Father of slain 10-year-old girl collapses in court

2016-12-05 13:46
Jerome Amerika, 23, who was found guilty of raping and killing 10-year-old Shamonique Claasen in February. (Jenna Etheridge/News24)

Jerome Amerika, 23, who was found guilty of raping and killing 10-year-old Shamonique Claasen in February. (Jenna Etheridge/News24)

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Cape Town – "She was my flower. You plucked her." These were the words Shawn Lewis uttered to his 10-year-old daughter’s killer on Monday before he collapsed in the witness stand.

Lewis, wearing a faded shirt bearing Shamonique Claasen’s picture, cried and struggled to breathe. His thin arms slipped from the wooden stand and he had to be ushered out of courtroom two of the Western Cape High Court.

He was testifying in aggravation of sentencing for Jerome Amerika, 23.

Amerika stared ahead with a slight smirk.

"Sien jy wat jy gedoen het? [See what you have done?]," someone in the packed public gallery shouted down at Amerika. They later shouted: "Hulle wag vir jou daar binne. Jou ding gaan pyn. [They are waiting for you inside prison. Your thing is going to be sore.]"

On Thursday, Amerika was found guilty of raping and killing Shamonique. On Monday, the court was hearing testimony in aggravation and mitigation of sentence.

'I will take care of her until I die'

Shamonique went missing in Paarl on February 27, a day before her 11th birthday. Her body was later found rolled in a blanket and tied up with wire under Amerika’s bed. She had a black bag over her head and a stab wound to the chest.

Before breaking down, Lewis described his only biological child as loving and playful.

"I want to ask the court one question. Jerome, why did you do it? You are not worthy of being in this life. You have made my heart very sore," he said in Afrikaans.

Amerika had dated Claasen’s older sister. She had obtained an interdict against him at one point, but the two later made up and lived together with their three-year-old child.

A court had also found him guilty of dragging Claasen's sister into the bushes, hitting her with a stick and raping her twice in April last year.

Lewis confirmed to the court that he was taking care of Amerika’s child.

"I will take care of her until I die," he told the court. "I am taking her as my Shamonique Claasen in my heart."

The girl’s Grade 5 teacher at Dal Weide Primary School, Allison Naidoo, described her as a "beautiful sunshine child with a lovely smile".

While she was taller than her peers, Naidoo said Shamonique had stood out above the rest because of her personality, work ethic and neatness, despite her socio-economic circumstances.

'Her sun set while it was still day time'

To deal with the trauma of her death, Naidoo had asked her class to write letters and messages to Shamonique.

"Every day, we put fresh flowers on her chair and we honoured her until she was buried," she said, struggling to hold the tears back.

"Her sun set while it was still day time."

Defence lawyer Daniel Theunissen did not call any witnesses. On the charges relating to Claasen's sister, he questioned why she had not laid a charge against Amerika and had got back together with him.

At one point, he said Amerika did not have a good upbringing.

Prosecutor Maria Marshall hinted that it could be a case of battered woman syndrome, especially because there was a child involved.

Judge Robert Henney postponed the matter until Wednesday. Further argument and witnesses relating to the dynamics of abusive relationships were expected.

Read more on:    cape town  |  crime  |  rape

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