Police: Trini-US citizen was beaten to death

MURDERED: Hyacinth Gardner  -
MURDERED: Hyacinth Gardner -

Police believe Santa Rosa resident Hyacinth Gardner, 72, was beaten to death by a bandit.

Her body was found by police and a workman on Monday morning at her Lime Boulevard, Santa Rosa home.

The Santa Rosa Community Council issued a statement hours after the murder describing Gardner as “a cherished member of the community” and said the incident had left the neighbourhood shaken.

It added, “While the council has been in talks with the police about revitalising the neighbourhood watch groups, it hurts that the initiative did not bear fruit in time to possibly alleviate (Monday’s) incident.”

Around 8.30 am on Monday, a man who worked for Gardner went to her home and saw her car was missing and the CCTV cameras were interfered with.

The man, who had keys to the house, entered and saw several items missing.

He tried calling Gardner’s phone but when she did not answer, he became worried and went to the Pinto Police Post to make a report.

The police went with him to the house, where they pried open a bedroom door and found Gardner’s body.

Her car, a silver Subaru, was found crashed and abandoned in Wallerfield.

Gardner migrated to the US several decades ago but returned home in December 2023 after travelling between both countries for the last few years.

She intended to stay in TT while completing renovations at her home on Lime Boulevard.

On Tuesday, Santa Rosa Community Council president Keifer Rodriguez told Newsday the community has been in talks with the Santa Rosa police post to discuss the revival of the police council.

“The issue really is how we, as a group, move forward to get more resources, to access more resources for the area. The police post itself is so small for the geographical area that it really serves.”

“There's not enough resources to really cover the entire jurisdiction adequately. So I think that's where the problem really lies. In terms of deferring criminal activity, the (police) presence is not really felt as it should.”

He said police officers have agreed with them and told them the concern has been raised with the relevant authorities.

Rodriguez said the council is also attempting to boost resident’s confidence in the TT Police Service (TTPS).

“We are trying to build a confidence between the TTPS and the police post and the community itself because in the past residents felt a bit scared to report anything or to say anything. So the initiative also is to try and let them know they can feel free to call the police and if they see something, say something.”

Police are said to be following leads into the incident but there has been no word yet on whether the US embassy has volunteered its assistance given Gardner’s dual US-TT citizenship.

The US State Department’s travel advisory was last updated in July 2023 and urged US nationals to reconsider travel to TT due to crime.

The embassy also issued a Carnival safety alert on January 24, warning of a “heightened risk of crime during Carnival.”

It also warned of an increase in household robberies and urged people to “be observant.”

Newsday contacted the US embassy to ask whether it will be assisting local authorities in the investigation however there was no response up till the time of publication.

US authorities have previously assisted in investigating the murder of US citizens in TT.

The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) assisted the TTPS with the investigation into the kidnapping and death of 62-year-old Balram Bachu Maharaj in April 2005.

Maharaj, who also held dual US-TT citizenship, was kidnapped by armed men from a bar in Aranguez while visiting TT to check on his mother.

He was taken into the hills of the Northern Range, where he was bound, gagged and tied to a post.

The kidnappers demanded a TT $3 million ransom but Maharaj, who suffered from several health issues, died in captivity.

His dismembered body was eventually found stuffed in a barrel and buried in Santa Cruz in January 2006.

The FBI’s Miami Division Extraterritorial Squad, with the assistance of the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs and the FBI’s legal attaché’s office in Port of Spain, worked with the TTPS to solve the case.

Eleven TT citizens, including Maharaj’s ex-wife, were extradited and are now serving sentences ranging between ten years and life in a US jail for their involvement in his death.

Three other people arrested were either freed or found not guilty.

The case was prosecuted in Washington DC, the default venue in cases involving the overseas kidnapping of US citizens.

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"Police: Trini-US citizen was beaten to death"

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