Grenada prison escapees charged with murder of American couple after violent yacht hijacking

Ralph Hendry and Kathy Brandel are presumed dead after three prison escapees stole their boat in Grenada

Martha McHardy
Friday 08 March 2024 18:44 GMT
Caribbean police search for US citizens on yacht hijacked by prisoners

Three inmates who escaped from prison in Grenada have been charged with killing two Americans after allegedly hijacking their yacht last month.

Ron Mitchell, 30, Atiba Stanisclaus, 25, and Trevon Robertson, 23, were charged with two counts of capital murder “by intentionally causing” the deaths of Ralph Hendry and Kathleen Brandel, the Royal Grenada Police Force announced.

The three suspects were also charged with escaping lawful custody, housebreaking, robbery, and two counts of kidnapping. Stanislaus was separately charged with one count of rape. It is not clear who he is accused of raping.

The three men had been imprisoned at the South St George Police Station in Grenada on joint charges of robbery with violence, but on 18 February, they escaped custody.

US citizens Ralph Hendry and Kathy Brandel are believed dead after their yacht was allegedly hijacked in Grenada (Salty Dawg Sailing Association)

The RSVG Police Force said that they believe the three suspects then kidnapped American couple Ralph Hendry and Kathy Brandel who were cruising the Caribbean in their sailing yacht, Simplicity, to Antigua when they went missing.

Police said they also believe that the suspects “committed several criminal acts, including bodily harm to the couple” before making their way to the nearby island of St Vincent and the Grenadines, where they were recaptured on 21 February.

With no sign of the couple, Ms Brandel and Mr Henry’s yacht was also found abandoned on St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Although the bodies of the couple, who are from Virginia, have not been recovered, they are presumed to be dead.

Royal Grenada Police Commissioner Don McKenzie said last week that the couple was most likely “disposed of” at sea by the escaped prisoners. Mr McKenzie added that there is a “low probability” that Ms Brandel and Mr Henry might be alive.

St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Superintendent Junior Simmons said the scene on the couple’s boat was “consistent with signs of violence,” adding that investigators found several items “strewn on the deck and in the cabin, and a red substance that resembled blood” on board the vessel.

“There was no discovery of bodies on board the yacht,” Mr Simmons continued.

The three men were recaptured after allegedly taking a yacht to St Vincent and the Grenadines (RSVG Police Force)

Ms Brandel and Mr Henry had been living out a long-held dream of cruising the Caribbean in their sailing yacht when they went missing, according to their yacht club, the Salty Dawg Sailing Association.

Suellen Desmarais, the sister of missing Mr Hendry, told WPTV that the couple’s “whole life” was on their boat Simplicity; they didn’t own a home or cars and they usually spent their winters on their boat in Fort Pierce visiting family and friends.

However, this year, they skipped this trip to go on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure in the Caribbean, leaving with a boating group from Virginia back in November 2023.

Mr Hendry’s son Bryan Hendry told NBC Washington that they had been planning the trip down to Grenada — their first to the Caribbean island — for “years and years and years, training themselves, preparing the boat, preparing themselves ... to make the trip.”

The family of the couple said they were “incredibly saddened” to hear the news that their parents were presumed dead.

“We remain optimistic in the on-going search led by the St Vincent Coast Guard,” the statement added.

“While the end of their life may have been dark, they brought light, and that light will never be extinguished from the hearts and minds of the people who knew, loved and cared so deeply about them.

“Ralph and Kathy lived a life that most of us can only dream of, sailing the eastern coast of the United States, living on their home Simplicity, making friends with everyone they encountered, singing, dancing and laughing with friends and family — that’s who Ralph and Kathy were and that’s how they will be remembered in our hearts,” the statement continued.

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