Characters in the story: Jefferson Tamba—the groom who died the day of his wedding Comfort Tamba—the bride who was accused for masterminding his death Tenneh Sombai—the prosecution’s witness Edwin Fallah-the prosecutor who wanted nothing but the crucifixion of the accused and told defense counsel Doe ‘to take it easy on the witness’ Jason Doe—counsel for the defendant who refused the prosecution’s theory of the motive of the crime Janet Lovebird—the private secretary of Col. Doe John Saye—the former police detective who was hired by Counselor Doe for the defense Judge Neeto Kangar—the judge who wanted justice at any cost
The case of the disappointed bride, described by metropolitan newspapers in Monrovia, was one of the few to whet the appetite of nosy Monrovians, and it brought out the travails of how one is blinded in the affairs of love and could not let the other go in peace. It was, many Monrovians agreed, the result of the sins of the community. Though it was not uncommon to hear reports of grooms abandoning their brides, days and possibly hours before the consummation of the marriage, leaving the bride in disgust and raising questions about what she might have done wrong, this particular story was unlike any other that Monrovians had known, because it ended in the murder of the groom.
The decedent was thirty-three –year-old Jefferson Tamba, a graduate of the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law at the University of Liberia. The court, under prosecutor District Attorney Edwin Fallah, was in no mood to play with the case, since a young man’s future had been destroyed and the primary suspect was his partner of five years, twenty-seven-year-old Comfort Tamba.
The court heard that though the marriage was yet to be consummated, with an evil premeditation, Comfort Wesseh put up a design against the instructions of society and assigned to herself as Mrs. Comfort Tamba. The prosecution’s witnesses had been so blatant in their support against the bride that defense counsel Jason Doe, sitting at the third week of the preliminary trial, could not stomach what he saw as an affront against a woman whose dream had been cut short by the murder of her beloved ‘husband’ since they had co-habited for the last five years.
The most damning evidence against the defendant was that of twenty-seven-year-old Tenneh Sombai, who, rumors suggested had dated the decedent and for whom the decedent had abandoned for the defendant. Though that part of her life was hidden, she told the court that the defendant had confided in her that she had a motive to make sure that Jefferson Tamba was dead, the year following their marriage.
“Why did she plan to kill him?” Prosecutor Edwin Fallah askd, his glowing eyes comforting the witness. The witness, as if she had rehearsed her part in a play, said, nonchalantly, “It was during a friend’s get together meeting and Comfort was boasting about her luck.”
“What did she say?”
“Comfort said she had her plan made and Jeff would not live to tell the story after their marriage.”
The prosecutor exchanged glances with Judge Neeto Kangar. The judge’s smile was a bit somber and it was not clear if he believed the prosecution’s witness.
“She plotted to kill the man she was planning to marry?”
The witness answered crisply, “Yes, she told me that Jeff did not respond to her love the first time they met, and though I thought she was even joking, she said she was telling me the truth. She told me Jeff ignored her, when they first met and when he finally agreed to make up with her, she on the other hand had made up her mind to ensure that he paid for what he did to her.”
“When you mentioned Jeff,” the prosecutor said, “are you referring to the decedent whose death is the cause of this preliminary trial?”
“And again,” the prosecutor said, “when you mentioned the person who told you about murdering a man who was planning to marry her, you are referring to the defendant in this case?”
“Yes,” the witness said, “I’m referring to Comfort Wesseh, who later on took the name Mrs. Tamba upon herself.”
Jason Doe was on his feet, “That is improper examination, no proper foundation established.”
“Sustained,” the judge said, “the witness will have to recognize her limitation about commenting on issues that the court has reserved for itself and the prosecutor must provide the necessary guidance to that effect.”
“Thank you, Your Honor,” Prosecutor Fallah said, and turning to the witness, said, “Your reference is about Ms. Comfort Wesseh otherwise known as Mrs. Comfort Tamba?”
“So,” the prosecutor said, “the motive for her pre-meditation to murder the man who was about to marry her stemmed from what she claimed but an unfounded neglect in the past?”
“Yes and she also indicated to me that she would use Jeff to make herself rich,” the witness said.
“Was it by taking advantage over him?”
“Yes. Comfort said she had been able to convince Jeff to build a duplex, where she is residing presently, and she had also managed to get him to put aside a large sum of money, roughly, in her own words, USD500, 000.00.”
“Where did the decedent get that huge amount of money from?”
“You see,” the witness said, “Jeff’s father rented lands in Monrovia and other parts of the country. He has rented and sold lands and as a result acquired a fortune and to make matters worse, Jeff was the only son in the family of ten siblings.”
“Therefore,” the prosecutor said, “it is clear that she plotted his death to get hold of the material prosperity that she saw coming to him?” The witness’s smile was hasty, and said, “That becomes obvious.”
At the defense table, Jason Doe sat along with the defendant, whose eyes gazed directly at the witness, with her mouth forming the expression, ‘oh my God.” Also sitting with the defendant was Jason Doe’s private secretary, Janet Lovebird and completing the team was former police detective John Saye, who provided valuable sources of material to the lawyer.
While the defendant’s face demonstrated shock, ex-detective Saye, secretary Lovebird and criminal lawyer Jason Doe appeared unfazed by what the witness was revealing. Jason Doe was never perturbed about what was happening since in a couple of minutes, he would have the chance to turn the witness inside out about the events that she had freely volunteered upon the insistence of the prosecution. Jason Doe was in such contemplation when he heard the prosecutor said, “Your Witness,” as he sauntered to his seat.
The courtroom was silent, and the drop of a pin could have been heard. Jason Doe lifted his frame from his chair and grinned at the witness. The comical result of his action overwhelmed the spectators, and it increased their expectation about what was coming. Walking directly towards the witness, Jason Doe said, “Your name is Tenneh Sombai?”
“You have four children?” The prosecutor was on his feet, “Your Honor, Your Honor what does her family get to do with the current case?” The judge said, “Overruled, the witness will answer the question.” Jason Doe smiled.
“There are at least four children in your home?”
“Yes,” the witness said, they are all my children; let me tell you now.”
The lawyer considered her answer and said, “Thank you for letting me to know about that.”
There were murmurs in the spectators, and Judge Neeto Karnga sounded her gavel twice and said, “The court will insist that there will not and cannot be any disruption in the proceedings and therefore I will not hesitate to throw any of you in the audience out so be warned.” Silence was restored.
“You testified in court that the defendant is your friend; and I’m aware that friends are meant to support each other. By your own admission, the defendant told you about her plans to murder the man who was planning to marry her. What was your reaction when you received the information from her about her alleged plan to murder her husband?”
The witness shifted in the dock, and with a grin, said, “I never thought she meant what she told me.”
“What you testified is that the defendant made a confession about her premeditation. Dd it occur to you that by not informing the police, if at all this story is true, you are equally responsible for the murder of Jefferson Tamba?” The witness’s eyes stared in the ceiling, and they were complemented by the echoes of the ceiling fans that hummed as they filled the courtroom. As the witness hesitated, the lawyer walked to the defense table and conferred with ex-police detective Saye. They held a brief consultation before the lawyer moved away and walked towards the witness. “Is your name Ms. or Mrs.?”
“I hope you are not trying to humiliate me,” she said, pushing her chin up.
“Why do you think I want to humiliate you?”
“Because you keep asking me funny questions that I find embarrassing to answer.”
“But you never found it embarrassing to point fingers at a woman whose fiancé was murdered and you are suggesting that she told you about her plan to murder a man she loved?”
“Those are two things you are talking about.”
“What was your relationship with the decedent?”
You met with him and discussed some issues did you not, the day before he was murdered?”
The witness might have sensed what was coming, and blurted out, “My relationship with Jeff was purely on business.”
The lawyer shifted gears. “What type of business are you talking about?”
“We had a private issue I called business and I don’t think I need to explained it.” Judge Neeto Karnga said, “The witness will answer the question about the kind of business she had with the decedent.”
“What was the business about?” After much wrangling of her hands, the witness said, her voice low, as many leaned forward to hear her: “The truth of the matter is that I was Jeff’s first true love and so after he told me about his impending marriage I met with him the day before he was murdered. When he told me the news, I felt like my world would come to an end. It was difficult for me to imagine that a man whom I had loved back in school was going to have another, one of my friends as a life partner. It was difficult for me to accept and I had to…” her voice broke and was unable to continue.
Jason Doe turned swiftly to Judge Neeto Karnga whose facial expression exhibited an exceptional interest. The judge indicated to the lawyer and the prosecutor to proceed to her chambers, and held a brief consultation.
Two minutes later, Judge Neeto Karnga addressed the court: “It is always an intriguing case when love is at the center of a relationship like this one that has ended in tragedy. While it provides sociologists a chance to examine why others are not willing to let love go away, this case and its resolution indicates sadly that there are times when love blinds our human sense of reason and as a result becomes the foundation for the end of such a wonderful life.” She meanwhile adjourned the case, ordered Mrs. Comfort Tamba released and Tenneh Sombai held for prosecution.