PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten (AP) — A judge in St. Maarten convicted three men and issued prison sentences Wednesday in the killing of a South Carolina couple in the Caribbean country.
Lead defendant Meyshane Johnson was found guilty of all six charges against him, including two counts of murder in the deaths Michael and Thelma King of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.
Judge Tamara Tijhuis imposed a life sentence, citing the cruel nature of the crime and the possibility that he might commit similar crimes if released.
“You have not shown any remorse,” Tijhuis told Johnson, a citizen of Jamaica who worked as a security guard in St. Maarten. “Only a life sentence is justified.”
Jeremiah Mills, who was on probation for robbery, was acquitted of the murder charge but convicted of being an accomplice. The judge sentenced him to 28 years in prison.
Jamal Woolford was convicted of being an accessory and received 22 years.
Authorities portrayed the killing as part of a crime spree that included the robbery of a Chinese restaurant, for which all three were also convicted. The judge issues a verdict and sentence at the same time under the St. Maarten legal system.
Friends and relatives of the Kings wept as the verdicts were read out. Gasps were heard from the audience when Johnson turned and smiled to the gallery as he was led out of court following the verdict.
Michael King, a retired insurance executive, and his wife owned a home in St. Maarten, which shares an island with the French dependency of St. Martin. Their throats were slashed and their house looted in the September attack.
Johnson’s lawyer, Brenda Brooks, had argued that her client did not intend to kill the couple and should be convicted of the lesser charge of manslaughter. She said Wednesday that she would appeal the verdict and sentence.
The three men are expected to serve their sentences in St. Maarten’s Pointe Blanche prison.