ST. THOMAS, V.I. – A
man accused of murder remains behind bars unable to post a $750,000 bail while
a judge considers a defense motion for bail reduction and a prosecution motion
for his recusal.
Jason Coulter, 32, is charged with first-degree murder,
second-degree murder, two counts of using a dangerous weapon during the
commission of a murder, first-degree assault, two counts of using a dangerous
weapon during the commission of a first-degree assault, third-degree assault,
two counts of using a dangerous weapon during the commission of a third-degree
assault and attempt to destroy evidence in connection with the November 2014
death of his roommate, William Ray Bennett. Bennett, from Tennessee, worked as
a traveling lab technician and at the time of his death, he was an employee of
On Friday, Coulter, through his attorney, motioned V.I.
Superior Court Judge James Carroll III to reduce his bail to two percent of the
original amount and allow him to be released into the custody of three persons
who are willing to act as third-party custodians, and to be placed under house
arrest with electronic monitoring.
Assistant Attorney General Eugene Connor, Jr., vehemently
opposed the defense motion and suggested an increase in bail.
“This individual is such a danger to the community, such a
high flight risk that we’re asking for $1 million bail,” Connor said. “He
bludgeoned and stabbed someone to death; this is not shoplifting. He has no real ties to this community. He’s
lived in Hawaii and Florida. This was just another stop on his crime spree
across the U.S. If you look at his NCIC record, he’s been arrested in every
place he’s been.”
Meanwhile, during the course of the hearing, Connor
submitted an oral motion for Carroll to recuse himself from the matter after the
judge disclosed that he grew up with the father of one of Coulter’s potential
At the end of the hearing, Carroll told the parties, “I’m
reserving an opinion on this.”
Prosecutors charge that Coulter clubbed and repeatedly
stabbed Bennett to death inside the Sapphire Village apartment they both
shared. The incident occurred sometime between Nov. 28 and 29, 2014. Coulter
then left the island shortly after and was extradited to the territory almost a
year later to face the charges.
According to an affidavit filed by Det. Dwight Griffith in
support of the arrest warrant, one of Bennett’s co-workers requested a welfare
check on the 60-year-old man, which was prompted after she received two “out
sick” calls on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 from Bennett’s roommate, Coulter. Bennett was
not heard from since.
A group from the hospital’s security arrived at Bennett’s residence
on Dec. 2 and knocked on the door, but there was no answer, according to
Griffith’s affidavit. They then contacted the property manager, who let them
into the apartment. Once inside, they noticed the scent of Clorox bleach,
according to Griffith’s affidavit. While walking around and inspecting the
apartment, they saw sitting in a corner a sheet wrapped around a large object
with trash bags heaped on top of it. One officer who touched the bag saw what
appeared to be blood, according to Griffith.
Police were called to the scene after Bennett’s body was
discovered stuffed inside the garbage bags. At the scene, forensic detectives
sprayed the apartment with luminal, which showed the presence of blood on the
back wall behind the living room couch, on the living room couch and on a conch
shell, according to Griffith’s affidavit. Investigators also spoke to several persons
who knew both Bennett and Coulter. Based on witnesses’ statements and other
evidence collected at the scene, there was probable cause to arrest Coulter,
who had left the island on Dec. 2, according to Griffith’s affidavit.
secured an arrest warrant, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office in Florida
arrested Coulter on July 5, 2015, in connection with the crime. Then, on Nov.
12, 2015, agents from the V.I. Police Department traveled to Orlando, Florida,
to return Coulter to the territory. Coulter refused to waive extradition and voluntarily
returned to the Virgin Islands, where he was formally arrested and charged,
according to court documents.