He's been on remand awaiting murder for almost 2 years, but tonight 32-year-old Vildo Lorenzo Westby is back at prison awaiting a sentencing hearing. That's after he was found guilty today of the February 2017 murder of 44-year-old Jose Felix Ayuso.
Viewers may remember that crime, which was a cause of great pain for the San Pedro community. Ayuso was the owner of a unisex salon on the island, and he was also a well-known AIDS activist. Westby, the man now convicted of his murder, was on the run from the island cops for almost a year, until he was caught in Mexico, and he was sent back to Belize as a wanted fugitive.
In his trial without a jury before Justice Colin Williams, Senior Crown Counsel Shanice Lovell prosecuted the case, and she called 11 witnesses who shared details to the effect that on the day of Ayuso's murder, Westby visited him at his home to collect money. The prosecution's case that Ayuso refused him, and grabbed his phone to call the police. In response, Westby, according to the prosecution's case, viciously stabbed him to death. The medical examiner testified that Ayuso was stabbed more than 15 times, but the fatal injuries are believed to be one that penetrated his eye and punctured his brain, and another to the left side of his neck.
In his defense, Westby gave sworn witness testimony in which he admitted that he stabbed Ayuso. But, he claimed that he was provoked to act in self-defense. He told the court that while he was at Ayuso's house, Ayuso allegedly attempted to fondle him a sexual manner. He said that this offended him, and he stabbed Westby with one of the spokes found on bicycle wheels, which he had in his possession. Westby claimed that he and Ayuso then ended up in a struggle and that Ayuso grabbed a screwdriver and tried to attack him with it. Westby added that he was able to wrest the screwdriver away, and he later realized that he was over Ayuso stabbing him. He also told the court that he confessed to the crime to his ex-common-law wife, and he tried to explain how Ayuso's advances embarrassed him, and he never wanted anyone to suspect that he was gay.
After consideration of the evidence presented by the prosecution and the defense, Justice Williams was not convinced that Westby was justified in killing Ayuso. In the judge's view, Westby used excessive force, and so, he found Westby guilty of murder.
Shortly after the verdict, a member of the San Pedro community announced the outcome on Facebook saying, quote, "No one could believe that this beloved community activist could have met such a tragic and violent endâ€¦ I'll never forget them dragging his son from his coffin, as they laid him to restâ€¦ Today, I can't say I'm happy, but I am relieved to share with you that Felix's family has finally seen justiceâ€¦ I hope that everyone can share some solace in this outcome." End quote.