Charges against two older American tourists arrested at an airport in the Turks and Caicos have been dropped today after multiple requests from U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson to investigate the circumstances surrounding their arrests.
"Both these folks had to go through a horrible ordeal," Nelson (D-FL) said today. "I hope we can still find out how a bullet they say was not theirs got into their luggage."
A press release from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions in the Turks and Caicos Islands states that "after a review of the available evidence and taking into account all the circumstances, it is the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions to discontinue the criminal proceedings ."
The news comes on the heels of a letter from Nelson to Ambassador Janice Jacobs, the assistant secretary of state for U.S. consular affairs. Nelson asked Jacobs for the State Department's immediate attention, and noted that these arrests raise "questions about whether there's been a shakedown of American tourists" in the TCI.
The Florida senator also initiated an earlier letter to a U.S. embassy official in the region. The letter asked for an expedited investigation from local authorities into the circumstances surrounding the arrests of the two Americans.
The two were arrested late last month by Turks and Caicos authorities at Providenciales International Airport. They were Horrace Norrell, an 80-year-old retired Florida neurosurgeon, and Cathy Sulledge-Davis, a 60-year-old Texas businesswoman. Both were jailed after airport searches allegedly found a single bullet in each of their luggage. The two arrests came on back-to-back days -- the Texas woman's on April 25, the Florida man's on April 26. Each had to post $4,000 cash bail to come home.
The retired physician was jailed for three days without a hearing, ending what had been his birthday trip to the Turks and Caicos. He was locked up over a weekend in a cell he said was four paces across with "big iron bars, no lights, no windows, and a combination toilet and sink."
Both of the tourists say they've suffered from the entire ordeal.
Below is a copy of a release from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions on Dr. Norrell's case, along with a background article on the two arrests from the Miami Herald.
OFFICE OF THE DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC PROSECUTIONS
Bullet incident at Providenciales International Airport
April 26, 2013
R. v. Horace Norrell
The Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force have conducted a thorough investigation into this matter. After a review of the available evidence and taking into account all the circumstances, it is the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions to discontinue the criminal proceedings pursuant to section 100(2)(c) of the Turks and Caicos Islands Constitution Order 2011.
Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions
Turks and Caicos Islands
May 17, 2013
Florida Senator continues to demand answers after Americans' arrest in Turks and Caicos
BY JACQUELINE CHARLES
Published: May 13, 2013
Florida Sen. Bill Nelson said Monday he has learned of another case of an American tourist arrested in the Caribbean on charges of having a bullet in his luggage. Now, Nelson is stepping up pressure on the U. S. State Department for more information on similar incidents.
Nelson's office released information on the two-year-old incident, which involved a U.S. citizen arrested in Freeport, Bahamas. The man, from Liberty, Kansas spent three days in a Bahamian jail after a bullet was found in his fanny pack at the airport.
"This raises further questions about whether there's been a shakedown of some American tourists -- and about how long this might have been happening," Nelson wrote Monday in a letter to Ambassador Janice Jacobs, the assistant secretary of state for U.S. consular affairs.
Last week, Nelson raised concerns about two Americans, vacationing in the Turks and Caicos Islands, arrested last month in separate incidents after one bullet was found in their luggage
The travelers, a 60-year-old Texas businesswoman and an 80-year-old retired Florida neurosurgeon, had checked in at the Providenciales Airport a day apart. The woman was informed that there was a .38-caliber bullet in her carry-on. The man was told there was a bullet, a 9mm, in his checked luggage.
Both were arrested, jailed and released after posting $4,000 cash bail in the British dependent territory, 575 miles southeast of Miami.
Turks and Caicos government officials say "a thorough investigation" is ongoing. Authorities are examining surveillance footage from both inside and outside of the tiny airport.
"These are unprecedented events for our destination and are most regrettable for all involved," the country's tourism ministry said in a statement. "However, the security apparatus at the airport functioned as it was designed to. Now, we need to find out how the facts surrounding these matters fit together."
After learning of the first two arrests, Nelson, a Democrat, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican, wrote to the U.S. Embassy in Nassau, Bahamas, which has responsibility for the Turks and Caicos, demanding a thorough investigation. They also asked whether any other Americans had been arrested under similar circumstances.
Embassy officials told them no, according to Nelson's office.
But, Nelson says the Bahamas incident shows otherwise.
He also said he has become aware of an Orlando man arrested in April 2011 on an ammunitions charge at the Lynden Pindling International Airport in Nassau, although the traveler reportedly had 10 bullets in his luggage instead of one.
There is no other information available on the two most recent cases, according to Nelson's office.
"The treatment of American citizens as they travel internationally remains a serious concern of mine," Nelson said in his letter.