On Thursday afternoon, police in Belize City issued a statement in respect of Wednesday night’s hanging death of 18 year old Otto Raimundo Palma of Ladyville, Belize District, who they say was found hanging with his white shirt tied around his neck, from the metal bar at the top of a holding cell. No other signs of injury were found on the body.
Otto Palma has been arrested twice previously on rape charges, and was being held a third time in connection with the alleged rape of a child at 7:46 a.m. on Wednesday.
A post-mortem examination on the body is scheduled for Friday but according to officer commanding Criminal Investigation Branch (CIB) for Eastern Division, Superintendent of Police Hilberto Romero, police are thoroughly investigating the circumstances of Mr Palma’s death. He describes how the suspect was found.
“Wednesday, upon information received, the CIB personal visited the Ladyville Police Station cell block area, when they observed the lifeless body of Otto Palma, 18 years of a Ladyville address, hanging from one of the iron bars within the cell block area of the Ladyville Police Station, hanging with a t-shirt around his neck apparently dead. The scene was process, the body was viewed, and no signs of any violence was observed on the body. Otto Palma was detained pending charges of rape in regards to a report that was made by a minor in Ladyville.
He had the t-shirt tied to the metal bar in the cell block, which is about six and a half feet off the floor, and he had tied the t-shirt to his neck and he was suspended about 1 foot from the floor.”
“You are a seasoned investigator. Is there anything in that scenario which would strike you as a little odd, or can you see exactly how something like that would happen?”
Superintendant Hilberto Romero
“We have the scenes of crime technician that processed the scene, and yes, there is a lower bar within the cell block where one could place their feet and gain access to the upper part of the bar, and then you could release your foot and you would be left suspending from that metal bar.
Otto Palma’s family says there was a lengthy delay in their getting to see their loved one’s body, but the Superintendent says the delay was not that long; Mr Palma’s mother was able to view the body after the crime scene photographer was finished.
He says he personally is not aware of any alleged police brutality directed at Otto Palma as the family alleges, or that Ladyville Police may know more than they are telling. At the end of the day, he says, a full investigation will determine what took place.
“Again, as we any sudden or unnatural death, we do a thorough investigation. Then at the end of that investigation, then we will conclude, based on the post mortem and other tests that are done, we will conclude our findings then. We are not saying that we are ruling anything out at this time, but again, on investigation will know what transpired.”
Beyond providing a family member to formally identify the body at the start of the post-mortem, Superintendent Romero says families may be present at the morgue for the post-mortem, but not allowed inside until it is complete and the body is turned over to them.