June 13, 2006 – Bail has been denied for Officer Joel Dowdye, a detective with the V.I. Police Department charged with murdering his ex-girlfriend Sherett James and injuring her companion Daryl "Bogle" Stevens.
According to Assistant Attorney General Wilson Campbell, the ruling was made Monday at a hearing called by V.I. Superior Court Judge Brenda Hollar. When contacted Tuesday afternoon, Campbell said Hollar called the hearing after motions had been filed by the defense to lower Dowdye's bail – initially set at $500,000 after Dowdye was arrested in March.
Campbell said the prosecution had subsequently filed a motion to remand Dowdye to police custody. "That motion was initially denied, but the judge decided to organize this hearing on her own to revisit the issue," Campbell said.
He said during the hearing that Hollar had to decide whether there was enough evidence against Dowdye to deny bail. Campbell explained that a section of the Revised Organic Act of 1954 states that if an individual is charged with first degree murder, and the "proof against them is evident or the presumption is great," then bail can be denied.
"However, there is also a local statute which states that all persons are entitled to bail unless a judge finds that they are a flight risk or present a danger to their community," Campbell said. "In this case, the judge had to decide which one of those two statutes applied to the Virgin Islands."
He said that Hollar ruled that the Organic Act took precedence, since it has been deemed by Congress as the "law of the land for the V.I."
"Therefore, since the local detention statute conflicts with the Organic Act, it is rendered null and void," Campbell said. "But to get the judge to deny bail, we still had to prove that the presumption of guilt against the defendant was great."
Campbell said during the hearing, the prosecution presented two witnesses – Detective Diane Brown, Dowdye's ex-wife, and Lionel Bess, the investigating officer in the case – who recounted what allegedly happened during the incident that occurred March 25 at the Bunker Hill Hotel on St. Thomas.
Campbell said Brown told that court that on the day of the incident, she received a phone call from an emergency medical technician who had talked to Stevens. "The EMT said that Stevens had talked to him, and that he had identified Dowdye as the man who shot him," Campbell said.
Campbell said that Brown subsequently called Dowdye and asked him what happened. "During the hearing, Detective Brown said she couldn't remember exactly what Dowdye said. It was either that he had just shot two people or that he had just killed two people," Campbell said.
"She then told Dowdye that Sherett James was dead. At that point, Dowdye told Detective Brown that he was going to go on a boat, and she begged him not to go. And at some point, I guess he decided to turn himself in."
He added that Brown was "reluctant" to talk about the phone conversation during the hearing. "I had to show her a signed statement she gave to the police about what happened," Campbell said.
Campbell said that Bess further recounted a conversation he had with Stevens after the incident occurred. According to Campbell, Bess testified that Stevens said Dowdye shot him, and that the incident occurred while he and James were sleeping in a room at the Bunker Hill Hotel.
"Stevens told Detective Bess that the two were sleeping when the telephone rang," Campbell said. "Stevens answered the phone and was told by the front desk that a person by the name of Kenny was there to see him. Stevens said that after the phone call, he lay back on the bed and fell back asleep, until James woke him up and said that someone was downstairs waiting for him."
"Then, when Stevens went to the front door and opened it, Dowdye was standing there with a gun pointed at him."
Bess also told the court that during their conversation, Stevens said that Dowdye shot him once in the stomach and then again in the back when he tried to run out the room. "At that point, Stevens said he fell into the bathroom and played dead," Campbell said.
He added that Stevens told Bess that when he emerged from the room, James was found with a blanket over her head. "There were two gunshot wounds in the blanket," Campbell said. "It seems she had been crouching. She was shot once in the head and once in the left cheek."
Campbell said that Dowdye did turn himself in after the incident and told Bess he was at the hotel that day and that shots were fired after he and Stevens got into a struggle. "Dowdye said that when James tried to break up the fight, she got shot," Campbell said.
Campbell said that the prosecution also has a statement made by the owner of the hotel, who claimed that Dowdye fled the scene after the incident.
Campbell said that based on the testimony of the two witnesses, Hollar ruled there was enough evidence against Dowdye to deny bail. "So he will now return to Police custody pending a trial," Campbell said.
Campbell said that Hollar has not yet set a trial date because there "are still a number of disclosure issues that have to be taken care of," specifically that some forensic evidence is still being processed.
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