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Three men who escaped from a jail in Grenada and allegedly hijacked the catamaran of a Virginia couple sailing in the Caribbean in February have been charged with counts including capital murder and rape, authorities in Grenada announced Thursday.

The escapees likely threw retirees Ralph Hendry, 66, and Kathleen Brandel, 70, off their boat as the 48-foot vessel sailed from Grenada to the neighboring nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, where the men were recaptured, authorities said previously.

A spokesman for the Royal Grenada Police Force said Thursday that the couples’ bodies have not been recovered and the search continues in the roughly 100-mile stretch of sea between the two Caribbean nations.

The three Grenadian men, Ron Mitchell, 30; Atiba Stanislaus, 25; and Trevon Robertson, 23, are each facing two counts of capital murder, kidnapping, escaping custody and other offenses. In addition, Stanislaus is facing one count of rape.

The three made their first court appearances Thursday and are being held in a Grenadian prison. They will have their next court appearance on Mar. 27. An attorney for the men could not be reached for comment.

Police in Grenada did not offer additional details about the charges. Relatives of Hendry and Brandel did not respond to a request for comment.

Authorities had said previously the three men escaped from a Grenadian jail on Feb. 18 after their arrests on various charges. Grenadian police said they have launched an internal investigation of how the men were able to escape.

After fleeing the jail, the men made their way to the couple’s catamaran, Simplicity, which was moored on a beach at the island nation. The couple was on board.

Family members of the missing Virginia couple surveyed their boat, “Simplicity,” on Feb. 24 after it was found off the coast of St. Vincent. (Video: The Washington Post)

Junior Simmons, superintendent of the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force, said at a news conference in late February that “the suspects committed several criminal acts including bodily harm to the couple.” Don McKenzie, commissioner of the Grenada force, said at a separate news conference that it is believed the suspects “disposed of the occupants” on their way to St. Vincent.

The Salty Dawg Sailing Association, of which the couple were members, said in a statement that a sailor contacted the group on Feb. 21 to report the Simplicity was moored and abandoned off the south coast of St. Vincent. The skipper also notified the coast guard and police were alerted in turn.

After a manhunt, St. Vincent police recaptured the escapees the same day the boat was discovered.

The couple had sailed from Hampton, Va., to Antigua for a Salty Dawg boat rally in November and were spending the rest of the winter sailing in the eastern part of the Caribbean, according to the group. The couple lived on the boat and were seasoned sailors. Brandel had recently become a grandmother, according to a GoFundMe fundraiser for the couple’s family.

Simmons said that when investigators boarded the vessel, they found items strewn on the deck and in the cabin, and a red substance that appeared to be blood. The GoFundMe campaign organizer wrote that the catamaran had “chilling evidence of a violent struggle.”

Simmons said the escapees were cooperating with the investigation and pleaded guilty to immigration violations in a St. Vincent court. The three were extradited back to Grenada on Monday.

Nick Buro, a son of Brandel’s, and Bryan Hendry, a son of Hendry’s, said in a joint statement last month that the couple “lived a life that most of us can only dream of.”

“We live in a world that at times can be cruel, but it’s also a world of profound beauty, wonder, adventure, love, compassion, caring, and faith,” the statement said. “Our parents encompassed all those values and so much more. If we have learned anything from this tragic event, it’s that we know they left this world in a better place than it was before they were born.”

The statement said the couple made friends with “everyone they encountered, singing, dancing and laughing with friends and family.”

Robert Osborn, president of Salty Dawg, said the couple was on their first boat rally in Antigua with the group. He said the journey from the United States is not easy and that the sailors form a brotherhood on the way. He said the loss of the couple was a blow.

“It was like losing a member of the family,” Osborn said.

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