U.S. senator asks FBI to look into lack of progress in St. John murder investigation

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ST. THOMAS - The family of a New Jersey man stabbed on St. John last month said they are upset by the V.I. Police Department's lack of communication about the unsolved murder, and they have turned to a U.S. senator for assistance.

In response to the family's complaints, Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., sent a letter critical of the V.I. Police Department to the director of the FBI requesting the agency's assistance in the case.

James Malfetti III, 41, was found dead in his Chocolate Hole apartment Jan. 19, according to police reports.

Police initially classified the incident as a suspicious death, then two days later reclassified it as a murder after further inspecting the body and saying Malfetti suffered several puncture wounds to the neck.

"There has been absolutely no proactivity on behalf of St. Thomas or St. John, including in the notification to us of our son's death," said Jim Malfetti, father of the victim.

Jim Malfetti and his wife, Rosemary Malfetti, found out about their son's death through a third party, they told The Daily News on Tuesday evening.

"We initiate, but they don't initiate," said Rosemary Malfetti of the family's interactions with the V.I. Police Department.

The victim's parents, who live in New Jersey, call the police on St. Thomas - specifically Detective Diana Martinez, leader of the investigation into their son's death - every day, Rosemary Malfetti said. Martinez has only responded to their calls once or twice, they said.

"If you decide to take what the family says, then that's up to you. I beg to differ with what they are saying," Martinez said Tuesday evening when reached by phone.

Martinez declined to answer how often she has been speaking with the Malfetti family, deferring all further questions to V.I. Police Commissioner Rodney Querrard Sr.

Querrard could not be reached Tuesday.

The family said that they also spoke with Lt. Gov. Gregory Francis immediately following their son's death because Francis knew Malfetti. Francis said he would have Querrard and V.I. Attorney General Vincent Frazer call the family.

However, the family has heard from neither of them.

Frazer also could not be reached Tuesday.

"The rudeness, and the dryness. It's really hurtful to the parents of a son that's just been murdered, their only son," Jim Malfetti said.

In their frustration, the Malfettis turned to Menendez, who wrote a letter to FBI Director James Comey, pleading that the FBI take over what Menendez called a botched local investigation.

"After the unthinkable death of their son, the last thing any parent needs is a hostile and uninterested law enforcement response," Menendez said in a prepared statement Monday. "I am deeply troubled by reports that the police treated a grieving mother and father as a nuisance to be ignored."

In the letter to the FBI, Menendez wrote:

"In investigating the murder, Jim's parents state that the police discarded forensic evidence, failed to collect potentially crucial evidence, incorrectly stated the date of death on the death certificate, misstated facts to the parents, and failed to check for fingerprints.

"My constituents also repeatedly called the local police for updates into the investigation, but were rebuffed and told that if they continue to call their case will be moved to the 'bottom of the pile,'" the letter said. "Even after over two weeks, the police have told the parents that they have not begun to trace the stolen cell phone."

James Malfetti originally was from Scotch Plains, N.J., so Menendez felt the need to help the family in any way he could, his office's spokeswoman, Tricia Enright, said.

"He is a New Jersey constituent," Enright said. "When New Jerseyans come to us in need, we do what we can to help them."

James Malfetti moved to St. John a year ago, about nine years after falling in love with "Love City" on a vacation.

Malfetti, who owned his own data management business - Brandywine Data Management Group - was able to travel and live wherever he wanted because of his line of work.

"He's full of nature, he loved the ocean, the air, the mountains," Jim Malfetti said.

When police found James Malfetti, he was unresponsive in his apartment and suffered puncture wounds to his neck.

Police reported that he was killed Jan. 19, the day his body was found, though his family believes that the police are neglecting to find out the facts.

Police found James Malfetti's body one day after they received a report of a burglary at the same residence, though in the main house.

Because Malfetti was staying in the guest house of the residence, the Malfetti family believes that their son actually died Jan. 18, the day of the reported burglary.

"If they just would have walked around the house," Jim Malfetti said, adding that the police likely would have seen the ripped screen and broken window of the guest house, along with their son's body, had they checked out the guest house the day they received the report. "It was just 15 feet away."

While rumors are fastidiously making their way around St. John about who killed James Malfetti and why, the family chooses not to listen to much of it because there is little to substantiate any of the theories, they said.

"We believe that it was a random act of violence, a senseless crime," Rosemary Malfetti said.

James Malfetti's residence was on Boatman Road, an area near St. John's south shore that includes many large homes with pools and vacation villas.

The murder was the first homicide on St. John in more than a year, and it was the third homicide in the territory this year.

The most recent murder on St. John was that of Tiny Jah Jarvis, 31, who was shot to death in the Bellevue Village housing community on Aug. 17, 2012.

Ralph Titre, 23, was charged with that murder, and a 17-year-old boy later was charged in connection with the case for being in possession of the murder weapon.

The status of the Jarvis case was not available by press time Tuesday.

Anyone who can help determine the circumstances surrounding Malfetti's death can call V.I. police detectives at 714-9834, 715-5522 or 911 or call the Crimes 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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