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Man jailed for three years for killing teenager in hit-and-run

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Kingsley Burchall holds a photograph of his daughter, Jen-Naya Simmons (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

A man convicted of a fatal hit-and-run that killed a teenager has been sentenced to three years behind bars.

Terrance Walker, from Pembroke, had denied causing the death of 18-year-old Jen-Naya Simmons by careless driving.

However at his sentencing yesterday he told the court for the first time that he was in the car involved in the fatal collision and that he was protecting the identity of the driver.

“This is a burden that I will carry with me for the rest of my life to protect the other person present in the vehicle,” Walker said.

He added: “I’m truly remorseful that I did not get out of my vehicle and stay with Jen-Naya. Confusion and panic took over.”

Puisne Judge Juan Wolffe said he accepted Walker felt remorse for his actions, but that his admissions meant nothing if he did not say what he knew.

“If what the defendant says is true, then he seems to appear more willing to protect someone who took the life of a promising young lady than do right by Jen-Naya,” he added.

“If he was truly remorseful he would now come forward and tell authorities who caused the death of Jen-Naya.”

Mr Justice Wolffe sentenced Walker to three years behind bars and ordered that he be banned from driving all vehicles for five years.

A family in mourning speak about their loss

During the sentencing the Supreme Court heard a series of victim impact statements written by those who were close to Jen-Naya Simmons about the impact of her death on them.

Her family described the 18-year-old as a funny, intelligent and sassy young woman pursuing her dream of becoming a doctor.

Yah-nae Simmons, her younger sister who was with her on the night of her death, said she often pondered where Jen-Naya would be today had her life not been ended.

“I have accepted that I will never fully recover from what happened that Sunday morning,” she said.

She said that in just 18 years, Jen-Naya had been able to make a huge impact on everyone who knew her and everything she touched.

“You took my sister, my best friend, my protector,” she added. “You have inflicted so much pain on my family and I. For that, I will never forgive you.”

Jada Simmons-Trott, a close friend of Ms Simmons who was also with her on the night of the collision, said the loss of her friend had caused her sleepless nights and depression.

She told the court she had avoided driving over the area where the fatal collision occurred.

Jayshon Simmons, Jen-Naya’s older brother, said nothing would ever repair the pain that had been caused by the loss of his sister.

He said that his children would never be able to get to know their aunt.

“They see her picture every day, but they know she’s gone,” he said.

“I will never see her back from college, having a family of her own. She will never see my children grow.”

During his Supreme Court trial, a jury heard that in the early hours of July 15, 2018, Ms Simmons was on her way home from a house party in Warwick when the fatal collision occurred on North Shore Road in Hamilton Parish.

Ms Simmons was declared dead on arrival at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital and an autopsy revealed severe head injuries, along with fractured ribs and a series of abrasions.

Jada Simmons-Trott, a friend of Ms Simmons, said she had seen a grey or white-coloured van moving west in the area partially in the eastbound lane moments before she lost track of her friend.

Another witness said she had seen a silver van travelling west turn off its lights moments before she came across the scene of the collision.

The witness said she later saw the same van ride through the scene of the fatal collision travelling in the opposite direction, noting the vehicle had four people inside.

CCTV footage on North Shore Road showed a silver van approaching the crash site near the time of the collision, and the vehicle was found to be registered to Walker.

The same vehicle was seen later travelling in the opposite direction on the same road.

Walker told police later that he was the usual driver of the vehicle, and that the van had been involved in a “fender bender thing”, but denied that it had been involved in an accident.

The court also heard that Walker performed as a DJ, and was promoted as a performer at an event at Bailey’s Bay Cricket Club on the night of the collision.

Glenn Luben, a US-based investigator who gave evidence for the Crown, said Ms Simmons had fallen – and was later struck by another vehicle while she was in her own lane.

However, Michael Prime, a British collision investigator and witness for the defence, said it was more likely that Ms Simmons had fallen into the incoming lane and was knocked back into her own lane when struck.

Walker was found guilty by a majority verdict of 9-3.

Carrington Mahoney, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, called for a sentence of no less than five years behind bars, noting that the defendant had not only left the scene but took efforts to hide his involvement.

Along with turning off the vehicle’s lights in the immediate aftermath of the collision, he said the vehicles’ front bumper had been replaced and other work to the vehicle was done before it was traced back to him.

Mr Mahoney also noted that Walker had not come forward despite several public appeals, both by authorities and the victim’s family.

Marc Daniels, counsel for Walker, however argued that the offence, while tragic, was at the lower end of the spectrum.

He suggested the evidence showed the vehicle that struck Ms Simmons was on the centre line and was estimated as travelling at about 52km/h – over the legal limit, but not at excessive speed.

He urged the court to consider all the circumstances of the collision, including that the victim had been drinking and did not have a valid drivers licence on the date of her death.

Mr Daniels said that while Walker maintained that he was not the man behind the wheel, he expressed genuine remorse for Ms Simmons’s family and had broken down when he discovered that she was the daughter of a friend.

He added that while the decision to leave the scene was an aggravating feature, such an offence carries a maximum penalty of six months behind bars.

Mr Daniels argued that while it was appropriate for Walker to receive a period of incarceration, he suggested a sentence of one year, with the majority of that period suspended.

Mr Justice Wolffe said that while he would provide a more detailed decision in writing, it was clear that Ms Simmons was a much loved young woman robbed of her potential by her untimely death.

While he agreed that the manner of driving was near the lower end of the spectrum, Walker’s actions in the wake of the collision showed a level of callousness.

Mr Daniels called on the court to suspend the start of the sentence until after Walker’s case can be heard by the Court of Appeal, but Mr Justice Wolffe rejected the proposal stating there was no sustainable reason to do so.

It is The Royal Gazette’s policy not to allow comments on stories regarding court cases. As we are legally liable for any slanderous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.

A family's grief: Jen-Naya Simmons's aunt, Anika Smith, grandmother Jennifer Burch and her father, Kingsley Burchall were joined by other family members at the scene of a road collision on North Shore Road, Hamilton Parish, just west of the Aquarium, where the teenager was killed on July 15, 2018. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)