Prisoners In Paradise

Four Americans On A Tropical Island

Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands, is simply paradise - a place where the wealthy can sail and sun on private beaches and yachts.

For more than 20 years, Josephine and Russell McMillen, and their daughter Lois, fled the cold winters of Connecticut, for their villa on Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands.

"She was well known down there," recalls Lois' father, Russell McMillen. "Ever since she was a child, she's been going there."

At the end of 1999, Russell McMillen fell seriously ill, and Lois planned a longer than usual holiday stay with her parents.

On the evening of Jan. 14, 2000, Lois, 34, told her parents she was going to a local hangout to listen to music. She never came home.

The next morning, they called the police, who later discovered Lois' body on the other side of the island, just a few miles from where she was last seen. Her car was found less than a mile away, at the ferry dock.

Police believed that after a violent struggle, Lois broke away from her attacker and took off across this sea wall, down onto the rocks, leaving behind a trail of personal possessions: a gold necklace, a can of mace, a hairclip, and one shoe. They found her body in the shallow water, shirt and bra pulled up, her breasts exposed. But the medical examiner couldn't say whether her attacker followed her down there and held her under, or whether, dazed, she simply fell, hit her head and drowned.

Crime of any kind is rare on Tortola, and news of this murder shocked the island, especially because the victim seemed not to have an enemy in the world. Correspondent Susan Spencer reports on the search for Lois McMillen's killers in this story, which last aired on Jan. 16, 2002.

Lois was the McMillens only child. As an adult, Lois had drifted through careers: an aspiring actress, then an artist and graduate of the Parsons School of Design. She'd recently been living at home in Connecticut.

No one knows where or when Lois met up with her killer the night of her murder. But just hours after Lois' body was found, police arrested four vacationing Americans: Michael Spicer, a well-to-do Tortola neighbor of Lois; his 23-year-old friend, Evan George; Alex Benedetto, the son of a wealthy publisher, who'd dated Lois a few years before; and William Labrador, Benedetto's best friend and partner in a New York modeling agency.

News of the arrest electrified Tortola, where Spicer and Labrador were well-known - and their friends and family insist they are innocent.

Labrador, on trial for murder, proclaimed his innocence in an exclusive 48 Hours interview: "I'm an innocent man that has been falsely accused of the crime of murder of a woman who has been coming here for 30 years plus and here I sit falsely accused."

For wealthy New York publisher Victor Benedetto's 37-year-old son Alex, Christmas 1999 ended in Her Majesty's Prison, where he's been ever since, charged with killing Lois McMillen. Also with him were Michael Spicer, 39, a rich law school grad from Virginia and his companion Evan George, 23.

In late 1999, business was slow so Labrador and Benedetto decided to spend the holidays in Tortola. Once there, they hooked up with Spicer and stayed at his family's villa, "Zebra House." Also there was Spicer's other houseguest, George.

All but George knew Lois, who lived just down the hill and loved to go out. During the two nights before her death, Lois reportedly went out with the guys to several clubs - but the men say the night of the murder was different.
The men's defense is simple: They say they never even saw Lois McMillen on the night she died. For most of the night, three of the four were together in public places. Only Labrador couldn't prove what he did after his friends dropped him off some distance from Zebra House. He said he was tired, walked back home, watched TV and went to bed.

Police searched for clues at Zebra House, where they turned up three pair of wet sandy sneakers, and a shirt with a stain on it, thought to be blood.

The police also noticed a small, fresh cut on Labrador's nose. He said he got it the day before while hiking, but the officers became suspicious and arrested the four men before the day was over.

The defendants and their families charge that the police rushed to judgment, out of fear that an unsolved murder would hurt Tortola's image. But are these four young men falsely accused?

"They wanted to wrap this up quickly, arrest somebody quickly, preferably not a local person and then search for evidence," says Labrador's mother, Barbara.

Part II: A Tropical Island Trial