Kamal ”Six Pack” Thomas, 18, of Gifft Hill, was charged Friday, August 3, in the June stabbing death of a 21-year-old Pennsylvania man whose murder was drawing national media coverage.
There was no official comment on reports that police were seeking a second suspect in the fatal attack.
“The investigation remains ongoing,” according to an August 4 V.I. Police Department statement. “Further details will be provided as they become available. Our goal remains as it has been — justice for James Cockayne and punishment for those responsible for this crime.”
VIPD officers arrested Thomas around 9:30 p.m. in Cruz Bay, according to published reports.
Thomas was charged with first degree murder, first degree assault and using a dangerous weapon during the commission of a dangerous crime, according to the VIPD.
Thomas was held without bail and scheduled to face a V.I. Superior Court judge for a hearing on Monday, August 6.
In the week leading up to Thomas’ arrest, the lack of law enforcement action in the brutal slaying of James Cockayne in the early morning hours of June 19 had begun garnering stateside news media attention — and worrying USVI tourism officials.
National and local Philadelphia news stations covered the victim’s family’s concern about the VIPD investigation into the murder, which took place within sight of the VIPD Leander Jurgen Command.
National Television Reporting
Fox News correspondent Greta Van Susteren questioned the Cockaynes in a report on the story on her nationally-broadcast daily show, On The Record.
The report entitled, “Murder in Paradise,” which aired in the U.S. on Tuesday night, July 31, included an interview with Cockayne’s parents, Jean and Bill, and their attorney Sean Summers.
In the interview with Van Susteren, the Cockaynes alleged the V.I. Police Depart-ment did not follow up on leads, mishandled evidence and kept them in the dark about the investigation.
Private Investigation Identifies Two
The Cockayne family financed a private investigation of the crime on St. John, including the interviewing of witnesses to events leading up to the attack on their son.
The family’s investigation confirmed the young visitor to St. John was followed out of a Cruz Bay bar located next to the police station by two men after an argument.
The private investigator working for the victim’s family determined the VIPD had interviewed the same witnesses and knew the identity of Cockayne’s attackers shortly after the murder but failed to act, according to the family.
“Everyone on this island has been talking about this kid, ‘Six Pack’, since the day after the murder,” Cockayne’s mother Jean wrote Tradewinds. (See Pages 18 and 19)
The family did not comment on the possibility of any other arrests in the case.
No Faith in Police or Prosecution
“I have absolutely no faith or confidence in them,” Jean Cockayne said about the VIPD on Van Susteren’s show.
“The Police Department and Office of the Attorney General have kept in regular communication with the Cockayne family,” the VIPD said in its August 4 release. “The family was notified at the time the arrest was made yesterday.”
“We will continue to keep the family up to date with ongoing communication regarding the case as we continue our deliberate and thorough investigation,” the VIPD statement continued.
The murder victim’s family also questioned the competence of territory officials to successfully prosecute anyone eventually charged in the crime.
Van Susteren compared the case to that of Natalie Holloway the Alabama teenager whose disappearance in Aruba impacted tourism on the southern Caribbean island.
Further Media Coverage Planned
Several stateside media were planning further coverage of the unsolved murder before a government house source told St. John Tradewinds and other media outlets on Thursday, August 2, that there would be an arrest shortly.
One Florida CBS television reporter told St. John Tradewinds August 2 that his planned weekend trip to St. John was postponed after he was told by V.I. authorities that an arrest was imminent.
Also on August 2, an investigator with the Van Susteren show told Tradewinds the show was planning to revisit the Cockayne story after completing on-scene coverage of the Minnesota highway bridge collapse.
Segments about the murder also aired on local Philadelphia NBC and CBS affiliate stations. Cockayne family members describe police incompetency, relating how they washed away evidence at the crime scene before a forensic unit arrived.
Senators Note Bad Press
The bad press in the U.S. mainland was brought up at Department of Tourism budget hearing at the V.I. Legislature on Wednesday, August 1. Several senators reportedly questioned Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson Doty about the effect the reports might have on tourism.
The department has a crisis plan in place to deal with such instances, according to an on-line news forum.
The murder has been a hot topic on several on-line travel message boards. St. John Tradewinds received more than 25 letters concerning the investigation of the crime
“If you’re murdered in paradise is it still paradise,” was a question which appeared often on VINow.com about the murder.
The Cockaynes’ accusations that government officials failed to contact them during the investigation were incorrect, according to Government House spokesperson John Greaux on Friday, August 3.
“In terms of the Cockayne family, I know for a fact that the Police Commissioner and the Attorney General have been in contact with them and their legal representative,” Greaux said before the arrest. “I can tell you that regular communications have been held and continue as far as what has happened and what is happening.”
VIPD Were “Ready To Act”
Stopping short of promising an arrest, at that time Greaux said VIPD officials were ready to act in the Cockayne case.
“We are ready to bring those responsible for the crime to justice and at the appropriate time, government officials will make public the findings of the investigation and justice will be served,” Greaux said.