Police arrest man in connection with Berbick slaying

Updated: October 29, 2006, 11:14 PM ET
Associated Press

KINGSTON, Jamaica -- A 20-year-old man was arrested in connection with the killing of former heavyweight champion Trevor Berbick, who was bludgeoned and left to die in a church courtyard next to his family's home in a rural hamlet.

Trevor Berbick
Berbick

Several residents of the remote farming community in Norwich district said the suspect was involved in a land dispute with the troubled boxer.

Les Green, a Scottish detective who this year was appointed assistant police commissioner of the violence-wracked nation, refused to identify the man before his arraignment, which has not been scheduled.

"We have some very good information from witnesses, and we have recovered a weapon we believe was used in the assault," he said Sunday.

Green would not say what kind of weapon was recovered or where it was found. Forensic tests would be completed on the weapon Monday, he said.

Police would not say if others were suspected of being involved in the slaying of Berbick, who is best remembered as boxing legend Muhammad Ali's final opponent in 1981. Green said detectives were investigating whether a family conflict sparked the attack, but he declined to provide further details.

"A domestic argument may be the root of the attack on Trevor Berbick, and detectives have been working hard on this inquiry," Green said. "They have interviewed some significant witnesses."

Investigators arrested the suspect several hours after Berbick's body was discovered about 6:30 a.m. Saturday in his hometown parish of Portland, about 80 miles east of Kingston. Berbick, who was believed to be 52, was pronounced dead by a local doctor in the church courtyard next to the three-bedroom house where he was raised.

Detective Sgt. Kenneth Bailey of the Port Antonio police station in Portland told The Jamaica Gleaner that Berbick was last seen alive early Saturday at a nearby bar.

"The body had four wounds to the back of the head, as he was probably attacked from behind," Bailey told the newspaper. "The impression and damage done to the skull have indicated that a machete may have been used by his attacker or attackers to murder him."

After beating Ali in 1981 in an unanimous decision in the Bahamas, Berbick went on to win the WBC heavyweight title fours years later in a decision over Pinklon Thomas. His reign was short, however, as a 20-year-old Mike Tyson knocked out Berbick in the second round Nov. 22, 1986, to become the youngest heavyweight champ.

He fought from 1976 to 2000, finishing with a record of 50-11 with one draw and 33 knockouts. He also fought for his Caribbean homeland at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

Following his retirement from the ring, Berbick was convicted in the U.S. for sexual assault, grand theft and burglary.

"We have our challenges in life, but Trevor seemed to handle his challenges very badly," said C. Lloyd Allen, former president of the Jamaica Boxing Board and a close friend. "Once he lost to Tyson, he just went down a slippery slope."

In 1991, Berbick was convicted for attacking his former business manager, who testified the boxer put a gun to her head and accused her of stealing money from him.

The following year, he was convicted of raping a family baby sitter in Florida and was sentenced to four years in prison. He also was convicted in 1992 for forging his former wife's signature to get a mortgage on a home.

After 15 months in prison, Berbick was deported from the U.S. He went to Canada, where he lived for a time following the 1976 Olympics. He eventually moved back to the U.S., but was deported a second time.

Funeral arrangements have not been announced by Berbick's family.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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