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Drug Bust May Help in Murder Case

December 19, 1997

MIAMI (AP) _ Police trying the solve the July killings of five people aboard a small freighter on the Miami River said they got a big break when the ship’s owners were arrested during a drug bust.

``I think this is a major development,″ said Metro-Dade homicide Detective Robert Wilcox. ``I’m hopeful it will lead to a successful resolution.″

Police arrested Savil Dessaint late Wednesday after finding 66 pounds of cocaine in his car. His wife, Yodelene Dessaint, and five other people were also arrested and charged with being part of a ring that smuggled Colombian cocaine into South Florida through Haiti.

On July 15, the captain, cook and two other crew members were shot to death aboard the Dessaints’ 150-foot vessel, the Vanderpool Express. The chief engineer died of a slit throat.

The massacre was the most violent in a series of attacks against Haitian vessels on the Miami River, and police immediately suspected drugs as the motive. But news of the five killings was overshadowed by another major story that same day _ the killing of fashion designer Gianni Versace by suspected serial killer Andrew Cunanan.

No one has been charged with the river killings, but police were investigating whether they were linked to the activities of the alleged drug ring.

Drug agents said Thursday that the ring brought in up to 440 pounds of cocaine a month for as long as two years. In a riverside news conference, the agents displayed $600,000 in bundled $100 bills they said were seized in the arrests.

The Dessaints are from the South Florida suburb of Weston. Also arrested were Dessaint’s brother, Richard Dessaint of North Miami; Carole Gregoire of Tamarac; Angine Pierre of Weston; Philmore Arnett of Fort Lauderdale, and Paul Anthony Claek of Broward County.

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