Hundreds of residents of Karenge Sector, Rwamagana District sat in silence on Tuesday morning as one of their own was driven to the scene of crime wearing the pink garb worn by inmates.
Most of them had not seen him since he was arrested a week after he brutally killed his wife, mutilated her and stuffed her limbs in a sack before dumping it in a marshland on the banks of Lake Mugesera.
That was in late April this year.
Jean-Damascene Ntezimana was with his friend and accomplice, Joseph Gakire, who covered up for him for a whole week between the homicide and Ntezimana’s arrest.
Ntezimana has six children — the oldest being 15 and the youngest two years — with Beatrice Muhawenimana, the victim, who was also seven-month pregnant by the time of her murder.
Ngoma Intermediate Court chose to bring the trial to the scene of crime to allow the residents who knew the estranged couple well, to follow the preceding.
Prosecution accuses him of murder and desecration of a human body, including dismemberment, which he admitted.
He says it was not premeditated, but prosecution thinks otherwise; they say he took time to prepare for this gruesome murder given the way he executed it that shocked the nation, and the efforts he made to conceal evidence that he had done it.
Ntezimana, 40, told the jury that he had had some disputes with his wife, including on the fateful day, on April 21, and that after the quarrel, he went to visit his friend from the neighbourhood.
“When I came back home at around 9:30pm, my wife started beating me with a stick,” he says, to murmurs of disbelief among the residents who had braved the scorching sun to attend court.
Ntezimana continued, seemingly unbothered: “I took another cane from the room and hit her back, she immediately collapsed and died.”
Ntezimana accepted that after killing his wife, as a way of getting rid of the evidence, he cut the body into pieces using a knife, peeled off her skin tissue from bones, stuffed the bones into a sack and dumped it on the banks of Lake Mugesera. He dumped the other body parts in a toilet.
In covering up for the death, Ntezimana told neighbours that his wife’s pregnancy did not belong to him, and that she had eloped with the man who was responsible for the pregnancy.
Days passed, but it was not before a week later that the truth came out.
However, despite the fact that he completely denies the allegation, Ntezimana was also accused by the prosecution that he may have eaten some organs of the deceased, including the heart.
Prosecution says they could not find both the heart and the fetus, after recovering all other limbs.
Towards the end of the day’s proceedings, prosecution said that taking into account articles 142, 180, and 573 of the Penal Code, both suspects — Ntezimana and his accomplice, Joseph Gakire — should be handed life sentence, which is the heaviest sentence that can be given in the Rwandan criminal procedure.
The judge set July 20 as the day they will pass the verdict.
What neighbours say
Florence Mukanoheli, 37, who is Ntezimana's neighbour, was a witness during the hearing. She said the couple had always been in conflicts and she revealed Ntezimana used to regularly beat his wife.
She however said nobody thought he could do such heinous crime.
Stephanie Mukamana, another neighbour, said; “What Ntezimana did was act of cruelty, after killing and dismembering his wife, as parents and people in this community, we are ashamed of what he did. The entire country got to know about Karenge all for the wrong reasons.”
She added he deserves life sentence “but only because Rwandan government has abolished death sentence.”