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24 Feb 2024

NextImg:Virginia Couple Feared Dead After Yacht Found Violently Ransacked, Three Escaped Prisoners in Custody

A northern Virginia couple is missing and feared dead in the Caribbean after three escaped prisoners stole their yacht.

Ralph Hendry and Kathy Brandel, members of a sailing association called the Salty Dog, disappeared sometime last week after three prisoners facing robbery and rape charges escaped custody Sunday, according to WTTG.

Family members told the outlet that the Falls Church, Virginia, couple regularly lived on their catamaran yacht Simplicity near Fort Piece, Florida, during the winter months, but were also known to sail to Grenada.

Authorities there believe the three escaped prisoners killed the couple and stole their boat, which was later found in St. Vincent, to the north of Grenada.

Rob Osborn, president of the Salty Dog Sailing Association, said he’d gotten a message from someone who’d spotted the abandoned catamaran.

He called authorities and then reached out to the couple’s family to update them.

Investigators described the Simplicity as having been “ransacked.”

“This is a tragedy that has shaken our community,” Osborn, who also lives on a boat during the colder months, told WTTG. “There are literally 100s of people who do what I do in the winter. I just want everyone to know that this is very rare.”

“When people ask us if we worry about pirates, the answer is ‘no.’ These are friendly islands,” Osborn said. “Whether you are in NYC, Chicago or here, sometimes bad things happen. And this is heinous.”

Suellen Desmarais of Fort Pierce told WPTV that the missing couple were in their 60s. Hendry was her brother, she said, and Brandel his wife.

The couple left Virginia and headed south in November, she said. She holds out hope that they might somehow still be alive.

“Why would I presume anyone is dead with no body and DNA?” she said to WTTG. “I want to remain positive. I want to believe that they are alive.”

WTTG reported that the couple’s children had traveled to the Caribbean to assist with the investigation.

The Royal Grenada Police Force said in a Thursday post to Facebook that the three escaped prisoners suspected in the theft of the boat had been recaptured and that it had information suggesting that “the two occupants of the yacht may have been killed in the process” of the theft.

Desmarais was nonetheless still seeking answers.

“There’s got to be a reason for this so maybe being here we are saving someone else,” she told WPTV. “What if Ralph’s boat hadn’t been there that day? What if he hadn’t gone into town? Would it have been the next boat?”

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.