Jamaica: Father of woman found in cooler box rethinks position on capital punishment

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Jamaica: Father of woman found in cooler box rethinks position on capital punishment
Campbell (right) and Khyhymn who was found dead in a cooler box in a car on the Winston Jones Highway last week
Campbell (right) and Khyhymn who was found dead in a cooler box in a car on the Winston Jones Highway last week

(JAMAICA OBSERVER) — Returning to the classroom Monday for the new academic year, two days after identifying the lifeless body of his only daughter and youngest of two children from a photograph at the Mandeville Police Station, has made Bishop Dr Amos Campbell a more contemplative man.

Campbell, an educator at Hampton School for girls in St Elizabeth, has been in the profession for more than two decades and heads the Religious Education Department at the institution.

He told the Jamaica Observer that he comfortably taught the subject over the years, including a section of the syllabus that deals with capital punishment.

Not believing that it should be revived, Campbell said that his view was that individuals convicted of murder should serve their sentence and work in order for funds to be saved and allocated to affected families, who, many times, have lost their breadwinners.

“I would not [advocate for] hanging. If I was the prime minister, I would let murderers work,” he said.

Campbell said that under the watchful eyes of soldiers, these prisoners could be trained to do work, helping to, for example, maintain public buildings and carry out roadwork across the island that often cost exorbitant sums.

However, having heard about the violent past of the suspect in his daughter’s murder, he now believes that some people may not be able to be rehabilitated and the law may have to be exercised in a way that the authorities see fit.

“I am now rethinking it (my position on capital punishment),” said Bishop Campbell, adding that the system that governs parole needs to be revisited.

The body of Campbell’s daughter, 25-year-old Khyhymn, was found on the back seat of a car in a cooler box on the Winston Jones Highway last week.

Police say the body was nude and had what appeared to be cuts to the back and front of the neck and face. The throat had also been slashed, the police said.

Linton Stephenson, also called Gary Stephenson, 59, a deacon at the Mandeville Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) Church who had been on parole for killing his wife in St Mary and was wanted for assault and illegal possession of firearm, is now being sought as a person of interest in the matter.

A house that he resided in at Bloomsville Circle in Mandeville has reportedly been found with evidence that suggests that the murder could have taken place there and he was transporting the body elsewhere, but the car in which the body was found could only take him as far as the highway.

Campbell said that as he reflected on the injuries his daughter received, as shown in the image of how she was found in the cooler box, he felt the alleged killer was determined to ensure that she died.

“That was not a regular ice igloo. That was a portable coffin. The quicker justice is done, the better,” he said.

Another thing Bishop Campbell said he is rethinking is the way the church, including the True Vine True Holiness Ministries, of which he is in charge, should go about promoting members.

He said that when, especially newly baptised members are considered for special office, among the due diligence should be external recommendation to assess how they operate within the community and a police record to properly assess their past and their transformation.

“It can’t just be about numbers,” said Campbell.

He said that his daughter, a past student of Bishop Gibson High School who had started a bachelor’s degree programme in education at Northern Caribbean University, was adamant about living on her own although he wanted her to complete her studies and have a suitable level of stability first.

Campbell said she was not a student anymore because she was interested in being a paediatrician and being an educator was his dream for her.

Campbell said Khyhymn went on her own some months ago, and that among the jobs she had was working in a restaurant.

He dismissed suggestions that she was in a relationship with Stephenson to fund her studies, as throughout the time she was in school she was living at home. He said her family has always supported her and she could have stayed at home as long as she wanted, noting that young people should realise that their parents will always have their interest at heart.

“Wait on the Lord. Young people don’t have to run down anything,” he advised.

Campbell, who also lectures Greek at the Regent College of the Caribbean, formerly Jamaica Bible College, said that his family is trying to cope with the assistance of support that they have been getting.

“I am really appreciative of the high level of support that we have been getting from all denominations, including the Mandeville SDA Church, where the alleged murderer is a deacon,” he said.

Campbell said that members of the Ministry of Education team in Region 5 have also reached out to him.

He remembered his daughter as kind, calm, soft-spoken, one who was active in football and cheerleading in high school, and someone that participated in dance and youth leadership at his church.

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