'Psychotic' woman arrested again after manslaughter conviction, release

‘Psychotic’ woman arrested again after manslaughter conviction, release

CHARLOTTE AMALIERenique Francis, who stabbed a man to death on St. Thomas in 2019 and was released from a psychiatric hospital in 2022, has been arrested again after attacking a woman from behind and knocking her unconscious, authorities said.

Francis, 27, was arrested and charged with third-degree assault, disturbance of the peace, possession of drug paraphernalia, and carry or use of a dangerous weapon by a convicted felon, the Virgin Islands Police Department said.

The latest case against Francis began at around 7 p.m. on November 16 at Jala Jala nightclub, according to the probable cause fact sheet filed by police. When officers arrived at the scene, Francis was holding a “razor blade box cutter,” and complied with orders to drop the weapon.

'Psychotic' woman arrested again after manslaughter conviction, release

Renique Francis of Savan on Facebook.

The victim explained that she was working at Jala Jala when Francis entered and demanded a drink, money, and ice. The victim said she gave Francis a drink but told her she had no money or ice, according to the fact sheet.

The victim said she later went to a nearby convenience store to purchase ice, and as she was carrying the bags back, she “was struck in the back of the head with a blunt object,” according to the fact sheet.

Witnesses told police they saw Francis attack the woman from behind and hit her on the head with an object, “causing her to fall to the ground unconscious.”

Police described the weapon as an “unknown object” in the charging documents.

The victim said she “was in extreme pain and having trouble seeing out of her right eye since being struck in the back of the head,” and her vision was blurry, police said.

The victim said she has never had any issues with anyone in her years working at the nightclub, and “she fears for her life if Mrs. Renique Francis gets out of jail and comes after her,” according to the fact sheet.

Francis appeared in court for her advice-of-rights hearing recently and Superior Court Magistrate Judge Paula Norkaitis set bail at $25,000.

Norkaitis also ordered Francis to undergo a psychiatric evaluation to determine whether she is competent to stand trial.

Francis has been in and out of jail since 2017, and was released from a psychiatric hospital in December 2022 after pleading guilty to killing 35-year-old Ashley Browne.

Before the homicide, Francis was jailed for domestic violence charges throughout 2018. She had “multiple violent altercations with staff,” and exhibited “bizarre behavior, aggression towards others, staying up all night chanting and disturbing other inmates,” according to court records.

Her psychotic behavior and auditory hallucinations were so troubling to jail psychiatrist Dr. Leighman Lu, he recommended that Francis be involuntarily hospitalized for mental health treatment.

Instead, she was released back to the streets and arrested for murder less than two months later, after police said Francis stabbed Browne to death during a dispute over a crack pipe in Savan on April 2, 2019.

The territory does not have a secure inpatient psychiatric facility where individuals like Francis can be safely held, so she was returned to jail to await trial.

A federal judge overseeing the St. Thomas jail’s consent decree subsequently ordered the Virgin Islands Bureau of Corrections to transfer Francis to a psychiatric hospital in South Carolina, where she remained through the rest of her criminal proceedings.

Francis pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter on September 20, 2022, and appeared remotely from the Columbia Regional Care Center for her sentencing on December 7, 2022, according to court records.

Superior Court Judge Kathleen Mackay sentenced Francis to five years in prison, with credit for the more than three years she had served in pretrial detention, and all remaining time suspended.

Mackay ordered the Bureau of Corrections to return Francis to St. Thomas and “thereafter immediately release her.”

Mackay also ordered Francis to “continue to take her medication,” and see a mental health counselor or psychologist.

Less than a year later, Francis was back in jail.

The government has long failed to provide critical mental health services to those in need, and former Virgin Islands Health Commissioner Michelle Davis acknowledged in 2018 that individuals like Francis are sometimes released despite being identified as in need of hospitalization.

“Some of those individuals have gone to the street, and some of them probably are dangerous. I can’t say specifically, for sure,” Davis said at the time.

In 2019, Governor Albert Bryan declared a mental health state of emergency, but services remain lacking.

For years, Health Department officials have repeatedly insisted that plans are in the works to construct a secure psychiatric facility in the territory, but none have come to fruition.