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Prosecutors Vow To Re-File Charges Against Accused Arsonist Nibbs After Trial Ends In Hung Jury

james nibbs

HUNG JURY: James Edward Nibbs

CHARLOTTE AMALIE – 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 testified.

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.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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