Weeks after parents’ brutal deaths in Jamaica, Georgia woman waits for answers

Melbourne and Etta Flake

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Melbourne and Etta Flake

A Spalding County woman is devastated after her Canadian parents were brutally killed in Jamaica two weeks ago.

The couple were killed in their St. Thomas winter home Jan. 9, but family members haven’t been able to bring the bodies of 81-year-old Melbourne and 74-year-old Etta Flake home to Winnipeg yet, daughter Sonia Fields of Griffin told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“My dad had been building a house brick by brick for 15 years in Jamaica,” Fields said. “He wanted to leave a legacy for his kids, so they could go back to where he was from — to have a place.”

Fields’ sister and the eldest of the couple’s five children, Debbie Olfert, told local Canadian media she went back to Jamaica to identify her parents’ bodies and make sure police were conducting a thorough investigation. She said she couldn’t recognize her mother after the vicious homicide.

"They had destroyed her face and I couldn't recognize her, and the only way I knew it was her ... was (that) she was wearing a necklace that she always wore," Olfert told CBC News.

Fields said despite a rise of violent crime in Jamaica, her parents’ winter home wasn’t in a “rough” area.

“They were Canadians doing the snowbird thing,” she said.

The couple’s children joined them in St. Thomas for Christmas; Fields left a week before her parents were killed.

“When we came home, we got a call that our parents had been murdered; tied up and killed,” Fields said. “We don’t even really know why.”

Police said the homicides were the result of a robbery, but Fields said the television wasn’t taken.

In the first few days of the new year, dozens of homicides were reported in Jamaica. Prime Minister Andrew Holness declared a state of emergency in the parish of St. James on Jan. 18 in response to gang shootings.

“They’re not telling us anything.” Fields said.

She said her parents would have given up any possession to have their lives spared.

“My dad was all of 130 pounds; if they wanted something they could have taken it,” Fields said. “What they did was wrong.”

The Flakes had lived in Winnipeg for 53 years after emigrating to Canada in the 1960s with two daughters, Fields said.

Her father retired from the Department of National Defense, where he was a carpenter. Her mother became a licensed practical nurse and all their children are now professionals, said Fields, who works as a speech therapist.

The family is spread out from Canada to Florida and Georgia, but Fields said her parents wanted to bring them all back to Jamaica. She feels now like the family can never go “home” again.

All she wants now is for her parents’ killers to be brought to justice and to raise enough money to take the bodies home to Canada once the coroner signs the release.

The family is raising money via GoFundMe.

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