Manitoba

Daughter of Winnipeg couple slain in Jamaica takes some solace after killer gets life sentences

The daughter of an elderly Winnipeg couple murdered in Jamaica in 2018 is grateful one of her parents' killers has been brought to justice but says the man’s co-accused is still free.

Melbourne and Etta Flake were found bound, beaten, suffocated in apparent robbery in 2018

Winnipeggers Melbourne and Etta Flake were found dead in their vacation home in St. Thomas, Jamaica, in January of 2018. (Submitted by Debbie Olfert)

The daughter of an elderly Winnipeg couple murdered in Jamaica in 2018 is grateful one of her parents' killers has been brought to justice but says the man's co-accused is still free.

"We recognize how fortunate we are that we have somebody who can pay for their crime because there are so many families whose hearts are aching because they have nobody, they have no clues," said Debbie Lee Olfert in an interview from St. Thomas, Jamaica, Thursday night. 

"It's such a relief to know that this person isn't running around free."

Olfert's parents Melbourne Flake, 81, and Etta Flake, 70, were found dead in January 2018 with their hands and feet bound at their vacation home in St. Thomas. 

The Jamaica Observer reported Thursday that a judge sentenced Fabian Skervin, one of the two people charged in the murder, to two concurrent life sentences in prison. He will serve 32 years and four months behind bars before being eligible for parole, the Observer reported.

Winnipeggers Melbourne and Etta Flake in this undated photo. (CBC)

Holding a photo of her parents in their youth together, Olfert detailed how they immigrated to Canada from Jamaica and made a life for themselves.

"This is how I need them to be remembered," she said.

She recalled how her parents came to Canada 56 years ago when overt racism was rampant against Black people. Her parents worked factory jobs and didn't let racism deter them from starting a new life in Winnipeg.

Debbie Olfert, seen in this 2018 file photo, says her family is relieved by the sentencing and has used faith to get them through the tragedy. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

"They persevered. It wasn't easy. They bought a very humble house in Fort Richmond, and paid for it … they worked for everything, didn't ask for a dime from anyone. My dad was a very giving person."

Etta later became a nurse and Melbourne a carpenter. Their love story came to an end when they were murdered in 2018 in the vacation home Melbourne built. They left behind five children and 13 grandkids.

Olfert, who flew into Jamaica from Winnipeg earlier this month, said gruesome details about her parents' murder emerged in court. Olfert said the original conclusion from the police was that three killers had murdered her parents. 

"They literally beat the pin number out of my father. It was a horrific beating which led to fractures in the skull."

Prayer led to forgiveness 

The Jamaica Observer said Skervin — a farmer — and his girlfriend were charged with two counts of murder and robbery. The Jamaica Gleaner reported that Skervin worked with the couple as a handyman.

Olfert said while Skervin confessed to the killings, his co-accused is still free.

"He's taking the fall for others who have not yet confessed and who are not going to."  

She said there was inconclusive evidence tying the second person to the murder.

"It would be physically impossible for one skinny quiet person to have committed such a horrific heinous crime."

Olfert said faith has gotten her and her four siblings through the tragedy and prayer has let her forgive her parents' killers. She said it was important to be in Jamaica for the sentencing. 

"It was a very personal thing for me because I was here at the beginning to ID their deceased life forms and I felt the least I could do was be present to hear the sentence being read."

Daughter of Winnipeg couple slain in Jamaica takes some solace after killer gets life sentences

1 month ago
2:05
The daughter of an elderly Winnipeg couple murdered in Jamaica in 2018 is grateful one of her parents' killers has been brought to justice but says the man's co-accused is still free. 2:05

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

​Austin Grabish is a reporter for CBC News in Winnipeg. Since joining CBC in 2016, he's covered several major stories. Some of his career highlights have been documenting the plight of asylum seekers leaving America in the dead of winter for Canada and the 2019 manhunt for two teenage murder suspects. In 2021, he won an RTDNA Canada award for his investigative reporting on the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, which triggered change. Have a story idea? Email: austin.grabish@cbc.ca

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