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Mason’s murder trial for beheading a pastor underway Print E-mail

William Danny Mason, Terrence Fernandez, Ashton Vanegas, Keiron Fernandez, and Ernest Castillo, the five men who are accused of the July 2016 beheading murder of Pastor Llewellyn Lucas, are currently on trial in the Supreme Court before Justice Antoinette Moore. Mason, the alleged murder mastermind, made national headlines when the story first broke because he was friendly with several high profile ministers of government.

At press time tonight, the second day of the trial has concluded, and several prosecution witnesses have already testified against the five. They have presented a detailed version of events, which places all five accused, and the victim at Mason’s home in Belmopan.

The first witness, David Dodd, an 80-year-old retiree, testified via Skype on Tuesday from a secure location in Texas. He told the court that on July 15, 2016, the day Pastor Lucas was believed to have been murdered, Lucas asked him and another pastor to accompany him to an employer’s house to collect money. They showed up at Mason’s residence, and after Lucas made a phone call, two young men showed up and opened the gate. All three men drove into the property, and Pastor Lucas jumped out and went up the steps of the house to the front door. Dodd and the other man waited in the vehicle, but a few moments later, two other men showed up and told them that they were being invited into the home. They accepted the invitation and the men led them into a garage, and then a bathroom located in that garage. According to Dodd, they were then ordered to keep quiet, and the men duct-taped their hands, their mouths and their eyes. A bag was then placed over their heads, and they were then led outside the garage, where they were thrown into the back of a pickup. He felt when two other persons were placed into the pickup truck with him, and he sensed the vehicle was being driven off the property. Blindfolded, gagged, and subdued, the witness allegedly heard the chains from the gate being unlocked, and he felt the vehicle traveling on the road, over several speed bumps.

Dodd told the court that he felt the vehicle racing on the road for about 35 minutes, and while on the way, he was able to remove the tape from his mouth. They arrived at a location he did not recognize, and after being questioned by a man he didn’t recognize, he was warned that his captors had all his information and knew exactly who he was. He was then told that he would be free to go if he was willing to forget what happened to them that day. They allegedly agreed with their abductors and they were taken to an area where a vehicle would be made available to them. A vehicle was parked near them, and according to Dodd, this was when the duct tape was removed from his eyes. He immediately recognized it as his wife’s vehicle, and he and the other pastor were told to move forward and not look back. He entered the vehicle with his fellow captive, the other pastor, and they drove away. They were able to find their way to the highway and they escaped as fast as they could. Dodd said that they drove back to Belmopan and that was the last time he saw Pastor Lucas alive.

The second witness to testify was Mason’s house maid. She told the court that she had worked for Mason for about 13 months, and that she would see and speak with Mason as her employer daily. She also recognized and identified the other four accused men as employees of Mason, who worked for him. On the day of Pastor Lucas’ disappearance, she was washing dishes when she saw Pastor Lucas arriving at the gate. She saw Pastor Lucas enter the house and he and Mason had a discussion around a table. She said that she served them refreshments at their request. She told the court that after some time, they left and she did not see where they went. She went to run some errands, and when she returned, neither Mason nor any of the other defendants were at the Belmopan home. She also didn’t see Mason’s vehicle either. When she left at after 6 p.m. that evening, none of the five had returned.

Readers will remember that later that night, the cops discovered Pastor Lucas’ decapitated head in a bucket at the back of Mason’s pickup truck. He was detained by the cops outside a bar.

DPP Cheryl-Lynn Vidal, who is prosecuting this case, called another of Mason’s former employees to testify against him. This man is of Mayan descent, and he had to testify with the aid of an English translator. Also via Skype, he told the court that on the day in question, he was doing yard work for Mason when he saw Pastor Lucas and two other “white men” arrive at the Belmopan residence. He said that he saw when one of the accused went to the vehicle and escorted the white men from their vehicle to the house’s garage. He also identified the men to the court, and pointed the accused out one by one.

He told the court that after he saw this incident take place, he immediately ended his employment with Mason.

Under cross examination, Herbert Panton, the attorney representing all five accused, was able to get the witness to admit that after he had stopped, another person working for Mason convinced him to come back for two additional weeks of employment at Mason’s Belmopan residence.

The fourth witness to testify against Mason was Pastor Richard Smith. He took the stand and told the court that he was contracted to build two or three green houses for Mason. He said he completed his task and he was expecting payment. On the day of the discovery of Pastor Lucas’ head in Mason’s vehicle, Smith allegedly received a call from Terrence Fernandez saying that payment was being made available to him. Smith said that after consideration, he called Howell Gillett, who was the officer commanding Belmopan Police at the time, and he asked for a police escort. Two officers went with him to Mason’s Outback Ranch, located between Mile 30 and 31 on the George Price Highway.

Smith said that he waited for half hour before someone showed up at the gate. About 15 minutes later, he had a conversation with Terrence on the ranch’s property, and he was told that from Mason’s perspective, he had not completed the job, and so he wasn’t going to be paid. Smith said that he and the officers left empty handed. He testified that later that day, he received a call from a phone number and the person identified himself as William Mason. He said that Mason pleaded with him to call off the police search and they would resolve their outstanding business dispute the following day. Smith said that he told the man on the phone that he does not have any authority to intervene in police and their activities.

The biggest testimony of Day 2, however, came from Police Corporal Ryan Martinez, who was a team leader for one of the Belmopan Station’s Quick Response Team. He corroborated Pastor Richard Smith’s testimony that they went to the ranch trying to collect payment, but they were unsuccessful.

Corporal Martinez went on to testify that later that evening, he was contacted by a superior officer, who told him to head to Sancho’s Bar in the industrial site. An off-duty police officer was carefully observing Mason and the other four defendants, who were also at the bar socializing. When Martinez and his fellow officers arrived, they decided to search Mason and his employees for drugs and illegal firearms. Nothing illegal was found on them and so the next course of action was to search Mason’s black Ford F-150 pickup, which was parked in front of the bar. Mason had difficulty gaining access, and so, Martinez and his fellow QRT members were asked to stand guard over the pick-up, while that officer escorted Mason to a spare key for the vehicle. Corporal Martinez asserted before the court that they set up a perimeter around the vehicle, and ensured that no one approach it or touch it in any kind of way. Mason and that other officer returned, but they still couldn’t gain access to the vehicle.

Martinez told the court that the decision was made to search the pan of the pick-up, which was covered by a flatbed cover. He told the court that he was nearby when the officer and Mason managed to get it open, and immediately after that, the other officer shouted in surprise that a head in a bucket had been discovered in the pick-up’s rear. Readers will remember that this was later identified to be the decapitated head of Pastor Lucas. Scenes of Crime technicians were called in, and the scene was processed.

It was at that point that the second day of testimony was concluded, and Martinez was instructed to return on the following day for the continuation of his testimony.

The DPP reportedly has a total of 37 witnesses she intends to call, and the trial is expected to conclude within three to four weeks from now.