Promising 23-year-old Pro League football star, Ross Russell Jr, is among two recently discharged soldiers who appeared before Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar in the Port of Spain court this morning for the murder of Diego Martin resident Selwyn Gaff.
Russell Jr, who has two children, was charged alongside his cousin and former Defence Force teammate Balondemu Julius, who is 34.
Gaff, 28, died from a gunshot wound on 6 June 2016 after being found in the Macqueripe forest, barely alive, by police. He was allegedly shot in the abdomen on the previous day and left for dead.
Julius and Russell Jr were detained at Teteron Headquarters, soon after Gaff’s death, while investigations were conducted. Both men were subsequently discharged from the army and handed over to the police last week.
Julius and Russell Jr were charged over the weekend with four criminal offences including Gaff’s murder, possession of arms and ammunition and shooting at Jesse Quashie with intent to do grievous bodily harm.
Russell Jr did provide an alibi to the police which claimed that he was elsewhere at the time of the murder. The alibi, according to a well-placed source, was a witness statement by a third Defence Force player, who has made over 30 international appearances for the Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team.
Russell Jr’s arrest has shocked teammates and the local football community. He is considered a likeable player who rarely ever found himself in trouble with match referees or spats with opposing players.
However, he is believed to have been monitored by Defence Force officials after being spotted on more than one occasion in the company of a relative suspected of criminal behaviour.
He is the son of former Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Ross Russell and teamed up with his dad when Defence Force won its last Pro League title in the 2012/13 season.
Russell was coach of the “Teteron Boys” at the time while his son featured predominantly at left back.
A tall, quick and versatile flanker, Russell Jr enjoyed his most prolific spell in the local top flight in the 2015/16 Pro League season, as he scored nine goals—including game winners against W Connection and San Juan Jabloteh—and helped the Army/Coast Guard unit to third place.
Defence Force and Russell Jr ended season on a high note as they edged Connection 2-1 on Friday 27 May 2016 to clinch the Digicel Pro Bowl title
The senior Russell, who was distraught when he spoke to Wired868 on the weekend, heads the technical staff of the Japs North East Stars Pro League team and is also a former Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Senior Team and Men’s Under-17 head coach.
Julius, a speedy, aggressive forward, last represented Defence Force in the 2013/14 season.
Julius and Russell Jr will next appear in court on 5 July 2016.