Suspect in Kings’ deaths held

The suspect in the killing of Mount Pleasant residents Michael and Thelma King is led into the court house in Philipsburg. Photo provided by The Daily Herald in St. Maarten.

A suspect in the killings of a Mount Pleasant couple in St. Maarten will remain behind bars for at least another week while island prosecutors send key evidence to Holland for testing.

The suspect, a 28-year-old Jamaican man, was hustled into a closed hearing in a Philipsburg courthouse with a shirt draped over his head to protect his privacy because he has not been formally charged in the killings of Michael and Thelma King. The Kings were found stabbed to death Friday in their beachfront condo.

“We usually try to protect (suspects’) privacy because they are still suspects, not convicted people,” Solicitor General Taco Stein said.

The judge agreed that prosecutors had sufficient evidence to keep the suspect behind bars for another seven days, Stein said. Prosecutors would then have to renew their request to detain the man, who was arrested Sunday, he said.

The suspect did not address the court, and his attorney, Brenda Brooks, could not be reached for comment.

In keeping with the island’s privacy rules, prosecutors have identified the man only as M.K.J. Island media outlets have reported that the suspect is Meyshane Kemar Johnson, an employee of Checkmate Security.

Though some media outlets are reporting that a hunt is on for a second suspect, Stein said that is incorrect.

“We do have an open mind for the possibility of more than one suspect, but it is not like what some of the newspapers wrote that we already have someone as a target,” he said.

The Kings, who were part-time island residents and owned a condominium in Toler’s Cove in Mount Pleasant, were found Friday in their condominium at the Ocean Club Resort on St. Maarten, a 16-square-mile territory with about 50,000 inhabitants.

Thelma King was found tied to a chair, and Michael King was lying on the floor, partially over an overturned chair, authorities said. Both were in their 50s.

Island authorities plan to send unspecified evidence collected from various locations to the Dutch Forensic Institute in the Netherlands for testing. Stein said that facility has more elaborate technology than is found on the island.

“We are a small country, and they have a very extensive crime lab,” he said. “It takes some time, but then you have quality results.”

Chief Prosecutor Hans Mos said in a statement that the FBI has offered assistance.

“This offer was kindly accepted and both police and prosecution are now discussing with FBI where the help could be most effective,” he said. “It is likely that some investigation will have to be conducted in the USA.”

Stein would not elaborate on the evidence implicating Johnson. The St. Martin News Network, quoting unidentified sources, has reported that some of Michael King’s belongings were found in a car that Johnson allegedly used during the robbery of a Chinese restaurant.

Stein said he believes the Kings’ bodies have been removed from the island by relatives. The family was cleared Tuesday to take the bodies back to the United States for burial after autopsies determined that the Kings bled to death from stab wounds, authorities said.

Meanwhile, the security company that employed Johnson said he passed background checks and showed no signs of concern.

“There was no indication of any reason to consider this case even a doubtful one,” Checkmate Security stated. “Within our company we believe that this person is an example of cases where a human being can change and commit things completely out of the ordinary.”

Johnson’s lawyer told The Daily Herald newspaper that her client denies any involvement in the killings and disputes police accounts that he resisted arrest. She said Johnson claims to be the victim of police brutality.

“He got some stitches in his head and he said he was stomped (on) his face and (his) left ear was swollen and he received some licks to the body as well,” the newspaper quoted her as saying. “There are signs.”

Authorities have said it was Johnson who provoked violence. In a statement released Monday, prosecutors said the suspect “heavily resisted his arrest, wounding a police officer” during a pre-dawn Sunday operation by law enforcers.

Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or Twitter.com/glennsmith5.