Hearing planned for suspect in Mount Pleasant couples killings in St. Maarten
A suspect in the killing of a Mount Pleasant couple found stabbed in their beachfront condominium will appear before a judge today in St. Maarten to determine if authorities have enough evidence to hold him for further investigation.
Taco Stein, solicitor general for the tiny Dutch Caribbean territory, said the suspect, who was arrested about 4 a.m. Sunday, remains under suspicion but has not been charged in the deaths of Michael and Thelma King. Under the island’s system of justice, formal charges generally are not filed until just before trial, he said.
Stein and other island authorities have not released the suspect’s name, but the St. Martin News Network identified him as 28-year-old Meyshaun Johnson, a Jamaica native working as a security guard. Johnson reportedly had contact with the Kings before their deaths, the network reported.
Stein said investigators searched a house where the suspect was found Sunday and seized some items, including clothing. Prosecutors think they have enough evidence to keep the suspect in custody while the investigation proceeds, but that will be for a judge to decide.
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.
Quoting unnamed police sources, the St. Martin News Network reported the killings are believed to be “robbery-motivated.”
Stein said robbery is certainly a possibility, but discussion of a motive is just speculation at this point. Investigators think some items might be missing from the Kings’ condo, but it is difficult to say for sure without the couple alive to inventory their belongings, he 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 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, 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.
The St. Martin News Network reported that the suspect works for Checkmate Security Services and that he is believed to be involved in other crimes on the island as well. Johnson reportedly had been removed from one recent assignment due to concerns about his suspicious behavior, the network reported.
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.
Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or Twitter.com/glennsmith5.