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AG Asks For $1 Million Bail For Man Who Stuffed Dead Roommate In A Garbage Bag


$1 MILLION BAIL: Jason Coulter

CHARLOTTE AMALIE – A Florida 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 Schneider Hospital.

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 third-party custodians.

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.

Having 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.

Judge James Carroll

 Judge James Carroll III

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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