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U.S. Justice Dept. offers more evidence for extradition of Fletcher

Through a supplemental motion, the US Justice Department has offered more evidence to the federal court in Honolulu to justify its request for the extradition of a US citizen, Dean Jay Fletcher, wanted for the murder of his wife, Patricia Kearney, in Vava’u, Tonga. 

The federal court has scheduled an extradition hearing on Jan. 10 for Fletcher, who fled Tonga and arrived on Oct. 3, in American Samoa, where he was charged with misdemeanor count of entering the territory without proper authorization. After the local court dismissed the case, Fletcher was handed over to federal authorities in mid November and taken to Honolulu.

In the latest USDOJ filings on Wednesday, Assistant US Attorney, Larry Butrick argued that based on the extradition request by Tonga, the federal court should commit Fletcher for extradition for the offenses of: murder with intent, murder by recklessness, manslaughter, and grievous bodily harm, and certify its findings to the Secretary of State — who has the final approval for a person to be extradited.

Based on evidence from Tonga, Butrick recalled in the 22-page court documents that on the afternoon of July 6, multiple witnesses saw Fletcher waiting by a wharf for Kearney to pick him up aboard a dinghy to return him to the Sea Oak vessel, which was moored a short distance away in the harbor.

When Kearney arrived in the dinghy to collect Fletcher, the document says, Fletcher stepped into the dinghy and began yelling angrily at Kearney. “Visibly angry, Fletcher grabbed Kearney by the hair and threw her down on the floor of the dinghy,” the government alleges. Court documents describe Fletcher’s alleged assault of Kearney, including strangulation, punching “and throwing her about the yacht.”

According to the government, witnesses who observed Fletcher’s actions thought that “the assault was so violent that Kearney might have died from it. A short time later, witnesses saw Fletcher sitting shirtless on the yacht; but the witnesses did not see Kearney.”

According to court filings, it was the next day (July 7) that Fletcher went to the police station to report that his wife had died, stating that she had slipped and had fallen down the stairs on their yacht. Tongan police officers accompanied Fletcher to the Sea Oak, where they found Kearney unresponsive, with visible bruising to her face, chest, and lips.

Court documents also provided specific details of a post-mortem report dated Aug. 29 prepared by a pathologist at the Vailoa Hospital. For example, according to court documents, the deceased had sustained “multiple blunt impacts to various areas of her body,” including bruises and abrasions to her head, face, neck, and other parts of her body.

The report also identified a “large area of subdural hemorrhage” over the “left parietal and occipital lobe of [the] brain.” The examination also uncovered lacerations to the liver and kidneys, as well as a ruptured spleen.

The report concluded that the cause of death was “excessive blood loss and intracranial hemorrhage, as a result of multiple blunt impacts to the head, chest and abdomen,” according to court documents.

When questioned by Tonga police, Fletcher denied beating his wife, whom the defendant claims suffered from a medical condition that, together with alcohol intoxication, caused her to fall down.

Butrick argued that there is sufficient evidence to support a finding of probable cause as to each charge for which the Tongan government seeks extradition.

There has been no official public comment from Fletcher’s defense team on the murder allegations as well as the request for extradition.

What remains unclear from court documents is a motive that prompted the alleged assault, which resulted in murder.