A North Carolina man entered a guilty plea Thursday to second-degree murder in the death of his roommate almost four years ago, according to the V.I Attorney General’s Office.
Jason Coulter, 34, plead guilty to the November 2014 death of 60-year-old William Bennett, with whom he shared housing at the Sapphire Village Apartments on St. Thomas. Coulter fled the island after the crime. One of Bennett’s co-workers, after not being able to contact him for two days, requested a welfare check on him. Hospital security officers gained access to the apartment Dec. 2 and discovered Bennett’s body. (See Related Links, below.)
Bennett, from Tennessee, worked as a traveling lab technician and at the time of his death, he was an employee of Schneider Hospital.
Coulter faced charges of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, two counts of using a dangerous weapon during the commission of a murder, first-degree assault, two counts of using a dangerous weapon during the commission of a first-degree assault, third-degree assault, two counts of using a dangerous weapon during the commission of a third-degree assault and attempt to destroy evidence.
On Thursday, Coulter stood before V.I. Superior Court Judge Kathleen Mackay and admitted that he bludgeoned and then stabbed Bennett to death. Under the plea agreement, Attorney General Claude Earl Walker will recommend that Coulter be sentenced to 22 years in prison.
“The defendant essentially slaughtered a human being who opened his home. He made the choice on that day to take this wonderful man’s life,” Walker said. “We have been in constant contact with the victim’s family throughout this ordeal and recently, some of them flew down here from the states. I know that this guilty plea gives the family partial closure on one part of this collective nightmare and also provides certainty that the defendant will spend a considerable portion of his life in prison.”
Prosecutors had alleged that Coulter clubbed and repeatedly stabbed Bennett to death inside the Sapphire Village apartment they both shared. The incident occurred sometime between Nov. 28 and 29, 2014. Coulter then left the island shortly after and was extradited to the territory almost a year later to face the charges.
After Bennett’s body was found, police determined there was probably cause to arrest Coulter. The Orange County Sheriff’s Office in Florida arrested Coulter on July 5, 2015, in connection with the crime. Then, on Nov. 12, 2015, agents from the V.I. Police Department traveled to Orlando, Florida, to return Coulter to the Territory.