Liberia: “What Did I Do?”
— Former Chief Justice laments as she mourns the murder of her niece by an armed robber
Charloe Musu was a trusted daughter, sister and outstanding student. On Wednesday, February 22, she had brought home a letter from Starz University, where she was a senior student, saying that she was eligible to graduate. Little did she know, that very night, she would have the fight of her life, and her precious life would be taken away.
Exactly a week prior, on February 8, armed robbers entered the Brewerville home of Cllr. Gloria Musu Scott, Charloe's aunt. The robbers entered through an external ceiling and gained access to the house through the kitchen. Since they could not access the rest of the house, they grabbed some kitchen utensils and also managed to open the shop which Cllr. Scott operated from her home, grabbed only a bag of rice from there, and left.
The following day, the armed robbers returned, having found another way to enter the house, this time through the living room. But when they still could not find what they were looking for, they exited the house, and headed for her car. There, they disabled the alarm system, opened it, lifted all the seats, and left files and documents in the car scattered.
Cllr. Scott said she reported both incidents to the Liberia National Police (LNP), who told her they would investigate the incidents. Police said in a statement that they had been patrolling the area since then.
But the following Wednesday, February 22, a man, believed to be one of the robbers from the previous two attacks, apparently gained access to the sleeping quarters of former Chief Justice's home where, during the previous two incidents, they had not been able to reach.
No one knows for sure how the man got in there. Police say there is no evidence of break-in, but Cllr. Scott suspects the murderer probably gained access to the house earlier in the day when the steel gate to the living quarters would likely be open, and hid somewhere in there until the evening hours, when Cllr. Scott and all the children were going to bed.
The Liberia National Police, in a statement on February 23, said it "has begun investigation into the incident that took place at the Brewerville home of former Chief Justice Gloria Musu Scott on Wednesday night, leading to the death of one of her children." However, its "preliminary investigation shows no evidence of a break-in."
"Preliminary findings from [the] Wednesday night (February 23) incident, which occurred about 9:30pm., as narrated by Madam Scott, revealed that a man who was part of a crew she hired to carry out some construction work at her residence remained hidden inside at the end of the work day, while his colleagues had retired for the day," the LNP statement said.
According to the police statement, former Chief Justice Scott said she had observed during the day that the man in question [looked] somewhat 'strange' among the construction crew.
The fight of her life
It is believed that Charloe may have gotten up later that night to go to the bathroom when she encountered the robber in the hallway and tried to run to her aunt's door to get help. That was when she was attacked by the robber and the tussle between them ensued.
He began stabbing Charloe as she valiantly tried to fight him off and prevent him from taking the keys to the sleeping quarters. He needed those keys, else he would have no other way to exit the house.
Cllr. Scott said she emerged from her room to see her niece covered in blood, as the robber snatched the keys from the girl's hand, saying, "give me the f***ing key."
"That's how I rushed on him and sprayed him with the pepper spray I had. If he had a gun, he would have shot me."
But he managed to escape, making off with Cllr. Scott's laptop computer and the phones of everyone in the house.
The LNP added that Cllr. Scott "is now under appropriate police protection", after having reported some days ago in a radio interview that her family had experienced several attempts from suspected burglars to enter her home at night. This report led to an increase in police patrol in the area.
"The police is currently in search of the suspected robbers and urge the public to come forth with any information that will aid its investigation," the statement, signed by LNP spokesman H. Moses Carter, concluded.
Two others in Cllr. Scott's home were wounded. Alice Johnson, 18, and a niece to Cllr. Scott, is critically wounded and in hospital. Alice is a 12th grader at Life International School, Logan Town.
Gertrude Newton, in her early 50s and a cousin to Cllr. Scott, is also slightly wounded.
Aunty Gloria's hand and foot
Being the first among her biological siblings to be graduating from college was a major achievement for Charloe, to say the least.
But what better tutelage could she have had than that of her own aunt, a former Chief Justice of the Republic of Liberia? Cllr. Scott took her in at the age of eleven, from her biological parents, who reside in Maryland County. She did not grow up as a house girl or a child laborer. But she did make herself useful, and her presence was felt in the household. Cllr. Scott said she could trust her with anything.
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"She was my hand and my foot," Cllr. Scott explains to a room full of sympathizers. "Charloe was like my boy child. She could even change the oil in the generator. I could travel for a month and leave Charloe in charge of the house and when I returned, I would meet everyone and everything intact. She would give me a full account, nothing short."
Charloe's parents, Cllr. Scott explained, were very excited when they heard the news on Wednesday that their eldest child was getting ready to graduate from Starz University. They sprang into preparation mode and Charloe's mother even announced that she would bring a goat for the celebration.
"What Did I Do?" Cllr. Scott kept asking herself, as sympathizers poured in at her Sinkor’s residence where she was relocated on Thursday morning, under armed police protection.
The multiple, sustained attacks on Cllr. Gloria Musu Scott and her family seem to have a pattern that suggests the attackers were after more than personal belongings. They could have raided her provision shop, but only took a single bag of rice from there. But the clues might be found in the fact that during one of the previous attacks, the robbers entered her car and went through the documents she kept in there. Also, on that fateful Wednesday, February 22, the robber made off with her laptop and a few phones.
So what were they looking for? That is the question that cost Charloe her life.
Among other things, Cllr. Scott has complained that the Government of Liberia is indebted to her for salary arrears from her service at the Supreme Court.
As a former Chief Justice, Cllr. Gloria Musu Scott is sought after by many high profile clients in Liberia and abroad for her experience and expertise in Liberian jurisprudence. Of late, she was facetiously and openly chided by a lawyer from an opposing side in one of her cases, wanting to know her stake in her client's case. "You are not a Liberty Party member," the lawyer said, "so why are you pleading this person's case?"
In response, Cllr. Scott said to the man, "My client has every right to seek my counsel and I have every right to represent her."
David S. Menjor contributed to this story.