A 36-year-old man, Cyrus K. Paye, who wasted gasoline on his fiancée Etta Paye and set her ablaze, resulting to her death at the ELWA Hospital, is expected to spend the rest of his earthly sojourn behind bars after he was on Wednesday, March 18, sentenced to life in prison.
The incident occurred on December 29, 2017, at their Mount Barclay Community residence, beyond Paynesville City.
Judge Roosevelt Z. Willie of Criminal Court ‘A’, at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia, handed down the maximum sentence, while Paye dropped his head and closed his eyes in tears.
Willie said he based his decision on the “overwhelming evidence” against Paye.
Judge Willie also said Paye committed the crime of arson because the fact and testimonies of the witnesses proved that the defendant wasted gasoline on his fiancée and lit the fire that led her to death.
“It is this fire that burnt the entire house to the ground later,” Willie said justifying the sentence upon Paye to life imprisonment.
The Panel law, Section 15.1, provides that “a person is guilty of Arson, a felony of the second degree, if he starts a fire, or cause an explosion with the purpose of destroying a building or occupied structure of another and destroying a vital public facility.”
Shortly afterward, Willie ruled that “Facts and circumstances and the laws controlling the court hereby confirmed and affirmed the unanimous guilty verdict of the Trial Jury.”
The judge added: “It is considered judgment of this court that the defendant Cyrus K. Paye is hereby sentenced to life imprisonment with immediate effect.”
The trial jurors on March 12 convicted defendant Paye of murder and arson for setting ablaze his fiancée, Etta Paye, on the night of December 29, 2017, shortly after returning from their room of deliberation with a unanimous guilty verdict against Paye.
The defense lawyers had argued that there were no eyewitnesses in the room with the defendant and the deceased, to testify to the effect that it was Paye who wasted gasoline on his fiancée, Etta Paye and burnt her, which later resulted to her death at the ELWA Hospital.
They further argued that all of the prosecution witnesses who testified quoted the deceased as telling them the story before her death, and therefore said testimonies must not be admitted into evidence as it is ‘hearsay evidence’.
But, Judge Willie sees the defense lawyers’ argument differently.
“When in the judgment,” he said, “the evidence provided by the prosecution witnesses who encountered the deceased before her death declared who lit the gasoline on her that led to her subsequent death.
“As such, they cannot be considered as hearsay evidence based on the declaration made by the deceased to her two children and the neighbor, who burst the house and took her to the ELWA Hospital.”
In a counter argument, the prosecution said defendant Paye murdered his fiancée because when Paye escaped the fire incident, he knew well that his fiancée and his children were in the house, but never made any effort to see her critical condition prior to her death. But Instead, Paye escaped from the community to Nimba County, where he was arrested just before about to cross the border.
The indictment stated that during the early morning of December 29, 2017, Defendant Cyrus K. Paye came home with a liquid substance believed to be gasoline and kept it in the room, where he and the deceased lodged.
It further alleges that while the defendant and the deceased were asleep, he (defendant) woke up at about 2:00 a.m. and, with a criminal mind, he purposely and intentionally sprinkled the liquid believed to be gasoline on the deceased and set her ablaze.
The document also claims that the deceased, in her agony cried out loud for help, and when one of her children came from the children’s room with a bucket of water to pull it o her, the defendant kicked the bucket of water from the boy and allowed the deceased to burn severely.
It further stated that the defendant locked the entire house and put the keys into his pocket , thereby prompting neighbors who came around to burst into the house to rescue the deceased and her two children.
When the deceased was pulled out of the house later, the defendant had escaped and she was subsequently taken to the ELWA Hospital, but later died while undergoing medical treatment.