PHILIPSBURG, ST. MAARTEN — Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams said her island deeply grieved over the loss of Mount Pleasant residents Michael and Thelma King after they were stabbed to death in their beachfront villa here in September.
Wescot-Williams, the top leader of this tiny Dutch territory, met with the Kings’ family and friends Thursday to again express her condolences and support in the wake of this week’s trial of the three men accused of the couple’s killing.
The family thanked her in return, as the prime minister was also there to meet them when they first arrived on the island after the bodies were discovered.
Wescot-Williams said tourist killings are very rare on St. Maarten and the entire island was in state of shock and disbelief. Island police worked without sleep for days to find the culprits, she said.
“For this to happen on St. Maarten was so sad, to put it mildly,” she said in an interview with The Post and Courier. “We were so grateful as a community when the perpetrators were picked up.”
The King family traveled to the island this week for the murder trial of the three suspects: Meyshane Kemar Johnson, 29; Jeremiah Chevon Mills, 18; and Jamal Jefferson Woolford, 21. The trial concluded Wednesday and a verdict is expected on May 8.
The three men are accused of entering the Kings’ home on the night of Sept. 19 and robbing the couple of around $80,000 worth of cash and goods. Johnson reportedly slit the couple’s throats after his co-defendants tied Thelma King to a chair and blindfolded and gagged her.
The Kings’ relatives have expressed strong support for the island and have urged people to continue visiting. Wescot-Williams said she appreciated that sentiment very much.
Sally Gripkey, Michael King’s mother, said one of her doctors recently talked of abandoning notions of visiting St. Maarten after hearing of the murders. Gripkey told her doctor that was the wrong approach.
“I told her ‘It’s the most wonderful place you ever want to go,’ ” Gripkey said.
Read more about this story in Friday’s Post and Courier.