PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten (AP) — Friends and relatives gathered Tuesday in St. Maarten to remember and honor the lives of an American husband and wife who were stabbed to death in their Dutch Caribbean vacation home.
Roughly 100 people, many wearing T-shirts emblazoned with images of the couple, Michael and Thelma King of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, congregated at Topper's Restaurant & Bar on the Dutch Caribbean territory they both loved. Some wept as they looked at photographs of the pair.
Allen Sinkler, a friend from Mount Pleasant who said he knew the wealthy couple for 15 years and regularly traveled with them to St. Maarten, said he last saw them alive on Wednesday evening
"I'm not leaving St. Maarten without their bodies," said Sinkler, as his voice trailed off and his eyes welled with tears.
Organizers of the memorial asked reporters not to speak to the Kings' relatives, who received their bodies Tuesday after autopsies were conducted.
From South Carolina, the families of the slain couple issued a joint statement saying they've been "overwhelmed with the outpouring of support" and asked the media to "respectfully grant us privacy and time to grieve."
The Tuesday evening memorial came as authorities in St. Maarten postponed the first court appearance for a Jamaican man who has been detained in the killing of the American couple.
Defense attorney Brenda Brooks said Meyshane K. Johnson will be arraigned Wednesday. Brooks said Tuesday that the 28-year-old Jamaican suspect denies any involvement in the slaying of the Kings, who were found stabbed to death in their beachfront condominium on Friday.
Prosecutors said Johnson, a security guard in St. Maarten, injured a police officer as he resisted arrest. Authorities have not disclosed a possible motive in the attack.
Authorities, who have not publicly released autopsy results, have said the couple appeared to have suffered fatal stab wounds. The woman was found tied to a chair, and the man was lying on the floor, partially over an overturned chair. They were both in their 50s.
Friends say the Kings were part-time residents of St. Maarten and owned several homes. Topper Daboul, owner of the restaurant where the memorial was held, said he and Michael King were building a rum factory together on the Dutch territory of roughly 50,000 people.
Rion Spangler, a South Carolina man who said he had been friends with Michael King since elementary school, said the Kings were happily married for more than two decades. He said his friend would have stopped to help anyone, perhaps even the person who killed him and his wife.
"Mike would have been the kind of guy who let him in and then turned his back to get a Coke for him," Spangler said in phone interview.
Associated Press writer Jeffrey Collins contributed to this report from Columbia, South Carolina.