Missing American Couple Presumed Dead After Alleged Yacht Hijacking in Grenada

At a press conference on Monday, Royal Grenada Police Force Commissioner Don McKenzie stated that the American couple who were reportedly kidnapped by escaped prisoners last week while on their yacht in Grenada were probably thrown overboard.

The Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force released a supplementary statement on Monday stating that the two are “presumed dead.”

That statement claims that three suspects committed “several criminal acts including bodily harm to the couple” while sailing the yacht.

They are said to have broken out of a Grenadan prison before taking it over and heading to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Following the yacht’s ultimate recovery, the police reported that the situation was “consistent with signs of violence.”

“Several items were strewn on the deck and in the cabin and a red substance that resembled blood was seen on board. There was no discovery of bodies on board the yacht,” that statement added.

McKenzie stated at the press conference that information indicates the escapees “disposed of the occupants” while traveling between Grenada and St. Vincent, which is roughly 80 miles distant.

However, the police stated that they were unable to positively identify Kathy Brandel and Ralph Hendry’s present location.

Despite the “low probability,” they believe “they may turn up alive somewhere,” McKenzie explained.

The tragic news comes as the American couple’s family prepares for the likelihood that “they aren’t with us” following the violent incident that may indicate they were slain and as authorities in the Caribbean continue to look into their disappearance.

The Virginia couple, recognized by their sailing club, were fulfilling a long-held ambition of traveling the Caribbean aboard their sailing vessel, Simplicity.

Missing American Couple Presumed Dead After Alleged Yacht Hijacking in Grenada

According to the group, the Salty Dawg Sailing Association, the boat was discovered abandoned on Wednesday off the coast of St. Vincent, and the husband and wife were nowhere to be located.

Three days after they escaped from custody on Sunday, February 18, three of the inmates were apprehended again, according to the police.

The Royal Grenada Police Force released a statement stating that evidence reveals the escapees seized the yacht and may have slain its two American occupants in St. George. At the same time, they fled to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

According to the police, they are in communication with the US envoy in Grenada. A five-person team was sent from Grenada to work with St. Vincent authorities following the capture in order to conduct a “complete and thorough investigation,” according to the commissioner.

McKenzie stated that there would be an investigation into any potential bribery or collaboration between the three escapees and the police.

According to him, an inquiry is in progress to determine whether the escape represented a “system failure” or if it “was a case that somebody did slip up.”

Ron Mitchell, 30, Trevon Robertson, 19, and Abita Stanislaus, 25, are the hijacking suspects. According to Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force Superintendent Junior O. Simmons, the suspects are assisting the police.

The Royal Grenada Police Force stated that before the escape, Mitchell was also accused of rape and indecent assault, while the other three had been charged with violent robbery.

The Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force reports that the accused appeared before a judge on Monday in St. Vincent about charges linked to immigration, to which they all entered guilty pleas.

According to authorities, the couple’s search and investigation will go on.

The US State Department confirmed Friday that it is “aware of these reports involving US citizens. We are monitoring the situation and seeking additional information.”

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Son Recalls, “It Was Their Home”

Nick Buro, Brandel’s son, expressed his continued optimism that the couple will be discovered on a Caribbean island.

“The boat itself was ransacked and everything was strewn about in the entire cabin, so clearly there was an altercation of some type that took place on the boat,” Buro told CNN on Sunday. “We are concerned for their safety overall because it does appear that they were likely injured.”

Brandel turned 71 on Wednesday, the day the abandoned yacht was found, according to Buro. Ralph will turn 67 on March 2, according to his son Bryan Hendry.

According to Buro, his mother and stepfather were seasoned boaters who had spent years organizing the trip, which was their first Caribbean cruise.

“They were super careful to be safe all the time,” Buro said. “Everywhere they went everything they did, safety was their top, top concern. So this unfortunate accident, I think, it came out of nowhere for them.”

Years ago, he continued, the couple sold their house and purchased Simplicity, immersing themselves in an alluring life on the water.

“It was their home. Everything they had, they owned, was on that boat. It was their life,” he said. “Kathy worked her whole life and then retired. Ralph worked in financial services and continued to work from the boat. But really what they did was … choose a lifestyle that most of us would never imagine could be done. And they loved every minute of it and they saw many parts of the world and just lived a life of joy and love.”

A ‘Good Samaritan’ Discovered an Abandoned Boat

The boater who saw the Simplicity anchored and abandoned off the south coast of St. Vincent called the Salty Dawg Sailing Association on Wednesday, according to the association.

“The good Samaritan had boarded the boat and noted that the owners, Ralph Hendry and Kathy Brandel, were not onboard and found evidence of apparent violence,” the group stated in a statement. According to the association, the person also got in touch with the Coast Guard, who then alerted the St. Vincent police.

The Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force apprehended the fugitives that same day, according to Grenada police.

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The head of the sailing club, Ben Osborn, said the violence was unprecedented and extended his support to the families.

“This is a very upsetting event and details are still unconfirmed by the authorities, but this does appear to be a tragic event – our hopes and prayers are with Ralph and Kathy and the family who love them,” Osborn said in a statement. “In all my years of cruising the Caribbean, I have never heard of anything like this.”

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Experienced Boaters Get an Outpouring of Support

Following their disappearance, friends and church members from the boating community came out with offers of support, according to Brandel and Hendry’s families.

“We want to reach out to the entire cruiser community to express our gratitude for everyone that worked to gather information from eyewitnesses and provide search and rescue support. It means so much to us that so many people cared for Ralph and Kathy as friends and fellow cruisers that they are willing to stop and help in whatever way possible,” Buro and Bryan Hendry said in a statement shared by the sailing club.

Additionally, they requested that boats that are not connected to the official investigation cease their search operations.

The statement said, “The only way we feel this situation could be worse would be if anyone was hurt or endangered trying to conduct searches.”

Additionally, the couple was well-connected to the local Christian community; on Saturday, Buro added, a prayer service was organized in their honor.

On Nick Buro’s behalf, a GoFundMe page has been set up to assist with covering the costs of the couple’s assistance, the rescue of the yacht, and their possessions.

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