Police apprehended late last week a teenage suspect in the double murder in Laura two weekends ago. According to officials involved in the investigation, the 16-year-old suspect confessed to police, with his mother present during the interview with police.
The suspect was released after 24 hours as required by the RMI Constitution in the absence of criminal charges being filed, but later was returned to the national police by his family for his own safety. He has been at the station since Sunday.
On Wednesday this week, Assistant Attorney General Falai Taafaki, who is expected to be the AG office lead attorney if a prosecution goes forward, said he and other attorneys in the office have a good idea of the case from ongoing updates from police investigators. This includes the work of two FBI agents brought in from Guam who obtained crime scene evidence last weekend.
“In all my life, I’ve never seen another Marshallese murdered by slashing their throat with a knife,” said Majuro Mayor Ladie Jack, who grew up with Robert Marques who was murdered along with his three-year-old daughter. Jack said he requested the US Embassy for investigation help, which resulted in the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) dispatching two investigators to Majuro Friday.
Taafaki said they were waiting to review written reports from police. “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).”
Taafaki indicated it is his intention, when charges are prepared, to request the High Court allow the suspect to be tried 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.”
Read more about this in the July 7, 2017 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.