30 year old Meyshane Kemar Johnson, the leader in the Michael and Thelma King double murder has now had his sentence commuted. The Joint Court has decided on a thirty year sentence instead.
22 year old Co-defendant Jamal Jefferson Woolford had his sentence commuted from 22 years to 18 years, and 19 year old Jeremiah Chevon Mills had his sentence reduced from 28 years to 25 years in prison.
The Court took into consideration that the accused murderers had no prior criminal record.
All three men were found guilty of armed burglary and violence causing the deaths of Thelma and Michael King, a South Carolina couple residing on the island. They were also accused of deprivation of liberty of Thelma King, of armed robbery at Happy Star restaurant and of laundering the proceeds of their criminal activities.
The Court of First Instance had also convicted Johnson of the murders of Michael and Thelma King. Mills was found guilty of being an accomplice to the murder of Michael King, while both Woolford and Mills were considered accomplices to the murders.
On September 19, 2012, the three men robbed The Happy Star, armed with BB guns, which looked like actual firearms. Two of the men entered the restaurant, terrorised staff and customers, robbed them, and left in a getaway vehicle, driven by the third man. They were chased and shot at by the police, but managed to get away.
They arrived at Cupecoy, where they decided to break into a house. They found themselves on Ocean Drive, where they found a house that still had lights on. Making their way inside, they found Michael King asleep on the sofa. He was woken up and threatened with a BB gun. One of the men asked him where the money was. King was punched in the stomach and held in a headlock, while the other two robbers went upstairs to the safe.
Thelma King was upstairs asleep in bed. She was forced to open the safe and to hand over jewellery. She was then brought downstairs, forced to sit on a chair and tied up and gagged.
Both victims had their throats cut and were left to die whilst the suspects left in possession of their money, credit cards and other property.
The Joint Court considered it proven that Johnson had deliberately killed the Kings. He had cut Michael King’s throat, despite Woolford’s calls not to do it, and had also slit Thelma King’s throat with two powerful cuts. Johnson said he had done this because he had the feeling she would otherwise have severely suffered from her husband’s death.
The Court said the three defendants were all guilty of “multiple and increasingly serious and escalating violence,” which resulted in the “very violent and gruesome” murder of the Kings.
The Appeals Court agreed with psychiatric and psychological experts that although there were indications that Johnson was suffering of mental disorders, there were no grounds to hold him less accountable.
Mills was acquitted of being an accomplice or accessory to the murder or manslaughter of Thelma King for lack of evidence. According to Mills he had tied up the woman to prevent her from calling the police, after which he had left the building with money and other properties.
Johnson had confirmed that Mills had left the house after he had cut Michael King’s throat, but that Thelma was still alive at that moment.
Mills’ lawyer Shaira Bommel had objected to Johnson’s statements, calling these “unreliable” and “untrustworthy,” but the Court admitted the evidence, stating that Johnson had provided the police with a detailed statement, which not just incriminated his fellow-suspects but also himself.
The Court found it proven that Mills had been directly involved with the killing of Michael King. After the knife with which King was stabbed in his back was broken, Mills had taken another knife from the kitchen and had given it to Johnson. With this knife Johnson had stabbed King several times in his neck.
Mills was held fully accountable for these crimes, despite traits of an anti-social personality and his dependency on alcohol, marijuana and ecstasy.
Woolford was acquitted of involvement in both murders. According to the Joint Court there was no evidence he had had the intention to kill.
Woolford had told the police he had left the house after tying Thelma King’s “eyes and mouth.” He had also told Johnson not to cut her husband’s throat, after he saw him making a move as if he wanted to cut Michael King’s throat. Woolford left when Johnson stabbed after all.
Despite the objections of attorney Safira Ibrahim, Woolford was found guilty of theft with violence which had led to the couple’s death. The Court found it proven that Woolford had contributed to the violence in punching Michael King’s stomach, in threatening with a BB gun and in tying up Thelma King.
Experts established anti-social personality traits and dependency on drugs and alcohol, but also held Woolford fully accountable for his acts.
Members of the King’s family and friends were present to hear the verdicts. Mills clearly was unhappy with the Court’s decision in his case. He left the courtroom with a loud bang, slapping his flat hand with force against the door. The suspects have two weeks’ time to file for a final appeal with the High Court in The Hague.