Published On: Thu, Apr 7th, 2022

Court orders conditional release of Amy Velasquez-killer Ashton Lake


PHILIPSBURG — After more than 38 years of imprisonment, Ashton Lake will become a free man again on July 1. On May 9, 1984, the Court in First Instance sentenced Lake, who turned 59 on January 18, to life imprisonment for the kidnapping, rape and murder of Amy Velasquez in St. Maarten. The Velasquez-family vehemently opposed Lake’s release, but the court ruled that continued detention does not serve a reasonable purpose.

Father, mother and two sisters of Amy Velasquez told the court that they are still traumatized by the crime Lake committed all those years ago. “They are of the opinion that, given the gruesomeness of the crime, the convict should never be allowed to be conditionally released,” the ruling states.

The solicitor-general concluded during a court hearing on March 22 however that Lake can be conditionally released to his native Anguilla on the general condition that he will not commit any crimes during a lifelong period of probation.

Lake’s attorney Shaira Bommel told the court that, based on reports from psychologist Drs. M. Van de Vorst and psychiatrist  Dr. F.G.M. Heytel, the continued execution of the life sentence does not serve any reasonable objective. “The psychologist has concluded that the risk of relapses is low and that Anguilla has declared it is prepared to cooperate voluntarily with the conditional release.”

Furthermore, Bommel noted that the law speaks of a sentence review after 25 years, while her client has already served 38 years.

The court ruled that the purpose of the life sentence in 1984 was to protect the community against relapses by the defendant. “At the time reports showed that the convict did not show any conscience, while the risk of relapses was considered to be significant. Psychologist Van de Vorst concluded in court that the risk of relapses is low and that Lake has developed skills that fit with functioning in society. He also testified that Lake has shown insight in his problems, that he has opened up during recent interviews and that he has expressed regrets to Amy’s father.

Van de Vorst said that he and psychiatrist Heytel “do not see any reason for psychological or psychiatric treatment.”

“Most important is that the convict gets practical guidance during his return to society in the fields of housing and finding work.” The doctors stated that there have not been indications of alcohol or drug use for years.

After the new article 1:30 Sr went into effect on June 1, 2015, Lake was summoned to court based on this article on May 31, 2018. After that date another ten court hearings followed.

The law states that lifers can be conditionally released after they have served at least 25 years, if the court concludes that continued imprisonment does not serve a reasonable objective anymore. “The execution of a prison sentence without any perspective for a return to society can result in a dehumanizing situation.”

The purpose of the sentence review is to prevent that the execution of a life sentence can automatically or based on improper motives result in a hopeless existence for those involved.”

The court acknowledges in its ruling that the position of the victim’s relatives also have to be taken into account.

“The purpose of the life sentence was to protect the community against relapses by the convict. The latest report from the psychologist states that the risk of relapses is low and that the convict has sufficient social skills to function in society,” the ruling states, adding that, according to the psychologist, the probation officer and the prison in Curacao, Lake’s behavior in prison has been “on all fronts very positive.”

Based on these arguments the court concluded that protection of the community can no longer take precedence. “The statements of the victim’s relatives are important, but in this case they are not decisive.”

The court acknowledges the seriousness of the crime and the misery it has caused to the family. “However that cannot be a reason for not granting conditional release to the convict after such a long detention of almost forty years.”

The court concluded that the continued execution of the life sentence no longer serves a reasonable objective.”

Upon his release on July 1, Lake will be deported to his native Anguilla.


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