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Artist’s Slaying Stuns Island

March 9, 2000

ROAD TOWN, British Virgin Islands (AP) _ Amid the soothing ping of yachts’ masts, the discovery of the body of an American artist along a scenic, boulder-strewn shore stunned this corner of Caribbean paradise.

Four foreigners _ all American visitors _ were arrested hours after Lois Livingston McMillen, 34, of Middlebury, Conn., was killed in mid-January. The four men were seen with her in the days before her drowning death. They face murder charges and life in prison.

The slaying shocked many of the 14,000 residents of Tortola, the most populated of the British Virgin Islands’ 40-odd islands and keys. But available documents _ as well as interviews with police and residents _ reveal little motive.

``This kind of thing never happens here,″ said Ben Bischmann, 24, a Chicago native who is a manager at Pusser’s Soper’s Hole, a harborside pub. ``This is a place where you leave the keys in your car and don’t lock the doors. You hitchhike if you need a ride home.″

The suspects are Michael Spicer, 36, a law student from Washington, D.C., and a longtime neighbor of McMillen’s, and his houseguests: Evan George, 22, a construction worker from Washington; investment banker William Labrador, 36, of Southampton, N.Y.; and Alexander Benedetto, 34, who works for a book publisher in New York City.

All deny the charges and deny being with McMillen the night she disappeared.

They are jailed at Her Majesty’s Prison, a remote hilltop jail with a panoramic view of palm-fringed shores. A preliminary inquiry set for March 27 will determine whether the case goes to trial.

``It’s really, really sad. I pray for her,″ said Sgt. Patrick Harewood of the Royal British Islands Police Force as he looked at a photo of the striking McMillen, gazing intently at the camera.

She was remembered at a Feb. 12 Connecticut memorial as a painter, philanthropist and ardent activist against domestic violence. She came often to her family’s Tortola villa. Spicer’s family owned a home up the hill and had known the McMillens for 15 years.

A pedestrian found McMillen’s body Jan. 15 on the shore next to the highway. She was fully clothed with ``what appeared to be blood oozing from her ear,″ Chief Inspector Jacob George said in an affidavit. Officers found ``female accessories strewn from the road to the sea and some blood stains.″

The inspector surmised that she ``had been involved in a struggle.″

A pathologist determined she had not been sexually assaulted, and her rental vehicle was found nearby.

In an affidavit, Spicer said he and his friends saw McMillen the night of Jan. 12 at Bomba’s Surfside Shack, a popular bar on the north coast, and that McMillen gave the four a ride home early Jan. 13. The night of Jan. 13, the four men and McMillen went out for food and drinks at Pusser’s. Labrador walked home, and McMillen later drove the rest home, Spicer said.

``That was the last time I saw Lois,″ Spicer said in a separate statement to police.

McMillen was last seen the evening of Jan. 14 at the waterfront bar of the Jolly Roger Inn.

That night, Spicer said he and his houseguests went to Quito’s Gazebo, a beach bar a half hour’s drive from the Jolly Roger. They took a cab home around 2:30 a.m., then watched a movie, ``Vertigo.″ Labrador told police he went with other friends to an ATM machine, then decided to stay home.

Hours after McMillen’s body was discovered, police went to Spicer’s home. They left, then returned and seized clothing worn by the men the previous night.

``Michael Spicer admitted to having been wearing a bloodstained shirt. He was not able to account for the blood,″ said a statement from Jacob George. It added that ``there was blood on one pair″ of three pairs of wet, sandy shoes also seized.

In another affidavit, Benedetto said he met McMillen in Tortola in 1997 and began a relationship with her. ``The relationship ended amicably after three months,″ said Benedetto.

Benedetto said he didn’t see McMillen again until Jan. 12, at Bomba’s, where ``we spoke for about an hour and she told me that she did not like Tortola anymore and that the natives were treating her with aggression and meanness.″

In his Jan. 16 statement to police, Evan George said he was unemployed and had a relationship with Spicer for 2 1/2 years.

Spicer and Evan George’s attorney, Oscar Ramjeet, suggested that forensic tests being conducted in Jamaica could benefit his clients. Benedetto’s attorney, Paul Dennis, declined comment. Labrador’s attorney, Gerard Ferrara, didn’t return telephone messages.

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