Liberia: Maher Zobandy Town Chief Sentenced to 35 Years Imprisonment

Judge Peter W. Gbeneweleh

The Town Chief for Maher Zobandy Township in Bomi County has been convicted by the 11th Judicial Circuit in Bomi County for allegedly authorizing the murder of a citizen of the township, Joe Jenekai, between November 27, and December 5, 2021.

During that period the victim's lifeless body was discovered floating in the Maher River. Judge Peter W. Gbeneweleh, who delivered the judgment, after confirming the trial jury's initial guilty verdict, also sentenced the 39-year-old Town Chief, Folley Kollie, to 35 years in prison.

The government lawyers had earlier indicted the Town Chief and several other individuals including one Junior Varney for the murder of Jenekai.

The indictment claimed that Jenekai, a resident of an adjoining village that is separated by the Maher River, entered the room of the complainant, identified as Kermah Coleman, during the night of December 5, 2021, and allegedly stole her flashlight. 

Based on Coleman's complaint, Kollie authorizes some of his townsmen, including Varney, to beat Jenekai with cutlasses, resulting in some of his teeth being broken.

Later, Jenekah’s lifeless body was discovered floating on the Maher River, the following morning.  During the trial, which opened in June 2022, the now convict, Kollie, said that he did not authorize co-defendant Varney and several others who had escaped before the commencement of the case, to murder Jenekai.

However, Gbeneweleh said the court considered it proven that Kollie ordered co-defendant Varney and the other defendants to escort the victim to his town across the Maher River which resulted in the death of Jenekai.

“Jenekai over the years has traveled safely and freely to and from Maher Zobandy town to visit his girlfriend and was never reported missing and found dead floating on the river,” Gbeneweleh said.  “It was only that fateful day that the town chief Folley Kollie gave the order to escort him across the river that he was missing and subsequently found dead floating on the Maher River.”

Before Gbeneweleh handed down the sentence, the court, as is usually done, mandated the Probation Division office of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), to conduct a presentence investigation to establish whether Kollie had a prior criminal record.

However, the essence of a probation officer in the entire Bomi County means the court had to do the exercise, and during the investigation, residents of Kollie town begged for mercy but the judge ordered 35-year imprisonment.

Initially, the prosecution had prayed for life imprisonment, but Gbeneweleh did not honor the government lawyers' request.