Ex-V.I. Capt. Saldana's wife had dislocated jaw, crushed windpipe when her body arrived at hospital, police say

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ST. THOMAS - Jeanette Magras-Saldana was dead for several hours before her husband, former V.I. Police Capt. Enrique Saldana, brought her body to the hospital badly beaten and drenched in water, according to court documents made available Monday.

Saldana, who was released from federal prison several months ago after being convicted of extortion in 2010, held his head high during his first court appearance in his wife's murder case Monday.

Saldana, 51, is facing charges of second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, first-degree assault and third-degree assault after his arrest Friday evening.

Saldana called 911 dispatchers about 8 a.m. Friday morning from the Food Center Supermarket in Estate Frydenhoj saying that his wife was no longer breathing and he needed a police escort to Schneider Hospital.

Upon arrival at the hospital, medical staff determined that Magras-Saldana, 43, had been dead for several hours and that rigor mortis, a condition in which the muscles stiffen several hours after death, had set in.

Magras-Saldana had a dislocated jaw and a crushed windpipe, according to the affidavit, written by Detective Jose Allen. Water gushed out of her mouth when she was removed from Saldana's vehicle, Allen wrote, and her hair and clothes were wet.

Her windpipe, or trachea, was so swollen and damaged that medical personnel were unable to insert a tube down her throat, which was severely bruised, according to the affidavit.

Magras-Saldana also had significant bruising on her forehead, chin, upper arms, around the right side of her head to her ear, along her jawline, and to the bottom of her right breast and torso, according to the affidavit. Her anus also was damaged and contained debris, the report said.

"Her injuries were consistent with being held down and beaten about the head and upper body," the affidavit said.

Police transported Saldana from the hospital to the police station, where he waived his rights and agreed to an audio-recorded interview with detectives, according to the affidavit.

Police said Saldana told detectives that he and Magras-Saldana were at their home in Estate Charlotte Amalie, where he sometimes stays, on Thursday night. He said Magras-Saldana had several prescription drugs on multiple occasions that night, and he had been drinking red wine, according to police.

At about midnight, they had sex, after which she asked him to get her a soda, according to police.

"I look like a gopher to you?" Saldana told police he responded to her.

She got out of bed then, and he heard her fall, he told police. When he looked down the hall, she had gone into the bathroom, and he saw her wipe her nose, so he thought she had a bloody nose, he told police.

Magras-Saldana returned to bed, and the couple woke up between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m., Saldana told police. She suggested that they go to Vessup Beach where she could "wash off," Saldana recounted.

While at the beach, the husband and wife had sex in the vehicle that they drove to the beach, Saldana said, and then they went into the water.

"As they were walking back and out of the water, Jeanette tripped and fell onto her knees. Saldana said he believes she may have fell on her chest because when he held her around her chest area from the back to help her up, the victim said 'Ow,'" Allen wrote in the affidavit.

Saldana then recalled helping his wife toward the vehicle and he believed she "may have struck her arm on the door of the car," Allen wrote.

"Saldana said since Jeanette could not speak and he tried performing CPR by blowing into her mouth twice," Allen wrote.

The affidavit did not address when Magras-Saldana lost the ability to speak or breathe.

Saldana told police he did not have a phone at the time, so he drove to the supermarket and called 911. While driving from the supermarket, the manner in which he drove "caused Jeanette's body to fall between the seats," Allen wrote.

After interviewing Saldana, police obtained a warrant approved by V.I. Superior Court Judge Kathleen Mackay to search the home of Magras-Saldana, where her daughter and father also live.

Police found no blood-marked paper towel, as Saldana implied there would be in the bathroom. However, they did find blood smears in the bathroom and bedroom, according to Allen's report.

They also found an empty vial of depression medication in Magras-Saldana's purse, according to the affidavit.

According to Allen, Magras-Saldana's daughter, who also is Saldana's daughter, said that her father was intoxicated the night before and that it was very unusual for her mother to leave without telling her.

Saldana currently has a $500,000 bail, though he will remain detained until the V.I. Attorney General's Office has consulted federal authorities.

Saldana currently is out of prison on supervisory release, which he began several months ago. It is unclear why he already was out after District Judge Curtis Gomez sentenced Saldana in February 2011 to three years and five months in prison.

Because Saldana's arrest constitutes a parole violating during his supervisory release, which was supposed to last three years, it is unclear whether he will return to federal custody. He currently is being held at the Alexander A. Farrelly Justice Center on St. Thomas.

V.I. Superior Court Magistrate Henry Carr III said during Monday's hearing that the court would resolve Saldana's long-term detention May 22 at Saldana's arraignment.

Saldana told Carr that he understood the charges and that "I never struck my wife in 21 years," he said.

Then, he looked at Magras-Saldana's family and friends, who were holding hands and trying to hold back tears, as he left the courtroom. Saldana and V.I. Police Sgt. George Greene Jr. were convicted in January 2010 of obstruction of justice, extortion and bribery.

Saldana and Greene - along with Louis Roldan, who was shot to death and his body set afire in his car on St. Croix in July 2010 - tried to extort money in December 2008 from Richard Motta, an associate of missing Realtor Rosemary Sauter.

The defendants were convicted of trying to extort $5,000 from Motta in a sham narcotics deal involving FBI cash.

Greene also was convicted of making a false statement and money laundering.

Saldana was sentenced to 41 months imprisonment March 18, 2011; Greene was sentenced to 36 months incarceration May 3, 2011.

Saldana and Greene appealed their convictions, alleging the trial violated their Sixth Amendment rights, but the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied their appeals.

Anyone with information about the death of Magras-Saldana can contact the V.I. Police Department's Major Crimes Unit at 642-8449 or 911 or call the Crime Stoppers USVI anonymous tip line at 1-800-222-8477.

- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email jkane@dailynews.vi.

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