One arrest in double King murder

POSTED: 09/24/12 11:44 AM

St. Maarten – Yesterday morning around 4 a.m. police arrested a suspect in the murder of Michael and Thelma King. No details were released about the arrest or about the suspect, other than that it is a man. The quick arrest is the result of investigative efforts by the 25-strong team consisting of members of the police force, the public prosecutor’s office and the Coast Guard.

The Post and Courier, a Charleston based online newspaper, reported yesterday that Terry Tamblyn, a friend of the murdered couple told them that he hoped “footage from recently installed security cameras will help identify a suspect.”

“I know they installed some heavy video cameras a couple of weeks ago and security at the gate,” the paper quoted Tamblyn as saying.

The prosecutor’s office did not release information to suggest that the suspect had been identified from video footage. In an email sent on Saturday late in the afternoon Chief Prosecutor mr. Hans Mos announced that Solicitor-General mr. Taco Stein will act as the spokesman about the case starting this afternoon, and that his office will issue press releases on a daily basis or as soon as a new development warrants this.

Apparently there are leaks in the team that investigates the case, because at least one internet site reported the identity of the suspect, with a reference to “well placed sources within the police force,” as a 28-year-old security guard. Today does not publish the names of suspects, or companies they are reportedly affiliated with.

Friday afternoon family members of the victims arrived on the island. They were escorted to the police station in Philipsburg where they met with police officers and prosecutors. Later on Friday afternoon they formally identified the two murder victims as 53-year-old Michael King and his 57-year-old wife Thelma Strickland King.

Investigators did a second house search in a house next to the one where the victims were found, based on indications that this too was the victims’ property. Nothing was seized during this search, the prosecutor’s office stated in a press release.

From the crime scene several objects were secured and taken away for further investigation. The prosecutor’s press release did not divulge details about the nature of these objects. “Some of them could be relevant for the forensic department,” the press release stated.

Investigators are still in the dark about the possible motive for the brutal double murder. ‘Police and prosecutors have been busy writing possible scenarios about the violent death of the two victims,” the press release stated.

The autopsies will take place today.

On Saturday afternoon around 1 p.m. Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams expressed her shock at learning about the murders on behalf of the Council of Ministers. “I am shocked at learning what has occurred on our island nation. St. Maarten is and will always be a nation that is closely knit and where people from all over the world come to visit and live. Therefore I am in deep distress upon learning about the horrible acts which have tainted our country.”

At 3.20 p.m. a statement followed from Emil Lee, president of the St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association. “The St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association is outraged at the attack and murder of two Americans on St. Maarten. We join the people of St. Maarten in expressing our sincere condolences to the family and friends of this couple and support the efforts by the police to quickly bring the culprits to justice. St Maarten is a small, diverse and close knit community. This tragedy pains everyone in the community deeply.”

Another 25 minutes later a statement came in from unidentified “officials of the government of St. Maarten.”Our hearts go out to the family and friends of the couple found murdered at the Ocean Club in St. Maarten. Since the incident is still under investigation, we cannot comment about the details at this time, but we can assure you that every government resource is being brought into play to investigate and solve this case.”

On Sunday afternoon Theo Heyliger, leader of the United People’s party, issued the following statement: “On behalf of all Sint Maarteners, my wife and I offer our deepest and most heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Michael W. King and Thelma S. King, an American tourist couple who met an untimely and unwarranted death.  “I can assure the nation and visitors on the island, and those contemplating to visit the country, Sint Maarten continues to be a safe and secure destination for tourists.

“The United Peoples party condemns the tragic stabbing of this couple.  We condemn, equally, all acts of violence against visitors and residents.  We are very confident that our law enforcement officials will quickly apprehend the perpetrator(s) who have committed this hideous crime.  We share along with the Sint Maarten community in the sadness of this loss, and mourn with the friends and families of the victims.

“I use this opportunity to call on the community who know those who may have information, to contact the authorities so that the culprits can be brought to justice quickly.”

The double murder has attracted plenty of media attention in the American press, especially in the King’s home state of South Carolina. King is from the Irmo-Chapin area (west of the state capital Columbia) in South Carolina where he owned a home. He also owned a home in Mount Pleasant and in St. Maarten.

The Post and Courier, a Charleston based online newspaper, spoke to friends and business partners of the murdered couple. Among them, Terry Tamblyn of Isle of Palms, who was a partner with King in St. Maarten rental property. “It’s beyond me. It was such a shock. I can’t figure any reason. It was crazy to me. Everybody loved Mike and Thelma. He’d give you the shirt off his back. They were just the greatest people in the world. I can’t think of any enemies.”

Tamblyn told the Post and Courier that King was a retired insurance executive who later built a successful printing business that he sold. On Wednesday night the Kings had dinner at Macho Nacho, according to Tamblyn who most likely referred to Taco Macho in Simpson Bay.

Tamblyn told the Post and Courier on Sunday that King was also the owner of the Polliwogs restaurant in Columbia, and that his wife was a former bank-employee.

A Post and Courier also visited the King’s condo in Mount Pleasant, close to the Atlantic Coast. The condo is located in a cul-de-sac in Tolers Cove on the intra-coastal Waterway next to the Ben Sawyer Bridge. “A man who identified himself as a brother of Michael King answered the door. He asked that his name not be used. He said that he was angry and shocked because of the crime and that he was heading to St. Maarten.”

Neighbor Harry Murray said everyone loved the couple. “You hear something like that and it’s hard to comprehend. They were good people.”

Tamblyn confirmed the story that King was working on a business to import rum and then to add spices to the liquor at a factory and warehouse. Herbert Daboul, the owner of the Toppers roadside restaurant in Simpson Bay, said that he was involved with King’s plans to set up the spiced-rum factory.

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