ST. STHOMAS — Prosecution of the St. Thomas man accused of killing a visitor from New Jersey in 2014 is moving forward, according to court records and officials of the VI Justice Department.
Mekel Wayne Blash, 25, a resident of Nadir, is charged in connection with the stabbing death of James Malfetti, 41, in Chocolate Hole in January 2014. Blash is charged with first- and second- degree murder, assault, burglary, grand larceny and use of a weapon in the commission of a violent crime.
Blash was arrested April 17 of this year and is currently incarcerated in the St. Thomas Criminal Justice Complex unable to post $500,000 bail. An attempt to have his bail raised to $1 million was turned down by a Superior Court Judge, according to the head of the V.I. Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
First degree murder is the only criminal charge for which a defendant can be held in jail, without bond, pending trial if the judge says so, according to V.I. law. Prosecutors have to convince the court they have evidence and testimony to prove the defendant committed pre-meditated murder and did so with malicious intent to gain that determination.
But so far, in the first phase of the Malfetti murder case that has not happened. When Justice offcials went to court to ask for higher bail in May they were unsuccessful.
“It remained the same,” Criminal Division Chief Renee Gumbs-Carty said of the bail requirement.
A discovery hearing has been set in the matter for July 7, although no date has been set yet for an arraignment hearing, according to court officials. Discovery is commonly the first step in a pre-trial process, but without an arraignment, where the defendant enters a plea on the charges brought against them, no trial date is set.
Administrators in the office of the court clerk say the judge had kept Blash’s case file in chambers since the last hearing in mid-May, a signal that further pre-trial action may be taken.