Update November 23rd: Both assailants as identified below in the Murder of Captain Vern Fine; appeared today before the judge where the district attorneys office (Ministerio Publico) presented charges of First Degree Murder. After presentation of the overwhelming evidence against them by Captain Vern’s legal representatives paid for through donations; they have both been officially charged with First Degree Murder and will be transported to the FUSEP prison system of La Ceiba, Atlantida, as is standard procedure to await trial. The trial can take anywhere from 3 months to 2 years to conclude. An organization of “Utila United” has been formed to insure the legal process for this case and any other threats to the usual peace and tranquil environment of the Island of Utila has full legal representation for however long it takes. We will update you with more on this organization as more details become available.
Under Honduran Law the defendants will face up to life in prison if convicted as Honduras does not have a death penalty. Of note however is that Honduran law provides inmates who reach the age of 60; eligibility to be reassigned to House arrest. There are many loopholes in the penal system in Honduras to avoid jail time and as such it is important for the everyone to support the organization that has been formed in Utila to insure crimes committed against the peace of the island do no go unpunished. If you wish to help in any way we will be providing more information about “how you can help” as the details are fully documented and available.
Once again the efforts of the Honduras Police COBRA special forces unit that has been stationed on Utila the past few months along with the many concerned Utila residents and organizations were instrumental in insuring that justice is served for Captain Vern.
Update 12:40 am November 19th: Video – Interviews with Captain Vern’s Crew Member and Local Informants
The first video is a first hand report of the chain of events that occurred upon notification that Captain Vern’s catamaran had run ashore on the island of Utila. As the video shows, members of the Utila community, law enforcement, the military, and expatriates on the island, all worked together and followed every lead in order to apprehend the suspects. The First Mate, who was rescued by the Honduran Navy and Marines, the Cobra unit, and the local police force should be commended for their quick response, in addition to those associated with the US Embassy; all assisted in the capture of the two suspects, and honored Captain Vern with discretion and diligence.
The second video is Suspect Assailant #1 Máximo Antonio Géminis known as Jose Cassasola 39 years old originally from Copan – For those who do not understand Spanish, in this video, the suspect Jose Cassasola admits that he was there and saw the incident take place, and he hopes the other suspect will change his story and admit to the killing.
The third video is Suspect Assailant #2Laureano Cerna Centeno 28 years old originally from Colon – For those who do not understand Spanish, in this video, the suspect Lauriano Centena admits that he was there and saw the incident take place, and when asked if he murdered Captan Vern, he basically replies, “Well, that’s what they’re accusing me of.”
Honduras News thanks Utila’s HQTV for sharing their video. The entire footage is available on Utila’s Cable TV – HQTV.
Update 6:30 AM November 18th: Suspected Assailants caught this morning trying to escape on the Utila Princess
A teenager this morning tried to buy two tickets on the Utila Princess; the police have arrested him and his family, who were hiding the alleged assassins. The suspects are currently at the Utila FUSEP Jail pictures below.
Update 12:00 PM noon November 18, 2012: We have received complete video of the eye-witness accounting of the events from HQTV, as well as video of the two suspects who are currently in custody. We have posted the complete videos of the interviews with the two suspected assailants and an edited account of the chain of events will be up shortly. Honduras News will update the Facebook page when we have the next video online.
One of the alleged assailants has lived on Utila for many years in Campo Lacho, the entrance to which is two houses East of the Bay Island Originals, just past Mermaids and the Utila Cinema; his name is Jose Cassasola. The other suspect’s name is Lauriano Centena, who is a resident of La Ceiba, originally from the department of Colon. Interviews with both men are included in the video.
Update: 3:00 PM November 17, 2012
The Catamaran could be seen around 3:30 to 3:45 pm, up against the rocks at Paradise Cove by the residents who first boarded and found Captain Vern slain. Our HondurasNews.com reporter was with one of the residents of Utila early this morning at the Utila Municipal Dock and assisted in translations with the Honduran Police. We apologize for the discrepancy in times, and some of the inconsistencies in the original account, and can only offer that exhaustion, and the shock many were experiencing who were closely involved in the gathering of information, have played key roles since this tragic incident occurred.
According to Captain Vern’s long time companion, referred to later in this report as his “usual First Mate”, she and Captain Vern had been suspicious of the the two passengers from the beginning, and so she had been phoning Captain Vern every 30 to 45 minutes, to check that all was okay. When she phoned at 2:00 pm, however, there was no answer. Based on this, the time of the incident is now estimated to have happened sometime around 2:00 pm.
Update 6:30 AM November 17th, 2012
Following an interview with the First Mate this morning, who was accompanied to the Utila Municipal Dock by police to review passengers leaving the island on the Utila Princess ferry headed to La Ceiba, the account of events has been clarified as follows:
The First Mate was driving the boat, while the two passengers went below deck where Captain Vern was using his laptop. The First Mate reported that there was an argument, followed by things breaking. As he approached to see what was going on, one of the assailants pulled a gun on the First Mate, who then jumped over board fearing for his own life. He was adrift at sea for approximately 40 minutes before being rescued by the Honduran Navy / Marines.
The Catamaran was found, by a resident who lives directly in front of the cove in the Trade Winds area, at full throttle up against the cliff in the small cove. The resident, was assisted by two others, and managed to get up onto the Catamaran while in neck high water. He proceeded below deck, and found Captain Vern lifeless, with multiple stab wounds. Other residents had been called to help with the Catamaran and arrived by boat pretty much at the same time. A video of the chain of events is posted above.
Honduran Police are transporting the First Mate back to Roatan this morning. According to the Honduras Cobra police officer at the ferry this morning, descriptions and drawings of the assailants have been given to the law enforcement officials on Utila in order to assist in identifying the assailants. Members of the National Police, and one Cobra officer were present while the Utila Princess was boarded this morning, prior to leaving for La Ceiba.
The coast guard was able to rescue the crew member, who is being kept under guard at this point, as he is able to identify the assassins who had steered the Catamaran into the Red Cliff harbor, and jumped off, fleeing into a heavily wooded area. There is currently a large presence of Law Enforcement on the Island of Utila, as the Honduras Primary elections are scheduled this coming Sunday, the 18th of November. Law enforcement from just about every division of the Honduran police force are investigating this matter, but due to the current heavy rains, the search is somewhat hampered.
At this point the motive is unconfirmed the only thing identified missing so far is his Laptop which is believed to have been thrown over board by the assailants. Captain Vern logged all Identification of his passengers on his laptop computer.
Captain Vern is extremely well known in Roatan and Utila, as well as around the world, and for those who would ask about his “usual first mate”, she was at home. She and Captain Vern had purchased a residence in Roatan just last week. Captain Vern’s body is currently at the Utila Clinic, and arrangements are being made to transport his body to La Ceiba, as required by law.
No further information is available, other than the matter was quickly escalated to the Top Honduras Police Chief, “Tigre Bonilla”, and the police spokesman for the National Police of Honduras said simply, “We are going to catch them.”
This story will be updated as more details become available.
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The Honduras.com Team. Reporting exclusively and on the scene for this tragic event.