Two men plead guilty in murders of priest, nun in church attack
Crime considered among the most heinous on East Caribbean Island of St. Lucia
During a New Year's Mass in 2000, at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Castries, St. Lucia, in the east Caribbean, two men set 13 worshipers on fire and brutally killing a nun and a priest. The two suspects have since entered guilty pleas - but due to Caribbean law, they will not face the death penalty but life in prison.
As their appeals lasted over five years, 35-year-old Francis Phillip and 22-year-old Kim John have been spared the executioner's rope.
Police said Philip and John stormed the Basilica on December 31, 2000, carrying flaming torches and dousing worshipers with gasoline. Both men were accused of beating 73-year-old Sister Theresa Egan with a piece of wood and setting 62-year-old Reverend Charles Gaillard on fire. The worshipers that suffered burns were so serious that the victims had to be treated overseas.
John and Philip are scheduled to be sentenced on February 13. Defense attorney Al Elliott, representing John, said the two men could receive a lesser sentence if the judge takes into account their psychiatric reports and other mitigating factors.
The men were retried after Britain's Privy Council, the highest court of appeal for many former Caribbean colonies, predicated on the argument that that they were both insane. Considered one of the most heinous in the history of this eastern Caribbean island, police said the men declared that they were Rastafarian prophets sent by God to fight corruption in the Catholic Church. Philip laughed during their first trial in 2003. John told the judge he would rather go to the grave "than be a slave in your evil society."
At the most recent trial, neither John nor Philip spoke except when entering their pleas. No victims were present in the courtroom at the time.
The basilica still serves as the island's main Catholic Church and is located across the street from the courthouse in the capital of Castries.
© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM
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