Tilakdharry Basdeo

Tilakdharry Basdeo, 36, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison. In December, he was convicted by a Palm Beach County jury of attempted manslaughter for a July 18, 2011 machete attack of his wife at their home west of Boca Raton. (Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office / July 18, 2011)

Wielding a machete that hours earlier he used to trim trees, Tilakdharry Basdeo repeatedly slashed his wife in the master bedroom of the couple's West Boca home on July 18, 2011.

Sonawatie Sukhu survived the cuts to her arms, shoulder and neck, and later that day Basdeo, 36, confessed to the brutal attack.

So the only question for a Palm Beach County jury in Basdeo's trial on Thursday was whether it was a premeditated act of attempted first-degree murder as charged by prosecutors, the lesser offense of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon as requested by the defense, or yet another crime.

The six jurors went with the alternative, concluding after 2-1/2 hours of deliberations that Basdeo is guilty of attempted manslaughter, committed while the couple's 12-year-old daughter watched in horror.


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Circuit Judge Robin Rosenberg called for a Jan. 16 hearing to schedule Basdeo's sentencing.

Basdeo, who five months ago declined a plea deal for a 13-year prison sentence, now faces up to 15 years behind bars. But by avoiding an attempted murder conviction, he no longer faces the possibility of up to life in prison.

Assistant Public Defender Greg Rosenfeld argued Basdeo "lost it" and was in a "blind rage" when he sliced Sukhu eight times with the machete, after Sukhu repeatedly refused to tell her husband where she spent the previous night away from their home on Marlin Drive west of Boca Raton.

"Mr. Basdeo committed an inexcusable, terrible act," said Rosenfeld, who represented the defendant along with Assistant Public Defender Christine Geraghty. "We're not here justifying what he did."

During her closing statement, Geraghty said prosecutors failed to provide evidence Basdeo intended to kill Sukhu.

"He could have hit her in the head, the throat and abdomen," Geraghty said. "If he intended to kill her with a machete she'd be dead right now."

But Assistant State Attorneys Jen Lopez and Lindsay Brown said Basdeo, angry about his wife's secrecy, made up his mind to kill her — and nearly did so.

"He continues to slash and slash at her," Lopez told the jury, while holding Basdeo's machete in a demonstration. "He only stops when he believes she is dead."

In her rebuttal to Geraghty, Brown asked the jurors to use their common sense to arrive at the conclusion that Basdeo clearly knew what he was doing.

"He is taking a machete and aiming for her head," Brown said. "Of course he intends to kill her."

Basdeo did not testify during the two-day trial. But jurors listened to his words during a video statement to a detective and during his 911 call.

"I think I just murdered my wife," Basdeo told the operator, as he proceeded to wail loudly.

The jury of four men and two women also heard portions of a 911 call from their daughter. "Please help!" she cried.

Sukhu testified Wednesday she had been upset that her husband had been disappearing for stretches of days and nights, and she decided she was going to show him how it felt to have a missing spouse.

Sukhu said she went to a party at a friend's house on July 17, 2011 and didn't return home until after 2 p.m. the next day.

"He just kept asking where I was and I told him it was none of his business," she recalled.

Sukhu said she didn't take Basdeo seriously when he announced during a "family meeting" that he was going to the kitchen to get the cutlass — the term for a machete in their native country of Guyana.

"I thought," she said, "it was a harmless threat."

mjfreeman@tribune.com, 561-243-6642 or Twitter @SSCourts