It’s another St. John murder mystery.
While family and friends of James Malfetti, who was found stabbed to death in his apartment in a luxury home on the south shore of St. John on Sunday, January 19, wait for justice to take its course, the island’s coconut telegraph is sending out its usual mixed signals.
Now neighbors and friends of Malfetti are hearing rumors that the New Jersey man may have been the innocent victim of someone intending to kill the previous tenant of the apartment in which he was killed who was scheduled to testify in an unnamed major criminal trial but who had backed out of testifying.
Coming on the heels of rumors that a neighborhood man with a record of arrest for burglary was questioned and released – rumors which VIPD officials strongly denied — the latest rumors further complicate the investigation of the first murder on St. John in almost two years.
Several friends of Malfetti confirmed that he had moved into the apartment within the past few months and that they had heard the same rumor that Malfetti was not the intended target of the fatal attack.
Multiple sources reported hearing the same rumor and one woman friend of Malfretti said she had heard the rumor from a VIPD investigator who said police cannot find the unnamed suspect.
One resident business owner told Tradewinds the very shaken former occupant of the apartment had been publicly acknowledging he was the intended target because he had been scheduled to testify in a major criminal trial which had either been delayed or thrown out recently.
Malfetti, 41, a New Jersey man who had lived on St. John for several years working as a computer consultant, was found stabbed to death in his apartment after the homeowners in the main residence had been the targets of an attempted burglary reported to VIPD earlier in the weekend.
V.I. Police investigators immediately focused on a young man from a neighboring residential area who had been convicted in previous burglaries; and residents were understandably apprehensive when the young man was released after questioning without being charged, according to several neighbors.
Malfetti’s vehicle was found in the young burglar’s “usual drop-off spot,” according to one Tradewinds source who acknowledged he also heard the rumor that Malfetti may have been the innocent victim of someone looking for a previous tenant of the apartment in which he was killed.
Barroom Rumor Circulates
An early February e-mail to Tradewinds from a resident who asked to not be identified told the following tale:
“You know how the coconut telegraph is here, and it’s entirely possible that you’ve heard this already, but I figured I’d share…”
“An acquaintance of an acquaintance was at The Beach Bar a few weeks back,” the Tradewinds source related in the e-mail. “The acquaintance apparently approached someone who was pretty drunk and shaky, just a mess.”
“The drunk person told (the acquaintance of the acquaintance) that up until a month prior to the murder, he had lived in that Boatman Point apartment, and that he was scheduled to testify against someone in a criminal case,” the Tradewinds source continued.
“The drunk was afraid that Malfetti was mistakenly killed and it was supposed to be him (the drunk) who was supposed to be killed because of his role in this case,” the e-mail concluded. “So there it is, for what it’s worth!”
Familiar Murder Mystery
There were early rumors that a suspect was in custody and being questioned, a young neighborhood man with a prior burglary conviction. With the ensuing expressions of disappointment by residents at neighborhood rumors of that suspect’s purported release, the Malfetti murder investigation is now becoming another, all-too-familiar St. John murder mystery.
V.I. Police Department officials have had little public comment on the investigation since Malfetti’s body was found by the property manager on a Sunday morning, although they have been critical of Tradewinds reports of various rumors about the case spreading through the island.
“The VIPD does not release regular updates to the media on active cases. To do so may jeopardize the investigation,” VIPD spokesperson Melody Rames e-mailed Tradewinds on February 7 in response to a request for an update on the Malfetti investigation. “If the investigating officers have any information they deem will assist the case by releasing it to the media they will inform me of that and I will release it with their permission and approval. This case remains under active investigation.”
“Was someone picked up and then released in the case?” VIPD Public Information Officer Melody Rames told Tradewinds in another February 7 e-mail to the publisher of Tradewinds. “ …that that did not happen and that is a rumour.”
“ …it is not helpful to the VIPD or the St. John community to write a story based on rumours that are being presented as facts,” Rames concluded her e-mail.