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Suspect in slaying of couple in St. Maarten appears in court

From Martin Savidge and Tristan Smith, CNN
updated 8:04 PM EDT, Wed September 26, 2012
  • NEW: Police go door-to-door, searching for witnesses
  • NEW: Local authorities accept FBI's offer to help, prosecutors say
  • The suspect denies any involvement in the killings, his attorney says
  • Michael and Thelma King of South Carolina were found dead in their St. Maarten home

(CNN) -- A man arrested in connection with the stabbing death of an American couple on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten denies any involvement in the killings, his attorney said Wednesday.

The suspect, who authorities have only identified by his initials M.K.J., appeared in a closed-door court hearing Wednesday, defense attorney Brenda Brooks said. At the hearing, he maintained his right of silence and said nothing, Brooks said.

The suspect has not been formally charged in court, but he is being held on preliminary charges of murder/manslaughter, robbery and embezzlement, she said.

A judge ruled Wednesday that authorities could hold him for another week as they continue their investigation, prosecutors said.

Police questioned possible witnesses Wednesday, going door-to-door in the resort community where the couple's bodies were found Friday. Prosecutors said investigators would also examine surveillance video footage from the area.

Meanwhile, local authorities have accepted the FBI's offer to assist in the case, prosecutors said in a statement.

Solicitor General Taco Stein said Wednesday that the suspect was not cooperating with police or talking with investigators about the case.

The 28-year-old, Jamaican-born man is accused of killing Michael and Thelma King at their oceanfront residence in Cupecoy, a beach town on the southwest tip of the Dutch island nation.

Stein, who was once solicitor general in Aruba, said "there are strong indications he is involved in the crime."

The South Carolina couple's bodies were released to family members Tuesday after autopsies were performed, Stein said.

They were found Friday in what Stein described as "an ugly scene."

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.

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.

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.

CNN's Gabriel Falcon contributed to this report.

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