West End Man Convicted in Dive Instructor Shooting
A court on Roatan March 5 convicted West End businessman Sam Wesley of attempted murder for the 2011 shooting of Australian dive instructor Joe O’Donnell. The charge carries a sentence of 13-20 years. Wesley will be sentenced April 7 in La Ceiba and remain in preventive detention there until sentencing.
The court found that Wesley intended to kill O’Donnell when he shot him the back August 19, 2011, outside a noodle restaurant on Wesley’s property next to Crystal Beach Cabins, which Wesley owns and operates. Wesley claimed at trial that the two were scuffling, that O’Donnell had threatened to kill him and that he thought O’Donnell was reaching to pull a gun from his waistband when he drew his own gun and fired in self-defense. He said he intended to hit O’Donnell in the leg but missed his aim. However, an eye witness testified that he was standing just 50 feet away at the time and clearly saw that O’Donnell was walking away from Wesley with both hands on the handlebars of his bicycle when the shot was fired.
Wesley, 64, has spent the last two and a half years under house arrest at Crystal Beach awaiting trial. O’Donnell, 43, has spent most of that time recovering from his injuries and paralysis in Australia. He returned to Roatan for the first time since the shooting to testify at the trial.
The shooting occurred about six weeks after O’Donnell, Wesley and Wesley’s wife, Rosita, had a violent confrontation at Crystal Beach. O’Donnell said he had gone to speak to the proprietor of a dive shop located on Wesley’s property to inquire about buying some equipment to use to open a shop of his own. He said the shop was closed, so he called the proprietor on his cell phone.
At that point, he said, Rosita Wesley came out to complain about O’Donnell’s bicycle leaning against her fence, and when he did not end his call immediately to remove the bicycle, she brought it inside her yard. When he tried to retrieve it, he said she became violent, and Sam Wesley then came out of the house and hit him with a piece of lumber. Wesley said O’Donnell had come onto his property, and when Rosita Wesley asked him what he was doing there, he told her to “fuck off.” He said that in the ensuing argument O’Donnell punched his wife and left her bleeding from the mouth and nose. O’Donnell said he pushed her away as she tried to strike him with the piece of lumber as he was removing his bicycle from her porch.
O’Donnell said he received numerous calls on his cell phone over the following weeks from the Wesleys but he did not answer them. He said when he returned to the area weeks later to have lunch at the Noodle Shack, Wesley waited for him outside, then shot him in the back as he tried to wheel his bicycle back up West End Road. Wesley said O’Donnell confronted him upon leaving the restaurant and said, “This time I’m going to kill you.”
O’Donnell has undergone multiple surgeries and physical therapy and has regained most of his bodily functions. He can walk with a cane. But he says he lives with constant pain.
Sympathizers for the victim and defendant staged competing protests in front of the courthouse the morning of the trial that were passionate but peaceful. Several of Wesley’s supporters, from different parts of the island, carried signs denouncing Roatan’s expatriate residents for allegedly abusing and disrespecting local laws.