83.2 F
Cruz Bay
Friday, September 30, 2022


A jury of nine women and three men deliberated for three and a half hours before finding Reuben Vigilant guilty of attempted murder after he hacked his girlfriend with a machete in the midst of a heated argument last January.
But Vigilant wasn't there to hear the testimony or the verdict.
Vigilant, 25, was charged with one count of attempted murder, two counts of first-degree assault, one count of possession of a dangerous weapon during a crime of violence, three counts of mayhem, two counts of third- degree assault, and one count of aggravated assault and battery.
Friday's proceedings, scheduled for 9 a.m., got off to a late start when Vigilant failed to show up. Inquiries to the hospital, police and airport authorities turned up empty, giving no indication as to his whereabouts.
Vigilant had been released from custody on a $25,000 property bond.
Territorial Court Judge Ive A. Swan ordered the proceedings to move forward at 10:30 a.m.
Brandishing a machete, Assistant Attorney General Lofton Holder demonstrated how Vigilant repeatedly struck 19-year-old April Xavier as she curled up on the ground in a fetal position and shielded her face with her hands.
"People use this in every situation," Holder said, holding up the machete and slicing it through the air. "People use it to chop cane and to chop bush. People use it in every situation except against another person. If you use it against another person, what is your intent? And when you use it against another person 13 times, what is your intent?"
Xavier, who was in the courtroom Friday, survived the attack but suffered serious injuries to the head, neck and hands. She lost three fingers on her right hand and her left thumb was severed. The thumb was later reattached. She was initially treated at the Roy L. Schneider Hospital but was later flown to Florida where she underwent additional surgery.
On Jan. 2, Xavier, her brother Benoit Xavier, their sister Cathy Xavier, Cathy's boyfriend Matthew Maxwell and Vigilant became embroiled in an argument outside the Xaviers' Smith Bay home. The sisters had been planing to go to a movie together but Cathy testified that Vigilant didn't want April to go. Vigilant then grabbed Cathy by the throat but the fight was broken up by Maxwell.
At this point Cathy ran into the house to get a machete, but Maxwell wrested it away from her and threw into the bushes. Vigilant then pulled a machete out of his car. He and April began arguing and he repeatedly hit her with his machete. Several unsuccessful attempts were made to stop him. A neighbor also witnessed the attack.
Vigilant was arrested the following day.
During Friday's proceedings, a gasp erupted from the jury as Holder read excerpts from a letter found in Vigilant's car. In the letter, Vigilant blamed Xavier's family and friends for the attack.
"I never wanted to do nothing to my baby but you all jumped me and I had no choice other than to flip," he wrote. "I want to be part of the family but her family used me and her mother make a fool of me. Whatever happened to her is her mother's fault."
Attorney Queen Terry, who is defending Vigilant, said the letter gave no indication that her client ever intended to kill Xavier.
"We believe this letter shows there was no intention of harming anyone," she said.
"Yes, he assaulted April Xavier, we don't deny that, but did it rise to the level of attempted murder?"
Terry urged the jurors to make their own interpretation of the letter and consider whether Vigilant actually intended to hurt, maim and disfigure Xavier. Terry also pointed out that throughout the two-day trial, none of the witnesses testified that Vigilant was attempting to murder his girlfriend when he slashed her with the machete.
"This was an argument that escalated. It just went on and on until the point that everyone was hot-blooded, everyone was hot-tempered," she said.
Maxwell, who testified against Vigilant, was later arrested and taken into the custody of the Immigration and Naturalization Services after Terry revealed his status as a Dominican native who had entered the United States illegally.
In his rebuttal, Holder told the jury that Vigilant has taken no responsibility for his actions and failed to show any remorse for the pain and suffering inflicted on Xavier.
"We are not going to stand for a person hitting another person with a machete and we are not going to stand for a person hitting another person with a machete 13 times over the head," he said.
The Xavier family is being held in an undisclosed safe house until Vigilant is located. He was reportedly spotted in Red Hook and in Havensight on Friday. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.
Vigilant is scheduled to be sentenced July 21.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.

Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.