Murder charges were filed this week against two Americans over the death of animation pioneer and Quebec philanthropist Daniel Langlois and his partner on the island of Dominica, local police said.
The bodies of Langlois and Dominique Marchand, who had been missing for several days, were found incinerated in a car on Friday near Gallion, in the south of the small Caribbean island, where they owned a hotel, officials said.
"Two American citizens, Jonathan Lehrer and Robert Snider, have been charged for murder. They are in custody," a Dominica police spokesperson told AFP.
The police offered no immediate motive for the murders.
Snider and Lehrer, a contractor and neighbor of the Quebec couple on the island, appeared briefly in the Roseau Magistrate's Court on Wednesday morning, the police spokesperson added.
Lehrer, a chocolate maker originally from New Jersey, owned a 53-acre property next to Coulibri Ridge, the 200-acre eco-resort called that was owned and operated by Langlois and Marchand, the BBC reported.
The BBC, citing court documents, said Lehrer had been involved in a years-long dispute over the use of a road leading to the couple's eco-resort.
In an interview with Le Journal de Montreal, Lehrer's father, Robert, said he believed his son was innocent.
"Jonathan is a successful businessman, not a murderer," he told the newspaper. "We are very close and he is not a violent man at all. I have a hard time believing it."
A third person was arrested but not charged, police investigator Jeoffrey James said, adding that the investigation is ongoing.
"The work of the team has not ceased," he said. "We are devoted to having justice served in this matter."
Langlois made a fortune developing cutting edge 3D animation software for the company he founded, Softimage, that was used in Hollywood blockbusters such as "Jurassic Park," "Star Wars" and "The Matrix."
In 1994, he sold his company to Microsoft, and three years later was awarded a scientific and technical Oscar, according to his foundation's website, which also confirmed the deaths of Langlois and Marchand.
Authorities in Dominica said they have requested independent investigators to help with the probe and the DNA and forensic analysis of evidence gathered and have been in touch with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Police in Canada said they're aware of the investigation in Dominica and that it works closely with its international partners. However, they said in a statement that they do not comment on specific criminal investigations in foreign jurisdictions.
The victims' bodies were found last week in a car that had caught fire, according to police.
"We sympathize with the family and friends of the deceased [and] the employees of the eco-resort," James said, adding that the police "understand the level of public interest, both locally and in the international community."
In a statement issued Friday, the Dominica tourism board said they were "deeply saddened' by the deaths of Langlois and Marchand.
"Daniel Langlois and Dominique Marchand were visionaries who pioneered a balance between luxury and sustainability," Discover Dominica said. "Their passion and commitment to this cause transformed Coulibri Ridge into a beacon of green tourism, creating a benchmark for others to aspire to. Their loss leaves an irreplaceable void not only in our lives but also within the hearts of everyone in Dominica and the global sustainable tourism community."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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