US tourist slain on Caribbean island of Grenada

ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada (AP) — A machete-wielding man attacked a U.S. tourist couple as they walked along an isolated beach on Grenada, killing the woman, police on the Caribbean island said Tuesday.

Jessica Lewis Colker, 39, of Atlanta, was found dead after her husband ran to get help following the attack, which occurred around noon Sunday on a remote stretch of coast along the island’s southeast, said Sylvan McIntyre, an assistant superintendent with the Royal Grenada Police Force.

A suspect was in custody.

Colker and her husband, Brian Van Melito, had arrived on Grenada a day before the assault and were staying at a hotel near where the attack occurred in an area of beach and mangrove in St. David Parish, McIntrye said.

They had walked from the more popular La Sagesse beach at the time to a more remote spot. “It is an area where you can go off for a moment of privacy and seclusion,” he said.

Colker worked as a physician’s assistant at a children’s hospital in metro Atlanta. Van Melito is a physician. The couple, who met at a dance workshop in Costa Rica, married in November 2014, according to an online wedding album.

“Jessica was a valued member of our Children’s team,” Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta said in a statement. “We are deeply saddened by this horrific news. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family during this very difficult time.”

The motive for the attack was unknown. The husband told the police that he fought with the man, managed to get away and call for help. Police and residents of the area launched a search and found Colker’s body about an hour later in the woods. An autopsy found she died of extensive skull fracture and asphyxia.

La Sagesse Nature Center, the hotel where the couple had been staying, is secluded. A comment on the travel website TripAdvisor from March 10, 2015, warns of robbers on the beach: “We were robbed of all our cash today by a man wearing a mask and wielding a machete” in the daytime.

Mike Meranski, one of the hotel’s owners, denied that any of his guests had been robbed on the beach. “We have not had to deal with such an incident before until Sunday,” he said. “Things might have happened to other guests or people but not ours.”

McIntyre said the suspect was cooperating with the investigation but had not yet been charged by late Tuesday. Under local laws, now that he has been detained the police cannot name him until charges are filed.

Before he surrendered to authorities, police identified him as a 23-year-old who had been convicted of robbery and burglary in 2009. The earlier police statement also said he had been convicted of a sex offense in 2013 and sentenced to seven years but released in November after taking part in a reform program.

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