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UPDATE: Fletcher in Honolulu, facing extradition to Tonga for allegedly murdering his wife

The US Justice Department has sought a “provisional arrest with a view towards extradition” of a US citizen, Dean Jay Fletcher, wanted by authorities in Tonga to stand trial for the alleged murder of his wife in July this year, according to documents filed yesterday afternoon with the federal court in Honolulu.

As reported by Samoa News yesterday, three agents of the US Marshals Service escorted 53-year-old Fletcher of Florida on Monday night’s Hawaiian Airlines flight to Honolulu. The federal agents were present Monday morning during his District Court hearing where the local charge of entering American Samoa without authorization was dismissed with prejudice.

The US Marshals Service confirmed yesterday morning to Samoa News that Fletcher was in their custody and didn’t have any information on when he would appear in federal court.

However, by early yesterday afternoon, Honolulu-based Assistant U.S. Attorney Larry Butrick filed the 8-page “complaint for provisional arrest with a view towards extradition” with the federal court. The complaint, noted that the US and Tonga have had in place an extradition treaty since 1931 that was amended in 1977. Through a treaty provision, Tonga submitted a request via diplomatic note to the federal government for Fletcher’s provisional arrest.

Butrick says he received the Tongan government’s request and it includes the indictment filed against Fletcher, who is charged with murder, manslaughter and causing grievous bodily harm; a copy of Fletcher’s arrest warrant; and summary of facts in the criminal case.

Based on information from Tonga, Fletcher was indicted on Oct. 5 and committed to custody in Neiafu, Vava’u, in Tonga with the arrest warrant issued Oct. 4.

According to Tonga’s request, the arrest warrant was issued because on July 6 this year, three witnesses — all local diving operators — observed an individual later identified as Fletcher assaulting his wife, Patricia Linne Kearney, the deceased, Butrick said in the federal complaint.

Specifically, the witnesses observed Fletcher on shore at the Neiafu Port of Refuge in Tonga, waiting for the deceased to pick him up in a dinghy to transport them to their boat, the Sea Oak, which was moored about 100 yards from shore.

According to the witnesses, the assault began while the dinghy was not far away from them and while the witnesses had an unobstructed view of Fletcher and the deceased. Witness One saw Fletcher throw the deceased on the deck of the dingy and strike the deceased with his knee while on the dinghy, the federal complaint alleges.

Once Fletcher and the deceased boarded the boat, Fletcher kicked the deceased in the back, causing her to fall. The witness observed Fletcher repeatedly punching and kicking something.

Witness Two said Fletcher grabbed the deceased’s head while she was in the dinghy, slammed his knee into her back and punched her in the head. The witness also observed Fletcher punch and kick the deceased. The witness later observed Fletcher board the boat but not the deceased.

Witness Three observed Fletcher throw the deceased onto the floor of the dingy, and slam his right knee into her back. The witness also observed Fletcher punch the deceased in the face while in the dinghy, causing her to fall. Fletcher also yelled at the deceased using profanity and that he was going to kill her.

Fletcher on July 7 went to the Neiafu Police station to report his wife had died after she slipped and fell down the stairs of their boat.

However, the following day, a fourth witness, who had known Fletcher for 10 years, reported to police running into Fletcher, who was asked how his wife died. Fletcher allegedly told the witness that his wife had a nerve disease and had been drunk. The witness told police that he noticed a blood stained bed sheet inside the dinghy.

According to court documents, Tonga police recovered the body of the deceased from the Sea Oak, where she was found lying on her back, on the side of the boat. And an autopsy report on Aug. 26 found that the deceased had sustained “multiple blunt impacts to various areas of her body” and concluded that the “cause of death... was excessive blood loss from an intracranial hemorrhage, as a result of multiple blunt impacts to the head, chest and abdomen.”

On Sept. 29, while Fletcher was still in police custody at the Neiafu police station, officers on duty noticed that Fletcher had absconded from the police station. Officers further observed that the ‘Sea Oak’ was no longer in harbor.

Fletcher fled Tonga on Sept. 29 onboard the Sea Oak and although police pursued, the chase was abandoned due to officers’ safety concerns.

The federal complaint didn’t provide information on Fletcher’s arrival in American Samoa on Oct. 3 during the night and without permission from territorial officials. Fletcher was arrested in Pago Pago on Oct. 4 after police was tipped off by a woman, who recognized Fletcher as being wanted for murder in Tonga.

In the federal case, Butrick said in court filings that Tonga would submit a formal request for extradition. He also requested a court hearing so that evidence of Fletcher’s criminality may be heard. A hearing was held yesterday afternoon but details on the outcome were not immediately available at press time. The federal government has sought for Fletcher to be held without bail.

A US Marshal Service official in Honolulu declined to reveal as to whether Fletcher was detained at the federal detention center, near the Honolulu International Airport, or at another location.