St. Croix Man Gets 35 Years In Prison For Brutal Beating Death Of Church Deacon
KINGSHILL — A 22-year-old man will spend much of his life behind bars for his part in the brutal 2015 beating death of 73-year-old Augustus Bannis in Upper Love on St. Croix.
Superior Court Judge Harold Willocks sentenced Avondale A. George, Jr. to 35 years for second-degree murder, 15 years for first-degree robbery, 10 years for third-degree assault and five years for unauthorized use of a vehicle.
The sentences are to be served concurrently — which means the most George will serve in prison on this conviction is 35 years.
VIDOJ Assistant Attorneys General Eric Chancellor and his co-counsel Amie Simpson prosecuted the case. A jury returned the guilty verdict on December 4, 2019 after deliberating for just 45 minutes. His peers found George and co-defendant Enock Justin Cole guilty of second-degree murder, first-degree assault, first-degree robbery and unauthorized use of a vehicle.
George and Cole aided and abetted each other in the perpetration of the robbery, taking Bannis’s vehicle against his will and brutally beating him in the process.
On that fateful day, he left his home in Estate Upper Love and headed to the park. According to an affidavit, an officer stated that he arrived on the scene and found Bannis laying on the ground face up with what appeared to be blood pooled in the collar of his shirt.
EMTs transported Bannis to the Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital where he was listed as unconscious but in stable condition.
George and Cole struck Bannis in the head and repeatedly kicked him about the body, causing a blunt-force head injury and his subsequent death on October 19, 2015.
He remained in a comatose state and two months later, on October 19, he succumbed to his wounds at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.
He died as a result of “delayed complications of (a) blunt (force) head injury.”
George and Cole were arrested in November of 2015.
Cole is scheduled is to be sentenced at a later date. Two other accomplices have not been tried in court.
At the sentencing, due to COVID-19 the victims did not present Victim
Impact Statements. However, AAG Chancellor read portions of prepared statements from family members including Bannis’ wife and daughter.
“He was not only my husband but my other half, my best friend, my soul mate, my one and only true love, my children’s father, my breadwinner and more. His life was centered on his family and he loved many, for he was a loving and caring man”, said Maria Bannis, wife of the victim.
Jackie Zamore, Bannis’ daughter stated, “He was taken prematurely in the cruelest fashion; was beaten without any provocation and left for dead like an animal on the street.”
Bannis was a former pastor of the First Baptist Church in Salisbury, Dominica for 18 years before relocating to St. Croix for 10 years.
He served as a Deacon at the Calvary Baptist Church on St. Croix where he taught Sunday School, bible school, mentored the young, and assisted the elderly.