ST. JOHN — Troublesome behavior and discomfiting incidents became a sordid crime with serious repercussions and irreparable damage when a young woman summer resort worker reported being sexually assaulted by a man who has been repeatedly accused of harassing and accosting visitors to the isolated Salt Pond area of the Virgin Islands National Park.
The V.I. Police Department reported on August 14 that “suspect” Jaydee Brathwaite, 28, of Mandahl, had been apprehended on a charge of First Degree rape by detectives with the Criminal Investigations Bureau, St. John, who had responded to the report of a rape victim at the Myrah Keating Clinic on August 13, around 12:30 p.m.
The assault on the teenage female summer employee during an early morning hike on the last day of her summer work program at the resort left the young woman “very traumatized,” according to a St. John Tradewinds source. The resort overlooks the popular tourist attraction of the bright white sand of Salt Pond Bay and the renowned salt pond on the heavily used trail to Drunk Bay and neighboring Ram Head.
“According to the victim of the assault, she was taking a morning walk in the area of Ram’s Head by Salt Pond, when an African-American male suddenly appeared from bushes, forced the victim to the ground and proceeded to sexually assault her,” the official VIPD press release read.
“Once the victim was able to get away, she made contact with friends employed at the resort where she was staying and they immediately took the victim to the Myrah Keating Smith Clinic,” the VIPD report continued.
The young woman victim had been able to photograph her attacker with her cell phone after the attack, which helped the authorities identify and apprehend Brathwaite, according to a St. John Tradewinds source.
The August 13 incident came after years of complaints from residents and visitors about a man stalking and harassing women and children in the isolated, southeastern-most section of the VINP. VINP officials cited the continued shortage of law enforcement rangers on staff at the underfunded NPS outpost which has operated with only to two rangers in the entire park in recent years before a third ranger recently joined the short staff.
Ironically, VINP Superintendent Brion FitzGerald acknowledged staffing changes had prevented NPS Rangers from communicating effectively with V.I.P.D. officials on an outstanding warrant at the time of the latest attack which had been issued to bring Braithwaite in for questioning on another recent incident.
VINP officials and V.I. Police Department officials have offered different assessments of the overlapping federal and territorial law enforcement jurisdictions in the V.I. National Park in general and the isolated Salt Pond area specifically.
A relative of Brathwaite publically challenged V.I. Police Department officials and National Park Service officials to address the repeated complaints about the behavior of the native resident of the Salt Pond area, who had previously been identified by complainants and was known to law enforcement authorities, during a VIPD meeting with Coral Bay business owners at a community meeting earlier this year.
The relative expressed concerns at the time that a more serious incident would happen without law enforcement intervention.
“Officers with the Virgin Islands Police Department along with Rangers from the National Park Service conducted a search for the suspect, based on a description rendered by the victim and together, located and detained Jaydee Brathwaite, 28 of Mandahl, St. John,” the VIPD reported. “Once having been positively identified, Brathwaite was placed under arrest, processed and remanded to the Bureau of Corrections to await his Advice of Rights Hearing.”