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Double murder investigation in Marshalls gains confession

MAJURO — Criminal charges could be filed before the end of this week by government prosecutors against a teenaged suspect in a double murder that happened in Majuro 11 days ago.

The horrific murder of a businessman and his three-year-old daughter sparked outrage in the community and a major police investigation. Guam-based FBI agents spent several days in Majuro helping out earlier this week.

Laura businessman Robert Marques and his three-year-old daughter Ashley were murdered in late June. Both victims had their throats slashed with a knife. The murders occurred during a robbery of Marques’ store.

According to officials involved in the murder investigation, a 16-year-old suspect was apprehended at the end of last week, and when questioned by police, in the presence of his mother, he confessed to the double murder.

This home/store in Majuro was the scene of a brutal double murder of local businessman Robert Marques and his three-year-old daughter during a burglary. A 16-year-old teenager is the prime suspect.

The suspect was released after 24 hours as required by the Marshall Islands Constitution in the absence of criminal charges being filed, but later was returned to national police custody by his family for his own safety. He has been in police custody since Sunday.

Majuro Mayor Ladie Jack expressed outrage at the murders. “We Marshallese are not like that,” said Jack, who said he grew up with Marques. “It’s really sad. I cannot comprehend how this could happen to an innocent father and daughter. In all my life, I’ve never seen another Marshallese murdered by slashing their throat with a knife.”

Marques operated a business in the rural area of Majuro known as Laura, where he employed over 20 people. “What happens to their (his workers’) families now?” Jack asked. “It’s just tragic.”

On Wednesday, Assistant Attorney General Falai Taafaki, who is expected to be the AG’s office lead attorney if prosecution goes forward, said he and other attorneys in the office have a good idea of the case from ongoing updates from police investigators.

Taafaki said they were waiting to review written reports. “Once we get these, we will review them quickly,” he said. “If we’re satisfied there is sufficient evidence to gain a conviction, we’ll file (in the High Court).”

Police investigators discovered the body of three-year-old Ashley Marques in this freezer, foreground, and blood splattered on the floor leading to the room with the open door, where the body of her father, Robert Marques was found. Photos by Hilary Hosia

Taafaki also indicated he might file charges without waiting for a forensic evidence report from the FBI on Guam. The fingerprint and footprint evidence obtained from the Laura crime scene by the two FBI agents from Guam can be added to the prosecution’s case once it is provided, he said.

“The first thing I did after learning about the murders was notify the U.S. Embassy and request the ambassador to assist us with the investigation,” Jack said. U.S. Ambassador Karen Stewart responded by getting a two-man team from the FBI office in Guam. Jack said he made the request for the FBI because Marshall Islands police lack training and equipment needed for investigations, including finger printing and other crime scene work.

Taafaki confirmed that the teenage suspect was staying at the police station “for his own good” at the request of his mother, who feared for the boy’s safety in the wake of the murders.

Taafaki indicated it is his intention, when charges are prepared, to request the High Court to try the suspect as an adult. Marshall Islands law leaves it to the discretion of judges to determine if a defendant who is 16 but not yet 18 years of age can be tried as an adult. The law states that he may be treated as an adult “if his physical and mental maturity so justifies.”

Source: Marianas Variety : http://www.mvariety.com/regional-news/96650-double-murder-investigation-in-marshalls-gains-confession

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