A 39-year-old Atlanta woman killed while vacationing in Grenada was raped by her alleged assailant, police said.
Acting Royal Grenada Police Force Commissioner Winston James met with reporters Wednesday shortly after Dave Michael Benjamin was criminally charged in the case. Jessica Colker and husband Brian Melito were attacked Sunday as they walked on the beach, one day after arriving on the island.
“From the evidence provided we believe that she was sexually assaulted, that she was rape(d),” James said.
Police said Colker’s husband, Brian Melito, 62, was not injured.
An autopsy earlier this week confirmed Colker died from “extensive skull fracture and asphyxia.” James said Wednesday there is no clear evidence why Benjamin choose to attack the couple, but people who saw him on the beach earlier said he was “begging persons on the beach for money.”
“That is why he became our chief suspect,” James said.
James said Benjamin “took the couple away” but the husband managed to escape. James would not say whether the accused had demanded money from the couple.
Known as “Giant” or “Shuttle,” Benjamin made his first court appearance late Wednesday morning and was remanded to a prison without bond, police said. Benjamin, a landscaper who lives in Grenada, has been charged with capital murder. He did not have an attorney in court, according to police.
James said Wednesday that Benjamin did not confess to the slaying, as had been reported in some outlets, but was charged based on reliable evidence gathered through investigation.
Benjamin surrendered to police on Monday. Police denied that a blade — such as a machete, cutlass or sword — was used in the attack, despite numerous media reports that Colker was attacked with such a weapon.
The brutal death shocked both people on the island and friends of the couple, who married in November 2014 in Atlanta.
“She was just a beautiful soul,” friend Sara Greene said. “She was such a great friend.”
Greene told Channel 2 Colker loved to travel with her husband and she truly cared about people.
Colker was planning a Valentine’s Day benefit to help refugees, Greene said.
Linda Straker reported for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution from St. George’s Grenada