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Blood found on kidnapped Americans’ yacht during Caribbean prison escape: ‘Presumed dead’

Authorities said that they found blood on a retired American couple's yacht after three prisoners from a Caribbean island allegedly hijacked their vessel.

A retired American couple is “presumed dead” after three prison escapees from a Caribbean island seized their yacht to make a getaway, local authorities said late Monday afternoon.

Ralph Hendry, 66, and his wife, Kathy Brandel, 71, were kidnapped on Feb. 18 when the escapees hijacked their yacht docked near the shores of tourist hotspot Grand Anse Beach in Grenada, according to Junior Simmons, superintendent of police in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. 

Blood was found among the tattered ruins of the Virginia couple’s prized possession, nicknamed “Simplicity,” Simmons said, which was abandoned about 70 miles off of St. Vincent, a southern Caribbean nation.


“While sailing from Grenada, the suspects committed several criminal acts, including bodily harm to the couple,” he said.

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Before the press conference, loved ones and authorities were hoping that Hendry and Brandel would be found alive, but the outlook was bleak at best.

Don McKenzie, commissioner of the Royal Grenada Police, said during an earlier press conference that the three prison escapees “disposed of the occupants” somewhere between St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

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While he said there was “no conclusive evidence” that they were dead, he also said it was a long shot they were still alive. 

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“We still hold out hope that, despite what might be a low probability, they would turn up alive somewhere,” McKenzie said early Monday morning. 

Simmons said the search for Hendry and Brandel continued Monday evening. 

The suspects – identified as Ron Mitchell, 30, Trevon Robertson, 19, and Abita Stanislaus, 25 – escaped from the South St. George Police Station on Feb. 18, according to officials.

The next day, they commandeered the couple’s boat by force and took off, police said.

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On Feb. 21, the three suspects were captured by St. Vincent law enforcement and are being held on several immigration charges as the joint investigations into the hijacking and how they escaped continue.

McKenzie said during the Monday press conference that he personally checked the prison cells and said there was nothing wrong with the doors or locks. 

“I am satisfied that the proper procedures were followed, and we should not have had an escape,” he said. 

McKenzie said he directed a senior investigator to “conduct a thorough review” and find out what happened. 

When asked if there was potential bribery or collusion, he said, “All aspects are on the table.”

As of Monday morning, the supervisor overseeing the jail where the inmates escaped was placed on leave and reassigned, and he could be fired pending the outcome of the internal investigation.

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More jail personnel will likely be disciplined as the probe continues, according to McKenzie.

“It is with profound sadness and heavy hearts that we share the devastating news of the senseless act of violence that tragically claimed the lives of husband and wife, Ralph Hendry and Kathy Brandel,” a family friend wrote on a GoFundMe, which had raised nearly $53,000 as of Monday evening.

“Kathy and Ralph were seasoned sailors who lived on their beloved catamaran, ‘Simplicity’ … Kathy and Ralph, experienced adventurers, spent their retirement sailing aboard ‘Simplicity,’ spending summers in New England and embracing the warmth of Caribbean winters. Their final voyage with the Salty Dawg Sailing Association crew took an unthinkable turn as Simplicity was found abandoned in St. Vincent, bearing chilling evidence of a violent struggle.”

Over the weekend, the couple’s two sons – Bryan Hendry and Nick Buro – released a statement.

“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,” they wrote. “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.”

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“Thanks to all this input from this community we are able to develop a timeline of events. For the safety of the cruising community we are asking all cruisers, and anyone that is not affiliated with the officials with presiding jurisdiction, to stand down. The only way we feel this situation could be worse would be if anyone was hurt or endangered trying to conduct searches,” they continued.

“We also want to applaud the St. Vincent authorities for their quick actions in securing Simplicity and their brave, swift response that led to the apprehension of three dangerous fugitives. We greatly appreciate the coordination of the St. Vincent and Royal Grenadian Police forces and Coast Guards in investigating these events,” the sons wrote.

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