The family of the late Odell Sherman is set to bury the remains of their deceased daughter on Friday, August 30, 2019, after the Government of Liberia (GoL) through the Liberia National Police (LNP) released the body for interment (burial).
The body of Odell, a senior high school student of the Harriett Bailey United Methodist School, was discovered at the home of Reverend Emmanuel Giddings in Duazohn, Margibi County during the early morning hours of Tuesday, May 22, 2019, after the completion of her West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE).
Mrs. Cynthia Rivercess Sherman, mother of the deceased told the Daily Observer that Odell should have been buried last Saturday, August 24, but due to the government’s failure to communicate with authorities of the St. Moses Funeral Home to prepare the body, the internment was postponed to a later date.
“But it is all set for Friday”, Mrs Sherman told the Daily Observer and the funeral will be held at 10 a.m. at the St. Moses Funeral Parlor along the Somalia Drive.
Mrs. Sherman said her family was asked by the government, through Justice Minister Musa Dean, to pay for the three months the body spent at the funeral parlor, while subject to the police investigation.
“After a heated debate,” Mrs. Sherman said, “the government agreed to pay for the three months, while we pay for all other requirements including the casket.
“All I want now is to bury Odell. But I will not keep quiet about the way my daughter died and the manner in which the government is proceeding with the investigation.”
She continued, “The government cannot intimidate me on this case because I will make sure this story is told from generation to generation. If it causes me to write a book, I will do it to help other women advise their children, and understand how people with money kill people and go with impunity.”
“Even if I get justice, I cannot get my Odell back. But all I want is that this poor family’s story serve as deterrence to similar violence against our women and girls.”
Rosana G. D. Schaack, Rivercess County District #15 said with the case embroiled in a legal process, the Legislature cannot interfere.
Rep. Schaack, who chairs the Women’s Legislative Caucus, said the Ministry of Justice in collaboration with the Liberia National Police (LNP) will have to investigate and send the case to court before the oversight of the Legislature comes in.
“Though Odell died, the police has done an investigation and we need to wait for the outcome,” she said.
Rep. Schaack said the Ministry of Justice informed her that police has done their preliminary investigation and swipes have been collected from all the suspects present at the home of Rev. Giddings for DNA.
“So if you say they don’t have suspects, they have, but I am not a lawyer to know what is going on with the case,” she said.
“The DNA swipes were taken from the body and samples were taken from everybody present at the home of Rev. Giddings the night the incident occurred to enable the DNA investigation, Rep. Schaack said.
Moses Carter, LNP spokesperson in a telephone interview, told the Daily Observer that all the samples needed for the DNA have been taken and sent to the pathologists who will send it to a company in the USA to establish whether Odell was sexually assaulted.
“We are doing what you call the swipe analysis and the swipes have been collected and sent to the Ministry of justice. To our understanding, the ministry has forwarded the swipes to the pathologist and he is going to send it to a company,” he said.
“The autopsy has been conducted,” Carter said, “and we are waiting for the report from the pathologist. That is why the government turned the body over to the family for burial.”
Carter said the process “should be trusted” because the pathologist was recommended by the family and its outcome will determine how the investigation proceeds.
“If the autopsy proves that there was no foul play and she died naturally then, automatically, case closed. But if not, we will also look at other issues in bringing the perpetrators to book.”