11 July 2018

Rwanda: Why the Trial of the Gruesome Rwamagana Murder Was Held in Open Court

Photo: New Times
It was so crowded that some guys decided to climb trees nearby to follow well.

The defendant admitted to killing his wife, dismembering her, peeling off her skin, stuffing her remains into a sack and dumping them in the marshland.

Hundreds of residents of Karenge Sector, Rwamagana District sat in silence on Tuesday morning as one of their own was driven to the scene of crime wearing the pink garb worn by inmates.

Most of them had not seen Jean Damascene Ntezimana since he was arrested following the brutal killing of his wife.

The open court heard that Ntezimana killed his wife, mutilated her and stuffed her limbs in a sack before dumping it in a marshland on the banks of Lake Mugesera.

That was in April this year.

The killer was brought along with his friend and suspected accomplice, Joseph Gakire, who attempted to help the killer in a cover-up claim that the victim had abandoned the family home.

The killer sired six children - the oldest being 15 and the youngest 2-years-old - with the victim.

The victim, identified as Beatrice Muhawenimana, was seven-months pregnant by the time of her murder.

Ngoma Intermediate Court chose to bring the trial to the scene of the crime, to allow the residents who knew the estranged couple well, follow the proceedings.

The prosecution accuses him of murder and desecration of a human body including dismemberment.

He pleaded guilty to the crimes.

Ntezimana, 40, told the jury that he had running disputes with his wife.

On the fateful day, the killer told court, he was involved in a bitter quarrel with his wife and walked away to his friend who lived in the neighbourhood.

"When I came back home at around 9:30 p.m., my wife started beating me up with a stick," he said, to murmurs of disbelief among the residents who had braved the scorching sun to attend court.

Ntezimana continued, seemingly unbothered: "I took another cane from the room and hit her back; she immediately collapsed and died."

The day was April 21st.

In an attempt to get rid of any evidence, the Ntezimana told Court that after killing his wife, he cut the body into pieces using a knife, peeled off her skin and flesh then stuffed the bones into a sack which he dumped on the banks of Lake Mugesera.

He disposed of the other body parts in a pit latrine.

Shortly after the murder, the killer told neighbours that his wife's pregnancy did not belong to him and that she had run off with the father of the unborn child.

Days passed, but in less than a week the truth came out.

The prosecution told court that the killer had planned the gruesome murder going by the way he executed his heinous act and the efforts he made to conceal the evidence.

The prosecution also alleges that the killer is suspected to have eaten the fetus and some of the wife's organs including the heart after they failed to find the parts.

However, the killer denied eating the parts or prior planning of the murder.

Towards the end of the day's proceedings, the prosecution said that taking into account articles 142, 180, and 573 of the Penal Code, both suspects should be handed life sentence, which is the heaviest sentence that can be given in the Rwandan criminal procedure.

The judge set July 20 as the day they will pass the verdict.

What neighbours say

Florence Mukanoheri, 37, is Ntezimana neighbor and was a witness during the hearing.

She said the couple had always been in fights adding that the Killer used to beat up his wife on a regular basis but nobody thought it would end up like this,

Stephanie Mukamana, another neighbor said; what Ntezimana did, brought shame to his family and the people of Rwamagana community.

"The entire country got to know about Karenge for all the wrong reasons," Mukamana said, adding that he is lucky Rwanda abolished the death sentence otherwise he deserves more than a life sentence.

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