American accused of killing wife in Tonga, escaping on boat
HONOLULU (AP) — A U.S. citizen was being held Wednesday in Honolulu for extradition to Tonga, where he’s accused of beating his wife to death, escaping police and sailing some 300 miles to American Samoa.
Kingdom of Tonga officials said Dean Jay Fletcher, 54, was indicted on murder and other charges in the July death of his wife, Patricia Linne Kearney.
Three diving operators saw Fletcher assaulting his wife on a dinghy after she picked him up July 6 at the Neiafu Port of Refuge, according to provisional arrest documents filed in federal court in Honolulu.
Fletcher kept kicking and punching Kearney as the couple arrived at another boat, named Sea Oak, which was moored about 100 meters from shore, Tonga officials told U.S. prosecutors.
One witness reported that he saw Fletcher grab his wife’s head while she was in the dinghy, “slam his knee into her neck and punch her in the head,” the documents state.
The next day, Fletcher went to the Neiafu Police Station to report his wife had died when she slipped and fell down stairs on their yacht.
Fletcher allegedly told an acquaintance that his wife had a nerve disease and had been drunk. The person reported seeing a blood-stained bed sheet in the dinghy, and another person said Fletcher dropped the sheet into the sea, the documents state.
While in police custody on July 11, Fletcher asked a detective for permission to use the toilet then ran out of the police station and was caught after a brief foot chase, authorities said.
The records say officers couldn’t catch him when he fled again in September and was last seen sailing away in a boat.
He traveled some 300 miles north to American Samoa, where he was arrested.
U.S. marshals escorted him to Honolulu Tuesday because there’s no federal court in American Samoa.
American Samoa authorities were tipped off about Fletcher’s arrival by a woman who told police he entered Pago Pago harbor aboard his sailboat.
The woman told police she recognized Fletcher as a man she knew six years ago and that she had read news accounts that he was wanted by police in Tonga, according to court documents.
A detention hearing is scheduled for Monday in Honolulu.
Tonga officials have two months to provide authorities in Honolulu with extradition documents. It will be up to the U.S. Department of State to determine if he’ll be extradited, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Larry Butrick.
Fletcher’s federal public defender in Honolulu didn’t immediately respond to messages for comment. The Sea Oak remained moored in Pago Pago Wednesday, police said.
Sagapolutele reported from Pago Pago, American Samoa.