ST. THOMAS, V.I. – A North Carolina man who confessed to killing his
roommate more than four years ago has been handed a 40-year prison sentence –
with credit for time already served.
Brian Coulter, 35, stood before V.I. Superior Court Judge Kathleen Mackay on
Friday morning to be sentenced for the murder of William Bennett in late
Attorney General Carol Jacobs said justice has been served for the victim and
crime was senseless and heinous. It is apparent Jason Coulter, who committed
this atrocity, had absolutely no regard for human life,” Acting AG Jacobs
said. “I hope that while he sits in jail
serving his sentence, he will use the time to reflect on what he has done and
the heartache he has caused Mr. Bennett’s family.”
with one count each of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, first-degree
assault, third-degree assault and attempt to destroy evidence, as well as two
counts of using a dangerous weapon during the commission of a murder, two
counts of using a dangerous weapon during the commission of a first-degree
assault and two counts of using a dangerous weapon during the commission of a
third-degree assault in connection with Bennett’s slaying, Coulter accepted a
deal from prosecutors and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in exchange
for a 22-year prison term.
allocution, Assistant Attorney General Eugene Connor, Jr., characterized
Coulter as a “sociopath who has no empathy for his fellow human beings.”
“He’s spent his
whole adult life drifting from place to place and bringing evil wherever he
went – Hawaii, Florida and now the Virgin Islands… The evil stops here today in
the Virgin Islands,” AAG Connor said, while asking the judge to impose a
sentence of not less than 22 years as stipulated to in the plea agreement.
the court also heard from the victim’s daughter, Lauren Bennett Gibson. In recounting the events leading up to her
father’s death, Gibson said 22 years was not enough for Coulter’s crime.
“I’d never had
such a traumatic experience before. I
don’t understand how my dad was such a wonderful human being and how anyone
could have done what they did to him… He has no remorse about it… I don’t think
22 years is not enough. My dad was 67
years old and I want him to spend 67 years in prison thinking about my dad,”
Gibson told the court.
alleged 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 Coulter’s arrest, one of
Bennett’s co-workers requested a welfare check on him, 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
were called to the scene after Bennett’s body was discovered stuffed inside the
garbage bag. 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.
arrest, Coulter remained in jail unable to post his $750,000 bail. He was immediately remanded into custody
following his sentencing.