The lure of Festival time on St. John is so strong, even suspected murderers can’t resist.
More than a year after Jamie Cockayne was stabbed to death in Cruz Bay, V.I. Police Department officials arrested Jahlil Ward on June 27 at the Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas as the Gift Hill man was returning to the territory from the mainland.
Ward, 20, was the third man arrested in connection to the high-profile murder which occurred during the early morning hours of June 19, 2007. He faces charges of first degree murder, first degree assault and using a dangerous weapon in the commission of a crime of violence.
At Ward’s advice of rights hearing on Monday, June 30, V.I. Superior Court Judge Brenda Hollar set bail at $100,000. Unable to post bail, Ward was remanded to the St. Thomas correctional facility.
Following a media outcry by Cockayne’s parents — who appeared on several national cable news outlets blasting the VIPD — Kamal Thomas, originally from Georgia, and Anselmo Boston, a St. Croix native, were arrested in August 2007 and charged with murdering the 21-year-old Pennsylvania man.
Defense Lawyer Introduces Evidence
Both Thomas and Boston face first degree murder, first degree assault and weapons charges. Thomas also faces a witness tampering charge.
Ward’s arrest came after Thomas’s defense attorney Michael Joseph submitted an affidavit naming the St. John man as a suspect in a pre-trial motion.
In a May 12 affidavit, an Estate Enighed resident explained how he was at home with his girlfriend when Ward started banging on his door, according to written reports.
Ward bragged about killing Cockayne to the Estate Enighed man that night and to at least one other person the following day, according to a report in the V.I. Daily News.
Despite Ward’s arrest, the government has not dropped the charges against Thomas or Boston.
Charges Against Three
“Friday’s arrest of Jahlil Ward does not exonerate, at this time, either Anselmo Boston or Kamal Thomas of their involvement in the violent and fatal attack on James Cockayne,” Attorney General for the Virgin Islands Vincent Frazer, said in a prepared statement. “Each of the men is charged, and will be tried as principals, who aided and abetted one another in carrying out this murder.”
Department of Justice Officials aren’t dropping the charges against Thomas because they simply can’t admit they made a mistake, according to Joseph.
“We found the murderer and now they are saying we aided and abetted him,” said Joseph. “This just shows that no good deed goes unpunished. They don’t want to admit that they got the wrong two people.”
At the time of the murder Cockayne had been on St. John for about a month while he was awaiting paperwork from the British Virgin Islands for employment at the Bitter End Yacht Club, where he was hired to be a sailing instructor.
Front Yard Fight
On the evening of June 18, 2007, just hours before he was stabbed to death in front of the Fashion Palace, Cockayne got into a physical altercation with Boston and Thomas at the Front Yard Bar, located next door to the VIPD’s Leander Jurgen Command.
Boston allegedly broke a pool stick over Cockayne’s head before he and Thomas chased him up the street stabbed him to death behind wooden construction scaffold.
Witnesses say they saw Cockayne stumble out from behind the partition and say “why don’t you just go ahead and kill me then.”
Thomas and Boston, both out of jail but confined to house arrest, are set to appear in court on October 6 with Ward.
Joseph predicted a contentious courtroom if Ward’s case is joined with the case against Thomas and Boston.
“As far as we are concerned, it’s going to be a very brutal trial if we are sitting next to the murderer,” said Joseph.
April 2006 Shooting
Ward’s arrest late last month was not his first brush with the law. The Gift Hill man was involved in a rash of violence that occurred over two days across St. John in April 2006, which landed Ward in the hospital and cost him a kidney.
First a 16-year-old boy was shot in the hand on April 7, 2006 in Estate Enighed. The next day Ward ended up on the other end of a firearm when he was seriously injured in an apparent retaliatory drive-by shooting.
Ward pleaded guilty to possession of an unlicensed firearm in connection to the April 7, 2006 shooting of the teenager. Judge Hollar sentenced him to serve 15 months in jail and to pay a $5,000 fine.
Denzil Stevens, a 19-year-old Estate Carolina man, was found guilty of attempting to kill Ward in the April 8 drive-by shooting. Stevens was sentenced to 15 years in prison for the shooting.