An Aquinnah man charged with murder has pleaded guilty to manslaughter and will serve a seven-year sentence.
Ovando Eghill, 32, pleaded guilty Thursday morning in Dukes County Superior Court to manslaughter and assault with a dangerous weapon for the June 2011 stabbing death of Michael Trusty. In the past Mr. Eghill claimed he had acted in self-defense, but in court Thursday he said that was not the case.
Judge Gary Nickerson accepted a joint recommendation for Mr. Eghill to serve four and a half years on the first count, and two and a half years on the second.
On Tuesday, jury selection began for the trial, with Mr. Eghill charged with murder and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. But Thursday morning, the two sides agreed to a resolution. Mr. Eghill’s wife and several supporters were in the courtroom.
Cape and Islands first assistant district attorney Michael A. Trudeau, who represented the state with assistant district attorney Laura Marshard, amended the indictment to manslaughter and assault with a dangerous weapon. With Mr. Eghill on the witness stand, Mr. Trudeau recited the facts of the incident on June 14, 2011 on Spring street in Vineyard Haven.
According to Mr. Trudeau, Mr. Eghill was present at a residence there, as was Mr. Trusty, 45, who was the ex-husband of Mr. Eghill’s wife. Mr. Trudeau said that there was a confrontation between the two men, and at one point Mr. Eghill retrieved a knife he had in his waistband. He opened the blade and showed it to Mr. Trusty, Mr. Trudeau said, and the altercation escalated to the point that Mr. Eghill pushed Mr. Trusty.
Mr. Trusty retrieved a machete from his pickup truck, Mr. Trudeau said. At some point, Mr. Eghill stabbed him. He was transported to a Boston hospital with a single stab would to the chest area. He died three days later. Mr. Eghill left the scene, Mr. Trudeau said, and turned himself in to the Tisbury police a short time later, where he gave statements indicating that he was defending himself.
“Before any physical contact with Mr. Trusty, did you display the knife to him?” Judge Nickerson asked. “Yes, sir,” Mr. Eghill answered.
Judge Nickerson asked Mr. Eghill at what point he stabbed Mr. Trusty. “Before or after he grabbed the machete,” the judge asked. “Before,” Mr. Eghill said.
“Is it your claim today . . . you were acting in self-defense when the knife came into Mr. Trusty’s chest?”, Judge Nickerson asked. “No, sir,” he responded.
Judge Nickerson warned Mr. Eghill, who is a native of Jamaica, that with his guilty plea he could be deported if he is not a citizen. Mr. Eghill's attorney, Robert Jubinville, said that Mr. Eghill is also represented by an immigration lawyer in Boston.
Mr. Trudeau said that Mr. Trusty’s family did not submit an impact statement, and could not be in the courtroom Thursday. Mr. Trusty also was a native of Jamaica, Mr. Trudeau said, and his family was in that country attending to a family matter.
Under the original terms of the agreement, he was to serve the first four and a half years in state prison at Massachusetts Correctional Institute - Cedar Junction in Walpole and two and a half years at a house of correction. Mr. Jubinville told the court that Mr. Eghill has been employed for the last six years on the Vineyard, and he supports his wife, who is pregnant, and four children, as well as his parents in Jamaica. He asked the court to amend the sentence to allow him to serve the entire sentence at the Dukes County house of correction because it would be “an extreme hardship for his wife and children to come off-Island and visit him.” He also asked the court to consider allowing Mr. Eghill a week to spend with his family before turning himself in.
The judge agreed to the first request but not the second. Mr. Eghill was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs.
Mr. Eghill had been free on $10,000 bail since 2011.
“Given the nature and circumstance of the incident . . . this is an appropriate resolution,” Mr. Trudeau told the Gazette afterward. “I think it will bring some closure to the relatives of Mr. Trusty.”
“It’s likely that the defendant will be the subject of deportation hearings at the conclusion of his period of incarceration,” he added.
He commended the Tisbury police department, particularly Det. Mark Santon, and the Massachusetts State Police detective assigned to the district attorney’s office. “This was a lengthy investigation that required a lot of work on their part that allowed us to resolve it,” he said.
“It’s a sad case all around,” Mr. Jubinville told the Gazette.
“He’s always expressed his sorrow and remorse for the death of Mr. Trusty,” he said.