March 7, 2002 – Nearly four years after the shooting death of a St. Thomas jeweler, two brothers have been sentenced to life in prison for the crime of first-degree murder.
Irvine Hodge Jr. and his younger brother, Devon Hodge, were sentenced Tuesday in U.S. District Court to the life terms for the killing of Emerald Lady shop owner Larry Davis in the 1998 armed robbery of the Back Street store.
Davis was shot in the head at point-blank range as he emptied the jewelry store safe for a trio of armed men who invaded the Emerald Lady on May 8, 1998. An armed security guard, Gwendolyn Rawlins, was disabled after she was shot four times by the assailants. The three assailants made off with nearly a quarter million dollars worth of merchandise from the store, according to authorities.
Jason Hull, who was convicted after pleading guilty to federal armed robbery charges in the case, was sentenced to 19½ years in prison. Hull's defense attorney, George Hodge Jr, appealed for a lighter sentence, saying his client had no prior criminal record.
That was not the case for Irvine Hodge, who had been convicted of another earlier armed robbery of $231,000 at the same store, in 1995. He was sentenced in 1999 to 13 years in prison in that case.
In March of 2000, armed with evidence that Irvine Hodge had shot Davis in revenge for the jeweler's testimony in the previous case, then-U.S. Attorney James Hurd added witness tampering to the charges against Irving Hodge in the 1998 case, triggering the possibility of a death sentence under federal sentencing guidelines, even though the Virgin Islands does not have capital punishment.
At one point, District Judge Thomas Moore sealed the 1998 case while the terms of a plea bargain were worked out. The deal resulted last May in the Hodge brothers pleading guilty to first-degree murder and Hull pleading guilty to armed robbery.
Before Moore delivered the sentences Tuesday, those in his courtroom heard from Davis's widow. Belinda Davis, who has moved from St. Thomas since her husband's death, sent a letter which was read aloud in court. In her eyes, she wrote, St. Thomas lost its standing as Paradise when her husband was killed, and the men who did it had placed themselves "above God and man's law."
Also heard for the first time in court, Rawlins said she had "no remorse, no pity, nothing," for any of her assailants.
Irvine Hodge apologized for killing Davis before receiving his sentence of life without parole.
Devon Hodge also was sentenced to life by Moore. He then received an additional sentence of 32 ½ years in prison as a result of pleading guilty last September to second-degree murder in the shooting death of a Savan bar owner, also in 1998. Reporters attending the second sentencing, in Territorial Court, said the Devon Hodge cried upon hearing his fate from Judge Ishmael Meyers.
Attorney Treston Moore, representing the younger Hodge, was successful in getting the court to agree to a concurrent sentence, meaning Devon Hodge would serve the two sentences at the same time for the murders of Davis and of Paradise Bar owner Ainsley "Blackie" James.
Still awaiting trial is a fourth figure in the 1998 Emerald Lady case. Lennie Blash, who was arrested last May in Miami, has been charged with acting as a lookout while the three convicted assailants robbed the jewelry store.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Nelson Jones, the prosecutor in the Blash case, could not be reached for comment Thursday morning.


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