Leon Walford gets life sentence for the death of Lamont Lipka; Tracey Betancourt still on the run

Wednesday, April 26th, 2023

On Monday, April 24th, Leon Walford, 38, was given a life sentence after he was found guilty of murdering San Pedro businessman American national Lamont “Monty” Edward Lipka in 2018. Walford and islander Tracey Betancourt were found guilty of the crime in July 2022. However, Betancourt remains at large.

Leon Walford

Justice Ricardo O’Neil Sandcroft handed down Walford’s judgment at the Supreme Court in Belize City. The life sentence, less the time served on remand, leaves Walford with 42 years and three months remaining in prison. The case hearing started on Friday, April 21st, and included a mitigation plea on behalf of Walford. The court session also included virtual statements from Lipka’s mother and sisters. The sentencing was adjourned until Monday, the 24th.

Tracey Betancourt

Betancourt, who was detained but managed to get bail, was to report to court on July 28, 2022, for her ruling. Since she was a no-show, a bench warrant for her arrest was issued.
Lipka, an American national from Texas, U.S.A., was killed at his place of business, Tropicana Bar & Grill, located on Coconut Drive south of San Pedro Town, on Sunday, May 13, 2018. According to residents in the area, around 9:30PM they heard several gunshots; when they came outside, they found Lipka’s lifeless body inside his restaurant. According to the San Pedro Police Department’s official report on the incident, Lipka was standing inside his restaurant at the cash register with his back facing the side door when an unknown male of a dark complexion fired shots at him, reportedly six times. The culprit then ran onto Coconut Drive in a southern direction, making good his escape.

Lamont “Monty” Edward Lipka

One day after Lipka’s murder, Betancourt and 18-year-old John Carlos Hernandez was arrested and charged with Kept Ammunition without a Gun License after San Pedro Police searched Hernandez’s apartment and discovered seven 9mm live rounds of ammunition.
On November 5th, Walford and Betancourt were jointly charged for Lipka’s murder while he was still a fugitive of the law. Following Betancourt’s arraignment, police intensified their search for Walford, and police apprehended him on November 18, in Belize City, after being at large for months. He was then arraigned at the San Pedro Magistrate Court on Wednesday, November 21, 2018, for Murder and Conspiracy to Commit Murder.
According to surveillance footage, John Carlos Hernandez, Betancourt, and Walford, were at the crime scene. After police collected fingerprints and other evidence, they concluded that Walford was the shooter in the brutal murder of the businessman.


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