SANTA CRUZ, St Elizabeth — The Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) yesterday evening joined the St Elizabeth police as they struggled to piece together a puzzle surrounding the death, apparently by poisoning, of Kerry-Ann Powell, a 30-year-old teacher at Park Mountain Primary School, just west of this south-central town.
Powell’s boyfriend (name withheld) — with whom she and her twin daughters shared a home in the Horizon Park housing estate in Santa Cruz — is in hospital in stable condition suffering from the effects of what appeared to be chemical poisoning, police say.
INDECOM said it was probing the incident because one of three suspects is a member of the police force.
The three suspects, INDECOM said, are in police custody.
Reports from relatives and friends of the victims say the two adults were up and getting ready for work and school some time shortly after daylight when, according to the boyfriend, two men and a woman entered the house.
The boyfriend, described by neighbours as a truck operator, reportedly said he was “sprayed” in the face with some sort of chemical and fled in panic to the bathroom to wash it off. He later exited the bathroom to find that Powell had been forced to ingest a substance of some kind.
Neighbours say both victims were heard crying for “murder” and “help”. They were reportedly rushed to hospital where she succumbed. The two children were not hurt, relatives and neighbours say.
The boyfriend was said by neighbours to have separated from his wife, who moved out some time ago. Neighbours said Powell had moved in with him in recent months.
Head of the St Elizabeth police, Superintendent Lanford Salmon, told the Jamaica Observer that his team was diligently probing the incident but that information was “sketchy” and confusing.
“What I can confirm is that a woman is dead and it seems to be connected to something toxic. I can also confirm that a man is in hospital in connection with the same incident,” Salmon said.
When the Observer visited the house in the early afternoon yesterday, a police forensic team was on hand.
And at Park Mountain Primary School, about a mile west of Santa Cruz, teachers and children were in shock and grief.
Principal Karlene Williams Heath showed the Observer graphic artwork done by Powell’s grade three class following news of her death. Most pieces carried ‘I love you’ captions with at least two appearing to depict their teacher in a coffin.
“The teachers and children are devastated. We are trying to cope, but it is very difficult,” said Williams Heath.
She described the deceased as “a pleasant teacher” and a team player. “She was excited about her students, someone who … you could depend on her, when she is given a role, she just wants to understand what to do, she will do it. She will be sadly missed…,” she said.
INDECOM has appealed to anyone with information that can assist with the investigation to call its Central Regional Office in Mandeville at 876-961-1542, or call its mobile number — 876-878-0167, or toll free: 888-991-5555 or 888-935-5550.