A homeless man on St. Croix has admitted that he rifled through missing man Johnny Caines’ unlocked vehicle and stole his debit card, according to documents filed in V.I. Superior Court.
Caines, 65, was last seen on Oct. 15, and police discovered his vehicle parked on the roadside in Mount Welcome, east of Sharkey’s Bait Stand, Tuesday evening.
Detectives, while checking the surrounding area, found the body of a Black male in the advanced stages of decomposition. They were unable to determine a positive identification of the body. The cause of death is presently under investigation, pending an autopsy, V.I. Police spokesman Toby Derima said Wednesday.
Derima did not respond to questions from The Daily News about the case Friday.
Michael T. Conklin, 50, was arrested late Tuesday night and charged with forgery, obtaining money by false pretense, and petit larceny after police said he admitted to stealing and using Caines’ debit card.
On Tuesday, police investigating Caines’ disappearance were notified 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 that she saw Caines’ missing person poster and was notified by a co-worker who manages Caines’ bank account that his debit card was being used at several locations; furthermore, his debit card was locked due to the wrong pin being used several times, according to the affidavit.
Police reviewed the locations where the card had been used, and traveled to the G-Max gas station in Orange Grove, Christiansted, at around 4:40 p.m. Tuesday.
They watched surveillance footage from that afternoon which showed “a Caucasian bald-headed male, wearing a face mask and gray shirt,” purchasing $58.50 in items with Caines’ debit card. He left in a white Ford Explorer “with a yellow kayak on the roof of the vehicle,” according to the affidavit.
Police also reviewed footage from Sam’s gas station in Glynn, and at Pueblo supermarket in La Reine, according to the affidavit. The total amount taken from 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 at the same location for several days, according to the affidavit. Tuesday night, he began searching the vehicle’s center console for money, and admitted to taking the debit card and $20 in cash.
He also admitted to signing a store credit receipt at Pueblo “posing as Mr. J. Caines, and he admitted to requesting $50 cash back,” according to the affidavit.
Conklin also told police “he has never seen Mr. J. Caines in his life or has any affiliations with him.”
Police also confirmed that the champagne-colored Nissan Sentra is registered to Caines.
Police arrested Conklin and charged him with the theft. Unable to post $5,500 bail, he was jailed until his advice-of-rights hearing in V.I. Superior Court Friday.
Territorial Public Defender Amelia Joseph said Conklin is homeless, unemployed, and sleeps in his vehicle. She said he “might be able to get $100 from his wife in L.A., if he’s given time to be released and contact her and ask her for the money.”
It’s unclear how long Conklin has lived in the Virgin Islands, but court records show he was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol and negligent driving on St. Croix in 2011, and paid a $500 fine.
Assistant V.I. Attorney General Jasmine Griffin asked that bail remain fully secured, meaning he would have to pay the full $5,500 in cash, and asked that he provide a fixed address, working telephone number, and suitable third-party custodian before he is released from jail.
Magistrate Judge Ernest Morris Jr. concurred 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 bail to remain at $5,500, fully secured.
Police urge anyone with information on Caines — or any other missing persons — to call 911, the Criminal Investigation Bureau at 340-778-2211, or anonymously to Crime Stoppers USVI at 800-222-2477.
For more information about recent unresolved missing persons cases in the territory, visit vipd.gov.vi/Crime/Missing_People.