A homeless man from St. Croix admitted to searching the unlocked vehicle of missing man Johnny Caines and stealing his debit card, according to documents filed in VI Superior Court.
Caines, 65, was last seen on October 15 and police found his vehicle parked by the side of the road at Mount Welcome, east of Sharkey’s Bait Stand, on Tuesday evening.
Detectives, checking the surroundings, found the body of a black man in an advanced stage of decomposition. They could not determine a positive identification of the body. The cause of death is currently under investigation, pending an autopsy, VI police spokesman Toby Derima said on Wednesday.
Derima did not respond to Daily News questions about the case on Friday.
Michael T. Conklin, 50, was arrested Tuesday night and charged with forgery, obtaining money under false pretense and petty theft after police said they admitted to stealing and using Caines’ debit card .
Police investigating Caines’ disappearance were told on Tuesday by the Bank of St. Croix that fraudulent activity had been detected on his debit card, according to an affidavit filed by police.
A bank manager told police she saw Caines ‘missing person poster and a colleague who manages Caines’ bank account informed him that his debit card was being used in multiple locations; in addition, his debit card was locked due to the use of the wrong PIN on several occasions, according to the affidavit.
Police examined the locations where the card had been used and proceeded to the G-Max gas station in Orange Grove, Christiansted, around 4:40 p.m. Tuesday.
They watched surveillance footage from that afternoon which showed “a bald Caucasian man, wearing a face mask and a gray shirt,” purchasing items for $ 58.50 with Caines’ debit card. He set off in a white Ford Explorer “with a yellow kayak on the roof of the vehicle,” according to the affidavit.
Police also examined footage of Sam’s gas station in Glynn and the Pueblo supermarket in The Queen, according to the affidavit. The total amount charged to the debit card was $ 181.76.
Police identified Conklin and located him in Altona Lagoon Park in Gallows Bay.
Conklin said he was driving on the road east of Sharkey’s Bait Stand when he saw a champagne-colored vehicle parked unattended in the same spot for several days, according to the affidavit. On Tuesday night, he started looking for money in the vehicle’s center console and admitted to taking the debit card and $ 20 in cash.
He also admitted to signing a store credit receipt in Pueblo “masquerading as MJ Caines, and he admitted to asking for a cash back of $ 50”, according to the affidavit.
Conklin also told police “that he has never seen MJ Caines in his life or has no affiliation with him.”
Police have also confirmed that the champagne-colored Nissan Sentra has Caines registration.
Police arrested Conklin and charged him with theft. Unable to post a $ 5,500 bond, he was jailed until his notice of rights hearing in the VI Superior Court on Friday.
Territorial Public Defender Amelia Joseph said Conklin was homeless, unemployed and sleeping in his vehicle. She said he “might be able to get his wife’s $ 100 in Los Angeles, if he has time to be released, to contact her and ask her for money.”
It is not known how long Conklin lived in the Virgin Islands, but court records show he was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol and negligent driving in St. Croix in 2011, and paid a $ 500 fine.
VI Deputy Attorney General Jasmine Griffin asked that the bond remain fully secured, meaning he would have to pay the full $ 5,500 in cash, and asked him to provide a fixed address, phone number work and an appropriate third-party custodian prior to release from prison. .
Trial judge Ernest Morris Jr. agreed that a third-party custodian would be appropriate, “and I will deny the motion for release,” unless Conklin can find someone willing to monitor his behavior while he awaits trial. .
He ordered that the bond remain at $ 5,500, fully secured.
Police urge anyone with information about Caines – or anyone else missing – to call 911, the Bureau of Criminal Investigations at 340-778-2211, or anonymously to Crime Stoppers USVI at 800-222-2477.
For more information on recent unresolved missing persons cases in the territory, visit vipd.gov.vi/Crime/Missing_People.