A 54-year-old American man is accused of beating his wife to death in Tonga and then sailing 300 miles on a boat after telling officers he needed to use the toilet.
Dean Fletcher is accused of kicking and punching his wife, Patricia Kearney, to death on a dinghy at the Neiafu Port of Refuge, on the south coast of Vava’u.
Three diving operators saw Fletcher attacking his wife as the couple arrived at another boat named ‘Sea Oak’, according to provisional arrest documents.
One witness claimed Fletcher grabbed his wife’s head while she was in the dinghy and ‘slammed his knee into her neck and punch her in the head’.
Dean Fletcher, 54, is accused of kicking and punching his wife, Patricia Kearney, to death
The following day, on July 7, 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 a friend his wife had a nerve disease and had been drunk.
A witness reported seeing a blood-stained bed sheet in the dinghy, while another claimed Fletcher dropped the sheet into the sea, the documents said.
Dean Fletcher is accused of kicking and punching his wife, Patricia Kearney, to death on a dinghy at the Neiafu Port of Refuge, on the south coast of Vava’u (pictured)
Fletcher sailed 300 miles from Tonga to American Samoa after escaping from police
While in police custody on July 11, Fletcher asked a detective for permission to use the toilet and then escaped from the police station.
He was captured after a brief foot chase.
However he fled from the station again in September and officers failed to stop him.
He traveled 300 miles north to American Samoa, where he was arrested.
Fletcher was taken to Honolulu on Tuesday because there is no federal court in American Samoa.
Fletcher fled the police station in Tonga and sailed 300 miles to Pago Pago in American Samoa (pictured) on his boat, the ‘Sea Oak’
American Samoa authorities were tipped off about Fletcher’s arrival by a woman who told police he entered Pago Pago harbor on his ‘Sea Oak’ sailboat.
The woman told police she recognized Fletcher as a man she knew six years ago and she had read news accounts that he was wanted by police in Tonga.
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 is extradited, Assistant U.S. Attorney Larry Butrick said.
The Sea Oak is still moored in Pago Pago, police said.
Murder can be punished by the death penalty in Tonga, although the last execution was carried out in 1982.
Under the Criminal Offences Act of the Kingdom of Tonga, the crimes of treason and murder can be punished by the death penalty (although in practice, Tonga has not utilised the death penalty for many years, with the last execution in 1982).