Update: St. Maarten killers of couple with Columbia ties get stiff sentences

05/08/2013 11:32 AM

05/08/2013 5:24 PM

The St. Maarten killers of a popular semi-retired couple with deep Columbia ties received stiff sentences Wednesday morning on the Caribbean island when a judge handed down their sentences.

On Sept. 19, Mike and Thelma King were stabbed to death in their St. Maarten beachfront villa during a robbery. Three men were arrested and later confessed.

The actual killer, Meyshane Johnson, 29, received a life sentence, said Todd King, Mike King’s brother, who was in the courtroom in Philipsburg Wednesday morning and notified The State.

One accomplice, Jeremiah Mills, received a 28-year sentence from Judge Tamara Tijhuis. Another, Jamal Woolford, received 22 years.

Thirteen family members and friends of Mike and Thelma King were in the courtroom at the sentencing, said Todd King.

“We were all surprised by the amount of emotion that we felt afterwards. Rather than feeling celebratory because they were sentenced and justice under their law was served, we all just sat there for a few minutes,” he said.

Since his brother and sister-in-law were killed, Todd King and other family members have flown to St. Maarten repeatedly to make sure justice was served. He has praised the St. Maarten law enforcement officials who worked the case.

“We were all drained emotionally. Then the tears started flowing. I wish I could say that it’s all over but unfortunately it’s just another step. Now we will begin to prepare for the appeals process,” Todd King said in an email.

Mike and Thelma King grew up in the Columbia area. Although they lived much of the year in St. Maarten and Charleston County, they visited Columbia regularly and had a host of friends and family here. Five hundred people turned out for their funeral, held in Chapin, last fall.

While some speculated that drugs or some other motive prompted the killings, St. Maarten police quickly determined that it was the result of a brutal armed robbery — essentially a random act and crime of opportunity.

The Columbia FBI and U.S. Attorney’s office assisted in investigating the crime.

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