Autopsies have confirmed that a Mount Pleasant couple died from fatal stab wounds at their condominium in St. Maarten and their bodies have been released to their family for burial, an island official said.
Prosecutors are now concentrating on keeping a suspect in the crime locked up while the investigation into the slayings continues, St. Maarten Solicitor General Taco Stein said today.
A pretrial detention hearing that had been scheduled for today has been pushed back until Wednesday. The suspect, arrested Sunday, remains under suspicion but has not been charged in the Kings’ deaths. Under the island’s system of justice, prosecutors must justify his continued incarceration after three days in custody.
Stein said investigators have evidence linking the suspect to the killings, but he declined to provide specifics.
“We have to keep some things in confidence so as not to jeopardize the investigation,” he said. “But we have a definite link between our suspect and the case. We are pretty confident the judge will see it that way too and that he will be kept incarcerated.”
Prosecutors met at length with the Kings’ relatives and explained as much of the case to them as possible, Stein said.
The Kings’ families broke their silence today and released the following statement, while declining any interviews:
“We are overwhelmed with the outpouring of support we’ve received over the past few days and want to express our sincere appreciation to everyone who has reached out to us with phone calls, emails, notes, flowers, meals and, most importantly, prayers. We know that Mike and Thelma touched the lives of so many people. We are truly grateful for the support and expressions of sympathy. We ask that you continue to pray for our family in the days ahead, and we ask the media to respectfully grant us privacy and time to grieve.”
Authorities have identified the suspect only as M.K.J., a 28-year-old man who hails from Jamaica. It is common practice in St. Maarten to identify suspects by their initials until they are formally charged and tried.
The St. Martin News Network, however, has identified the suspect as Meyshane Kemar Johnson, who worked as a security guard on the island. SMN News also reported that Johnson is suspected of being involved in a robbery at Happy Star Chinese Restaurant on the island on Sept. 19, the same day as the Kings were supposedly killed.
The news agency also reported that investigators now are looking for a second suspect of Jamaican descent believed to have been involved in the holdup and the King murders.
Quoting unnamed sources, SMN News reported that Johnson borrowed someone’s car to commit the robbery and police fired a shot at the vehicle.
The vehicle’s owner reportedly called police when he noticed that his vehicle had a bullet hole in it and had suspicious items inside, SMN News reported. The network said it also learned that police found several incriminating items in the vehicle when they searched it and it is believed that the Kings were murdered that same night. Found in the vehicle were credit cards and a cell phone belonging to Michael King, SMN News reported.
The news network also reported that Johnson was illegally living on the island while working for Checkmate Security Company. Johnson reportedly called in sick for work after the Happy Star Restaurant holdup, SMN News reported.
Stein said the news agency has good sources, but some of the information that has been reported is inaccurate. Among other things, police have not conclusively identified robbery as a motive for the killings or pinpointed additional suspects in the case, he said.
Stein said investigators searched a house where the suspect was found Sunday and seized some items, including clothing. But he would not comment on specific evidence,
Prosecutors told The Associated Press the suspect “heavily resisted his arrest, wounding a police officer” during a pre-dawn Sunday operation by law enforcers.
“He has been cooperative to a certain extent but was reluctant to answer critical questions,” prosecutors said.
The Kings were found with stab wounds Friday in their condominium at the Ocean Club Resort on St. Maarten, a 16-square-mile territory with about 50,000 inhabitants that shares a small island with the French dependency of St. Martin.
Chief Prosecutor Hans Mos said Thelma King was found tied to a chair, and Michael King was lying on the floor, partially over an overturned chair. Both were in their 50s.
The Kings were part-time residents of St. Maarten and owned a condominium in Toler’s Cove in Mount Pleasant. Their connections in South Carolina extended throughout East Cooper to Columbia, friends said.
Stein said the killings came as a shock to island residents.
“We do not have crimes like this very often here. Thank God for that,” he said. “We have a lot of police officers involved in the investigation. … We hope to bring the case to a conclusion soon.”
Stein said the island sends its condolences to the King family. Two of the Kings’ relatives traveled to the island to make formal identifications of the bodies, he said.
Autopsies were being conducted Monday, and authorities should have the results by today, Stein said.
St. Maarten Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams commended police on the arrest, saying the island “hoped and prayed that the perpetrator(s) of last week’s heinous crime would be apprehended and (prosecuted) in the shortest time possible.”
“I had not dared hope however, that before the weekend was over, a suspect in this senseless and brutal act would be arrested,” she said in a statement.
Officials from Checkmate Security Services could not be reached for comment Monday.
Michael King was a retired insurance executive who later started a successful adhesive label company in Blythewood, friends said. Terry Tamblyn, a business partner and longtime friend who lives on the Isle of Palms, has said King also owned a couple of restaurants on St. Maarten.
Topper Daboul told AP that he and Michael King were building a rum factory together on the territory.
Daboul told AP he last saw King on Wednesday and “some other friends had drinks with them that night.” He said he wasn’t able to reach the Kings on the phone Thursday, so he drove to their house the next day and banged on the door.
He asked someone to climb a fence to see if anyone was in the house, and the person spotted a lifeless man leaning over a chair inside the house, Daboul told AP.