Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Tracey Betancourt found not guilty of Lamont Lipka’s murder


Former island resident Tracey Betancourt, 26, was found not guilty, in her absence, of Lamont Lipka’s 2018 murder during a hearing at the High Court in Belize City on Thursday, December 21st. Betancourt, who remains at large, had been jointly charged with Leon Walford, 38, for the murder of Lipka, an American national businessman in San Pedro Town. In July 2022, her verdict for murder was to be handed down; Betancourt was out on bail, absconded from the court hearing, and since then has been on the run. While she was not found guilty, the High Court noted that Betancourt could still face the escape charge because she voluntarily decided to abscond.

Tracey Betancourt

The day High Court Justice Ricardo O’Neil Sandcroft handed down the case’s verdict, on July 28, 2022, Walford was convicted and is currently serving 47 years at the Kolbe Foundation-Belize Central Prison. Betancourt was a no-show, and her whereabouts are unknown. During the murder trial, she had been represented by Attorney Anthony Sylvester and managed to secure a $50,000 bail.

Leon Walford

The night of the deadly attack on Lipka happened on May 13, 2018. The American businessman owned and operated Tropicana Bar and Grill on Coconut Drive. While tending to patrons, an unknown gunman walked into the establishment after 9PM and shot him in the patrons’ presence. Lipka was hit in the head, neck, chest, abdomen, and arms. The shooter then reportedly ran in a southerly direction. By November 2018, Betancourt had been charged with Murder and remanded to the Belize Central Prison while police looked for Walford. He was later apprehended in Belize City and arrested for the crime as well.

Lamont “Monty” Edward Lipka

Justice Sandcroft was presented with evidence that Betancourt was present at the crime scene; however, he explained that being at the scene does not point to a person’s guilt. He further added that the prosecution did not make out the case beyond a reasonable doubt to the murder; hence, Betancourt was found not guilty.
It is yet to be known if Betancourt will return to the island following her not-guilty verdict on this murder case. Regarding the escape charge, no information was shared about what this offense would entail for Betancourt.

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