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Bodies of U.S. couple killed in St. Maarten are handed over to relatives

By Martin Savidge and Gabriel Falcon, CNN
updated 5:28 PM EDT, Tue September 25, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The suspect, who was due in court Tuesday, will now appear Wednesday
  • NEW: No reason was given for why the appearance was rescheduled
  • The suspect "heavily resisted" arrest; he and a police officer were "wounded"
  • Michael and Thelma King of South Carolina were found dead in their St. Maarten home

(CNN) -- The bodies of an American couple killed on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten were released to family members Tuesday as questions about their deaths remain unanswered.

A man arrested in connection with the stabbing deaths had been scheduled to appear before a judge Tuesday, but that appearance was pushed to Wednesday, according to the island's solicitor general, Taco Stein. The proceedings will not be open to the public.

Stein gave no reason for why the appearance was rescheduled.

Autopsies were performed Monday on the couple, found stabbed to death in their St. Maarten home, the solicitor general said.

The bodies of Michael and Thelma King of South Carolina were discovered Friday at their oceanfront residence in Cupecoy, in what Stein described as "an ugly scene."

The suspect was arrested Sunday, and authorities are working to determine whether there was sufficient evidence to keep him in custody. No charges have been filed against anyone so far in the case.

"There are strong indications he is involved in the crime," Stein said Monday of the suspect, without divulging details.

Identifying him only by his initials M.K.J., the St. Maarten Public Prosecutor's office described the suspect as a 28-year-old, Jamaican-born man.

The prosecutor's office said the suspect "heavily resisted his arrest," engaging in a confrontation that ended with both him and a police officer "wounded." After being treated at an area hospital, the man was taken to a police station.

"He has been cooperative to a certain extent, but was reluctant to answer critical questions," the prosecutor's office said in a statement.

The suspect's attorney, Brenda Brooks, said she met with her client Monday at a police station in St. Maarten's capital Philipsburg, where he is being held. He had signs of a "beating," according to Brooks.

St. Maarten is a self-governing country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, whose economy is based on the tourism industry. More than 1 million tourists visit the island each year.

Stein, who was once solicitor general for Aruba, said authorities "are not certain of the motive in the case."

"Some things are missing" from the King's home, but there were no signs of a break-in, he said.

The killings occurred in what is "generally considered a safe area" that is popular with tourists, according to the solicitor general.

"This is something that does not happen every day," he said.

The suspect and the slain couple didn't appear to know each other, said Stein, noting they "were not moving in the same circles."

Topper Daboul, a restaurant owner in the area, said he was a friend and business partner of the Kings.

"They were beautiful people," he said, adding he is "still in shock." "They were kind to everybody."

Zane Jackson offered a similar story and sentiment in an interview with CNN affiliate WIS.

Describing himself as a friend and business partner of the Kings, who helped him open a sports bar in Columbia, South Carolina, Jackson said, "They'd have given anything to anybody."

"It just seems very senseless," he said. "They were good people."

CNN's Tristan Smith contributed to this report.

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