3 file appeals in Kings’ deaths

Meyshane Kemar Johnson, 29, (far right) and his co-defendants Jeremiah Chevon Mills, 18, (left) and Jamal Jefferson Woolford, 21, (center) were sentenced last month in the September stabbing deaths of Michael and Thelma King of Mount Pleasant at their villa in St. Maarten. ¬ Glenn Smith/postandcourier.com

Three men convicted in the killings of Mount Pleasant residents Michael and Thelma King on St. Maarten have appealed their sentences and will likely receive another trial this year.

The appeals were expected, and island prosecutors said they remain confident in the strength of their case. Under Dutch law, the offenders did not need to state specific legal grounds for their appeals to be heard.

“If someone files an appeal, this means that the case will be tried all over again before a panel of three judges,” Solicitor General Taco Stein, who will handle the appeal, said Tuesday.

The Kings’ relatives have attended all past hearings in the case and intend to be there for the second trial, as well, said Todd King, Michael King’s brother. They aren’t worried that the appeals signal some problem with the prosecutors’ case, he said.

“It’s just part of the process there,” Todd King said.

All three men will remain behind bars until the appeals court has ruled, Stein said.

During a court hearing last month in the island capital of Philipsburg, Judge Tamara Tijhuis found 29-year-old Meyshane Kemar Johnson and two other men guilty in the gruesome September killings. Johnson, the man who slit the couple’s throats, received a life prison term.

Johnson’s co-defendants, Jeremiah Chevon Mills, 18, and Jamal Jefferson Woolford, 21, received 28 years and 22 years, respectively. Testimony during the trio’s two-day trial in April indicated that Mills and Woolford played lesser roles than Johnson in the actual killings.

According to trial testimony, Johnson, Mills and Woolford entered the Kings’ Cupecoy villa on Sept. 19 to rob them after committing another hold-up earlier that same evening.

Prosecutors said that while Johnson held Michael King at knifepoint, Mills and Woolford tied Thelma King to a chair and gagged and blindfolded her. Johnson reportedly slit Michael King’s throat and repeatedly stabbed him, snapping the knife blade in King’s back.

After Mills tossed him a fresh knife, Johnson completed the killing before taking the new blade to Thelma King while she was helpless and bound with pieces of a shredded towel.

The suspects are believed to have escaped with about $80,000 in jewelry and cash.

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