Autopsies planned for Mount Pleasant couple slain in St. Maarten
PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten -- Autopsies are planned today for a Mount Pleasant couple whose bodies were found in their beachfront condominium on the tiny Dutch Caribbean territory.
St. Maarten police on Sunday arrested a suspect in the slayings of Michael and Thelma King, who were found with stab wounds on 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.
Police spokesman Ricardo Henson said the male suspect was arrested before dawn Sunday and has not been charged yet.
Citing the territory’s privacy rules, Henson declined to give further details about the suspect, saying police will issue a statement “as soon as more information can be divulged.”
Quoting unnamed but “well-placed sources within the police force,” The St. Martin News Network is reporting that the suspect is of Jamaican descent and that he is an employee of Checkmate Security Services.
The News Network identified the suspect as Meyshaun Johnson, a 28-year-old man born in Jamaica. One source reportedly told the News Network that Johnson had contact with the Kings and police suspect he was involved in other crimes in St. Maarten as well. The news agency reported that the killing is believed to be “robbery-motivated.”
The News Network reported that police searched the house in the Cay Bay area where the suspect was arrested. Attorney General of St. Maarten Taco Stein told the news service that items were seized but he declined to give specifics.
Prime Minister of St. Maarten Sarah Wescot-Williams commended police on the arrest:
“I am convinced that like myself, the entire community of St. Maarten hoped and prayed that the perpetrator(s) of last week’s heinous crime would be apprehended and (prosecuted) in the shortest time possible. This was important for our island and its law enforcement, as well as the families of the victims and for law abiding and compassionate people everywhere.
“I had not dared hope however, that before the weekend was over, a suspect in this senseless and brutal act would be arrested. That this has indeed happened must be credited to our entire police force and in particular the team that worked on this investigation. As a nation, we are proud and indebted to you.”
Chief Prosecutor Hans Mos said both Americans appeared to have suffered fatal stab wounds. 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, according to Terry Tamblyn, a business partner and longtime friend who lives on the Isle of Palms.
The Kings’ deaths have been a topic of conversation across the island, he said. Some are saying it’s possible they were killed by a robber who knew them enough for the Kings to open the door to him, Tamblyn said. In that case, their deaths were senseless.
“If anybody needed anything, Mike would have wrote him a check,” he said.
Most people Tamblyn has talked to are speculating the Kings were killed for more personal reasons. King was starting to distribute Puerto Rican rum, and it’s possible he was taken out by a competitor, Tamblyn said.
“Everybody I talk to thinks this was more than just a robbery,” Tamblyn said. “They might have stepped on somebody’s toes with this rum business.”
Local restaurant owner Topper Daboul told The Associated Press that he and Michael King were building a rum factory together on the territory.
Daboul said he last saw King on Wednesday afternoon 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.
Daboul said he asked a person on the premises to climb over a fence to see if anyone was in the house.
Daboul said the person reported a lifeless man leaning over a chair inside the house.
Shortly after the slayings were announced, the St. Maarten government said “every government resource is being brought into play to investigate and solve this case.” Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams said she was “shocked” by the killings.
Police said roughly 25 officers were part of the investigative team.