ST. MAARTEN (WCSC) - The trial of three men accused of murdering and robbing a South Carolina couple in St. Maarten will continue on Wednesday when the defense will present its side of the case.
The first day of the trial began a little after 9 a.m., two hours after family and friends of Mike and Thelma King started waiting outside, to make sure they got a seat.
"I was hoping to get justice...what these guys deserve," said Finley King, Mike King's brother."The max sentence obviously. We would be very happy with."
The judge spent much of the morning discussing an alleged armed robbery at the Happy Star restaurant, which happened hours before the murders of the Kings. The three suspects from the murders, 28-year-old Meyshane Johnson, 20-year-old Jamal Jefferson Woodford, and 17-year-old Jeremiah Mills are all accused of committing that armed robbery.
Prosecutors said the trio had been drinking while riding around in a borrowed car before they decided to rob the restaurant at gunpoint. Shortly after that robbery, investigators said the trio switched license plates on their vehicle and drove to the Ocean Beach Villas in Cupecoy, where the Kings lived.
According to Mills, the three suspects gained entry into the King's villa by climbing over the balcony.
Mills said when they got inside Mike King was asleep in a chair. The suspects saw an iPhone and laptop in the villa but decided they wanted money. They got a knife from the kitchen, tapped King on the face with it to wake him, and asked him where he kept money in the house. He told them it was upstairs in a safe.
Meyshane Johnson held Mike King at knifepoint, while Jamal Jefferson Woolford and Jermiah Mills went upstairs where Thelma King was sleeping. Both suspects woke her up and held her at gunpoint as she opened up the safe. They got an undisclosed amount of cash out of the safe.
Mills claimed he found illegal drugs in it as well, but forensic testing after the murders showed no trace amounts. Woolford and Mills then brought Thelma King downstairs. Mills said he was concerned she would alert authorities to what happened.
Prosecutors said Woolford and Mills then tied Thelma King to a chair, blindfolded her and gagged her. According to prosecutors, Johnson then stabbed to death both victims. Mike King had his throat cut and was stabbed so hard the knife broke off in his back, prosecutors said. Thelma's throat was slit so severely the knife actually hit the backbone in her neck, according to testimony.
The judge said Johnson initially confessed to police he was responsible for the stabbing, but during court Tuesday, he said he could not remember if he did. Johnson repeatedly answered "I don't remember" as he was questioned by the judge in St. Maarten.
Both Mills and Woolford said they were not in the home at the time of the Sept. 19 stabbing.
Testimony revealed that after the killings, the suspects went to a brothel. They also had more to drink, but could not remember if they used the money stolen from the Kings or the Happy Star.
All three suspects contended they did not know the Kings, but investigators revealed Johnson had previously worked for the company that did security at the villa, but did not specifically work at that location.
Investigators also said Woolford worked at Topper's Restaurant, which is owned by the Kings' good friends and business partners, Topper and Melanie Daboul. The Kings had partnered with the Dabouls for a rum venture which launched earlier this year.
Prosecutors have suggested a life sentence for Johnson, a 24-year sentence for Woolford and a 28-year sentence for Mills.
Under the Dutch legal system, the judge questions the men before rendering a verdict.