Trigger Warning: This article contains sensitive information. Details include violence/murder. The information can potentially be upsetting and may trigger negative feelings or memories.
A High Court judge has sentenced a 26-year-old man to over 17 years in prison after he was found guilty of murdering a woman he mistakenly believed had infected him with the HIV/AIDS virus.
Judge Brian Cottle sentenced Desron Roberts, who had been in pretrial detention for almost four years pending trial, to an additional 17 years, five months and 11 days in prison.
On June 27 of this year, Robert pleaded not guilty to the charge of murdering Rhodesia Rochelle Bailey between October 24 and 27, 2018.
The court heard that Roberts, then 22, had a sexual relationship with Bailey, 30, whose home he frequented. On July 16, 2018, Bailey told Roberts she was HIV-positive and two days later he went to see a doctor, who advised him to take post-exposure treatment for HIV and get tested.
Roberts began drug treatment, but did not fully adhere to the prescription as he felt some of the drug’s side effects were too severe. He had bouts of depression and contemplated suicide, but was afraid to tell anyone about his problem for fear of the reaction he would face.
Nevertheless, he continued the sexual relationship with Bailey and in October 2018, decided to kill her, mistakenly believing that she had infected him with HIV. On October 25, 2018, he took a knife with him to Bailey’s. As she lay there wearing only her underwear, Roberts told her that he had come to kill her.
Bailey told Roberts she wasn’t afraid to die and he put the knife down and began strangling her. Bailey tried to reach for the knife but was unsuccessful and Roberts continued to try to strangle him.
Dissatisfied with his attempts to end Bailey’s life this way, Roberts took the knife and began stabbing Bailey, who clung to him begging for his life. Roberts stabbed her several times before releasing her. Bailey fled the house but collapsed nearby.
Roberts went to his house and a passing villager found Bailey’s body early the next morning.
An autopsy revealed that she died of multiple stab wounds.
After his arrest, Roberts confessed to murdering Bailey and taking them home.
In sentencing Roberts, Justice Cottle said there was no need to deviate from the guidelines regarding the purposes of criminal punishment, namely retribution, deterrence, prevention, rehabilitation, and that the court must follow sentencing guidelines unless they lead to injustice in a particular case. .
Justice Cottle added that the court can give an adult convicted of murder a death sentence, a life sentence or a fixed term sentence.
He said there was a significant degree of premeditation involved in the killing, noting that Roberts took the knife with him to the scene and told the victim he had come to kill her.
The judge said the social investigation report indicated Roberts grew up without parental guidance and was abused by a guardian. He dropped out of school in class 3.
Justice Cottle said he found that Roberts lacked the coping skills or the social support network to help him cope with the consequences of contracting HIV and the associated social stigma. He said he was unfortunate that in the face of crises, Roberts could only see a resort to violence. He, however, said he did not consider Roberts likely to re-offend.