PHILIPSBURG–The hearings in the so-called “Mars” investigation involving the murders of Luis David Sarante Diaz and Erwin “Eggy” Rosario Contreras on December 5, 2016, were postponed Wednesday for a fourth time.
The two men were both murdered in a hotel room. Their remains were found in the waters of the Belair lagoon in August 2017, the Prosecutor’s Office believes.
Five suspects were arrested in this case. Three of them – Kathron Fortune (40), T.J.F. (28) and K.K.K.S. (31) – were summoned to appear in front of a judge for a pro-forma hearing on Wednesday.
T.J.F. and K.K.K.S. were both escorted by police officers into the well-guarded Courthouse, their hands cuffed to their waists.
Fortune was heard via a video-conferencing link with the high-security prison facility in Vught, the Netherlands, where he is currently serving a 21-year prison sentence for the murder of Ervin Margarita in 2006.
Wednesday’s Court hearing was postponed because of the ongoing strike of pro-bono lawyers and because Fortune is still searching a lawyer in the Netherlands or in St. Maarten, after two lawyers in succession have withdrawn from his case.
If Fortune proves unable to find a Dutch lawyer willing to represent him against payment of the regular St. Maarten fee, the judge said he would find him a lawyer here in St. Maarten.
The hearings were also delayed because two witnesses still need to be heard by an investigating judge. The Prosecutor said he was hopeful that, once the strike has ended, the legal defence would have enough time to study the case file prior to the hearings, which are now set for September 12.
The judge stated that it may be necessary to handle Fortune’s case separately, as there are objections to hearing a case of such gravity via video-conferencing.
The Prosecutor said Fortune may be extradited to French St. Maarten, as he is also suspected of having committed double murder there.
“If he comes this way, it becomes a circus in view of the security measures involved,” the Prosecutor added.
The judge said it would also be a possibility for the criminal division of the St. Maarten Court to hear Fortune’s case in the Netherlands. In the meantime, his case was held until July 18 to ensure that he is properly represented by a lawyer.
Co-suspect K.K.K.S. seized the opportunity to call on the Court to lift or suspend her pre-trial detention. She said she wanted to go home to take care of her minor son.
The Prosecutor objected to the request, as the woman is suspected of having committed a very serious crime. The judge said she should remain behind bars because her personal interests did not prevail.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/77596-court-delays-hearings-in-mars-investigation