at other crimes in the city in order to discover whether Felix and his other accomplices are involved; that would be standard police procedure. But lets look at this objectively if only for a moment. Under the circumstances wouldn't it be almost logical to wonder whether this young man has been involved in other crimes and whether St. Lucians may have been at the receiving end of his callous disregard for human life? 

You have to be a cold and hardened individual to go through the sequence of actions to effect such a crime as has been committed, and it is very difficult to fathom that this was a one-off incident.  This was not a self defense death; not a heat of the moment fight; not an escalating confrontation; not a threat to life and limb. 

1) Obviously a plot had to be hatched between the persons involved.
2) A cell phone was attached under Stark's car  with the only logical reason would be to track him via GPS. It certainly wasn't to call his muffler.
3) The cell phone belongs to one of the suspects
4) It was a cold winter day with temps below freezing
5) It was snowing
6) They waited outside his office until he came out
7) They kidnapped Stark and then drove 16 miles away in the snow
8) After Stark was dead they dumped the body in a dumpster
9) The body was then set on fire

Was this an accident? I mean seriously you can't say to the judge that you were walking along the sidewalk and then all of a sudden "Ooops" you slipped in the snow and fell on Stark and you all rolled into the van and ended up in Long Island as if by magic. These actions were cold and calculated and do not sound like a first time event. You must be cold and hard to the core to even plan an act like this.

And what did he think, that Stark would forget all about it when he let him go? You work for the man! All these questions I have asked, and all the deductions made will be the same that the prosecutor will present in court.

It is true, this incident can be no positive light for St. Lucians. But we cannot bury our heads in the sand and pretend quietly that hiding his nationality will be any good fortune for us. There are good and bad people everywhere, and just as we should rightfully be proud of our Nobel laureates and other positive personalities coming from our beloved St. Lucia, we must also be ashamed and embarrassed when one of us commits despicable crimes. Let this be a lesson to us all that good looking or ugly, popular or not, public figure or obscure individual, Cap Estate or ghetto, there is good and bad among us all. We must also learn that actions come with consequences, and no amount of pretending or crying, sweeping it under the carpet, or turning a blind eye just because he is one of us or liked will change the fact that the consequences will be brought to bear. No amount of cussing or screaming will change that!

Second-degree murder is a serious affair and New York has some of the stiffest penalties - 25 years to life!

Under New York criminal law, murder in the second degree is one of several forms of homicide, or conduct which causes the death of a person. Pursuant to the statute, a person commits second-degree murder in one of five ways:
(1) with the intent to cause the death of another person, he or she causes the death of such person or a third person;

(2) under circumstances demonstrating a "depraved indifference to human life," the defendant "recklessly engages in conduct which creates a grave risk of death to another person, and thereby causes the death of another person";

(3) acting alone or in concert with others, the defendant commits or attempts to commit a specified felony (including robbery, burglary, kidnapping, arson, rape, and sexual abuse) and, in the course of and in furtherance of such crime or of immediate flight therefrom, he or she causes the death of a non-participant;

(4) under circumstances demonstrating a "depraved indifference to human life," a defendant 18 years old or more "recklessly engages in conduct which creates a grave risk of serious physical injury or death" to a person less than 11 years old and causes the death of such person; or

(5) while in the course of committing a specified crime such as rape, a criminal sexual act or sexual abuse, a defendant 18 years old or more intentionally causes the death of a person less than 14 years old.
These are the points to prove in a court of law.

Meanwhile the Jewish community remains resolute to see the guilty parties face the maximum penalty for this crime.

In the prime of your life at 26 years old this doesn't seem like such a bright idea now I guess. The whole world was your oyster. And instead of using this as an example for us all we're eating-each-other over whether he should be identified as a St. Lucian.

I don't know you my St. Lucian brother but God be with you as you face a hard road ahead. I would not want to be in your shoes.

Let this be a lesson to us all. Think before you act and regret those actions for the rest of your life. I would prefer to lose a few dollars than to be in jail for the rest of my life. Regardless of the sum owed your life would have still moved on.

Live and learn Lucians. Live and learn!