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Anguished by loss, angry over rulings

Members of a New Hope family whose son was stabbed to death in the U.S. Virgin Islands six months ago say they remain unhappy with how the case is being handled, despite the arrests of two suspects.

The men charged with killing Jamie Cockayne - Kamal "Six Pack" Thomas, left, and Anselmo Ricardo Boston - were granted bail, a move that has outraged the slain man's family.
The men charged with killing Jamie Cockayne - Kamal "Six Pack" Thomas, left, and Anselmo Ricardo Boston - were granted bail, a move that has outraged the slain man's family.Read more

Members of a New Hope family whose son was stabbed to death in the U.S. Virgin Islands six months ago say they remain unhappy with how the case is being handled, despite the arrests of two suspects.

The death of 21-year-old Jamie Cockayne, knifed after he left a bar on the resort island of St. John, got national attention in the weeks before the August arrests.

But with the men - charged with first-degree murder - released after posting bail, the Cockaynes are angry, complaining that the police and prosecution initially failed to appear at a bail hearing for one defendant.

"One hand does not know what the other is doing, that is for sure," said Jean Gilligan Cockayne, mother of the slain man.

The island residents charged with murder are Kamal "Six Pack" Thomas and Anselmo Ricardo Boston.

"This case has been given the attention it deserves," Virgin Islands Attorney General Vincent Frazer said in a recent interview.

It was at Boston's bail hearing that the prosecutor and detective on the case did not appear.

"It is hard to have any confidence in the local government there when it bungles everything every step of the way," said Sean Summers, attorney for the Cockayne family.

Especially upsetting to the family was the relatively low bail. The Virgin Islands Daily News reported that Boston was able to post $100,000, with family property as collateral, and that Thomas had posted 10 percent of $75,000.

In Pennsylvania, there is no bail for first-degree-murder defendants.

The Cockaynes' criticism is only the latest controversy involving the professionalism of the Virgin Islands police and the decision-making of the local Superior Court judge, Leon A. Kendall, who set Thomas' bail.

Kendall wrote that the prosecution had failed to satisfy requirements for refusing bail.

Controversial for bail decisions in other cases, Kendall said that a detective had called the case against Thomas "circumstantial," and that the detective had not interviewed alibi witnesses who placed Thomas elsewhere at the time of the slaying. The opinion noted that Cockayne's body had been found one hour after he left the bar - which is near a St. John police station.

Boston, reached at his home by telephone, first denied knowing Jamie Cockayne. Then he said the two had had an altercation early on the evening of the stabbing, "way before" the New Hope man was killed.

"Me and this guy got involved in the argument that night. That's about it," Boston said. "I'm a hardworking man, and I am accused of something I didn't do."

A phone number for Thomas could not be found.

Frazer said his staff's failure to appear at the hearing had resulted from "a mix-up in communication with the prosecutor and the court." The case is "on track to where it should be at this time," he said.

Kendall, meanwhile, faces a hearing on earlier complaints that he released defendants accused of violent crimes on little or no bail.

The judge has also filed a libel suit against two reporters from the Virgin Islands Daily News over articles about his bail decisions.

Through his law clerk, Kendall declined to comment on the Cockayne case.

Witnesses' accounts in a police affidavit placed Boston and Thomas at the crime scene June 19, the night Jamie Cockayne was killed.

The former New Hope-Solebury High School lacrosse player, who wanted a career in which he could sail, was waiting for work papers to arrive before he could start a job at a British Virgin Islands yacht club.

Bored with spending nights at home, Cockayne decided to go out drinking, his mother said.

At some point, according to police reports, Cockayne may have kicked a Jeep that belonged to Boston's girlfriend.

Later that evening, Cockayne went to the Front Yard Bar in Cruz Bay, on the west side of St. John. It is a "late-night pool hall dive bar," not a typical tourist bar, an employee said. Witnesses said Boston had cursed Cockayne and hit him with a pool stick. Both were asked to to leave.

Outside, another witness said, Boston and Thomas picked up sticks the size of billy clubs and followed Cockayne as he walked away.

Thomas allegedly told police later that the two men "were going to beat the white boy to give satisfaction to Selmo," referring to Boston. When they rushed Cockayne, "he broke a bottle and braced himself for a beating."

A witness walking past a nearby building reported hearing someone say: "Why don't you just go ahead and kill me then?"

Fifteen seconds later, a man ran out from behind a wall and left in a car. Cockayne came from behind the same wall and said, "Hey, come . . . back here. I'll kill you."

Cockayne collapsed on the road, blood pouring from his shorts, and was pronounced dead at 1:10 a.m.

Frazer said his office had received "some assistance" from the FBI. He said it was not unusual for a murder case to take two years to get to court.

In Pennsylvania, a murder trial would usually be scheduled within a year, said Michael Malloy, a Delaware County criminal defense attorney.

Two years seems too long, said Jean Gilligan Cockayne, who complained that prosecutors had done little to keep her family informed.

Gilligan Cockayne has given out her phone number on blogs and in newspapers in an attempt to find witnesses, and has traveled to the Virgin Islands to meet with the governor and attorney general.

"We were promised certain information, and to date we haven't heard anything," she said. Family members requested the autopsy report and were told by prosecutors they could not see it.

Gilligan Cockayne said she had been "seeing a shrink" to cope with the trauma. Asked how she was doing, she broke down.

"All I see in my mind is my baby lying in a pool of blood in the streets of Cruz Bay, and a policeman standing there with his arms crossed, showing a complete lack of compassion," she said, softly crying.

The Virgin Islands Police Department has been criticized before.

This year, the Virgin Islands Daily News won a top Associated Press Managing Editors award for its accounts of corruption and incompetence in the police Major Crimes Unit.

In 1995, the paper won a Pulitzer Prize for a series that described wide failings in police, local prosecutors and the judiciary.

None of the Cockaynes' complaints surprised Virgin Islands lawyer Eszart Wynter of St. Croix.

Wynter, a former police officer who attended Georgetown University, said delays in trials were common and could result in part from a lack of resources.

"We do not have a lab down here, which we should," Wynter said. Any evidence collected, he said, must go to an FBI lab. "That is where you see a substantial amount of delay."

Wynter added it was not unusual for defendants to be released on bail as long as they were guaranteed to show up for trial. "There is a presumption of innocence."