ST. THOMAS, V.I. – Prosecutors will be refiling charges against
James E. Nibbs, Jr after his trial ended in a hung jury late Friday morning.
After hearing two days of
testimony and after deliberating for five hours, jurors returned to the
courtroom just before noon and announced to V.I. Superior Court Judge Denise
Francois that they were deadlocked.
Nibbs, 40, faced one count of
second-degree arson, stemming from a Dec. 28, 2015 incident.
During the course of the trial,
which began Wednesday morning, several witnesses, including the victim, Erline
Roach, took the stand to testify on the prosecution’s behalf.
Roach told jurors that she took
her car to Cliff Tonge to be repaired. Nibbs was also working at the same
mechanic shop at the time. Roach said she paid Tonge $700 before he did the
work, but after she retrieved her vehicle, she noticed that the work on her car
was not completed. She called Tonge to tell him that she was still experiencing
problems with the car.
“Two days later, Mr. Tonge and
Mr. Nibbs called me. I went to the police station to make a report. While at
the police station, Mr. Nibbs left a voice message on my handset,” Roach
Prosecutors relied on that voice
message to prove their case against Nibbs. The voice, which sounded like a
man’s, demanded money from Roach, then threatened to burn something.
Roach, who said she knew Nibbs
and had heard his voice at least four times on the telephone and three times in
person, said she recognized the voice on the recording as Nibbs’.
Tonge, who also offered
testimony, stated that he has known Nibbs for about 14 years. After listening
to a replay of the voice message inside the courtroom, Tonge told the court
that it was Nibbs’ voice on the recording.
According to an affidavit filed
by police detective, Alex Dorsett, Roach told police that on Oct. 10, 2015,
Nibbs left a message on her mobile phone that he wanted his money or else he
will come and burn her vehicle. Then, on Dec. 8, 2015, at about 12:30 a.m.,
Nibbs went to the Mariel C. Newton Command and reported to a police officer
that he just burned a vehicle in the Frydenhoj area. On that same day at about
6:30 a.m., Roach called 911 and reported that someone burnt her vehicle.
During Nibbs’ arrest on Jan. 21,
Dorsett played the voicemail recording that was left on Roach’s cellular phone
and Nibbs said, “I didn’t mean the message; I was just upset at the time,”
Dorsett wrote in his affidavit.
Assistant Attorneys General Quincy
McRae and Natasha Baker argued the case for the government.