Police suspect arson to be the cause of 20 burned acres of cane in Orange Walk district. The case has resulted in Efrain Paul Alpuche and Saulito Vasquez, both employees of Ramon Cervantes’ family, being arraigned for arson before Magistrate Sharon Frazer in Orange Walk on Wednesday.
The men are believed to have deliberately set a fire, which resulted in the destruction of 20 acres of cane belonging to ASR/BSI, in San Lorenzo . The cane burned is valued at more than $40,000. Magistrate Frazer has granted bail to both men in the sum of $40,000.
“I am innocent. They have to prove me guilty. I can’t see how they could prove me guilty,” Alpuche told the media as he emerged from the Police Station after securing bail on Wednesday evening, claiming that he is happy to be out after 48 hours.
Orange Walk Police maintain that they have charged the persons who committed the crime. They responded to a call from the San Lorenzo canefields on Monday evening and claim that a blue Mazda pickup parked near the scene of the fire. The occupants were Efrain Alpuche and Saulito Vasquez. Police originally let them go, but after questioning the ASR/BSI watchmen at the fields to get more information, police detained them again. This time they were found on the San Antonio Road.
Superintendent Dennis Arnold, Officer-In-Charge of Orange Walk, told the Reporter that the watchmen claimed that the blue pickup stopped near the fields and they heard a loud bang. Soon after they saw smoke and fire. The Reporter has also been able to confirm that one of the watchmen initially claimed that the men fired shots at them, but Police could find no evidence to support that allegation.
Sources tell us that at this point police are relying heavily on forensic evidence surrounding the blue Mazda pickup, allegedly used to commit the crime.
Forensics personnel spent well over an hour processing the vehicle, with particular attention to a broken side-view mirror.
Police Superintendent Dennis Arnold would not give details of the investigation, but police sources tell The Reporter that a broken piece of mirror was found in the BSI canefields, and they are trying to determine if it matches the missing piece of the blue pickup.
The case has received particular scrutiny because Efrain Alpuche is the bodyguard of Ramon Cervantes Jr., a political candidate for the People’s United Party and a member of the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association. Saulito Vasquez, the second man charged for arson, also works for the Cervantes family.
No plea was taken from the men because the matter is an indictable one. They have been ordered to report to the police station every week and to surrender all travel documents. They are to return to Court on June 2, 2015.