The owner of this rental home now wonders why the suspicious November death has not been investigated further.
EAST END — The property owner expected the national publicity precipitated by the November 2014 death of a controversial Tennessee insurance investment entrepreneur in an apparent burglary at his isolated East End Point rental home to affect future rentals of the $5,000 per month property to some degree — he didn’t expect the death to pass relatively unnoticed and uninvestigated.
Edward H. Netherland, 60, a notorious insurance company executive from Nashville, Tennessee, was found dead with a head wound on Tuesday morning, November 18, in his isolated rental home at the farthest reach of an undeveloped luxury subdivision at Privateer Bay on the East End of St. John.
When the death was first reported it was initially suspected that Netherland, a V.I. tax-shelter resident, had died from injuries suffered in an apparent robbery at the small rental property dramatically perched on a steep hillside overlooking the waters between the U.S. and British Virgin Islands.
V.I. Police Department Major Crime detectives in the St. Thomas/St. John district said Netherland was discovered unresponsive in his home on the east end of St. John at about 9:15 a.m. on November 18. Detectives also said the results of the autopsy, received by them on November 20, list cause of death as blunt force trauma, according to published reports.
Quadruple By-Pass and Pile of Debt
“What I’ve learned was that the cause of death was heart failure, no doubt precipitated by the brawl, but he’d had quadruple bypass surgery a year ago,” explained the owner of the house, which rented for $5,000 per month.
“It also came to light that he was in debt to the tune of tens of millions, not including lawsuits of a similar level,” the longtime island businessman said. “I don’t know enough about the particulars to say if his business was a scam, but I can say it was ‘complicated’.”
“The family declined to pursue an independent investigation, especially in light of the fact that this didn’t seem to be a random event,” one island acquaintance of the victim told St. John Tradewinds. “Apparently his past behavior had strained their relations and they’re attitude is to turn the page.”
The property owner had no further information on Netherland’s personal contacts.
Isolation of Unfinished Subdivision
The unfinished albeit isolated East End development, with at least a mile of paved roads to multi-million-dollar building lots on dramatic rocky points and unspoiled bays, has stirred in the recent economic climate, but the subdivision roadsides are thick with thorny brush, almost impassable without severely damaging a vehicle’s paint job.
The area is so distant by road, some questioned if the purported “burglars” had approached the property from the shoreline more than 100 feet below the house instead.
Nevertheless, the rental property owner found himself right in the middle of a real-life island murder mystery when the USVI tax-sheltered, tax-shelter salesman was found dead in the unique, albeit expensive, isolated rental property.
Although Netherland appeared to have suffered a fatal head injury — or a fatal heart attack — during or as a result of a robbery, subsequent revelations about his business dealings raised questions about the circumstances.
The secluded isolation of the crime scene, literally a “novel” setting at the end of the most distant paved roadway on the island, left many residents wondering why anyone would have randomly targeted the almost-inaccessible property for a burglary or robbery.
The landlord quickly dismissed reports of any illegal activity by a man the landlord knew as a loner tenant who was always on the deck of the rental home doing business on the telephone.
“There had to (have been) a fight,” said a St. John Tradewinds source who surmised Netherland had been surprised by burglars who didn’t expect anyone was in the isolated house. “He had a big wound on his head.”
Major Business Failures, Lawsuits
Netherland, who reportedly was a USVI Economic Development Commission (EDC) tax beneficiary, was required to reside in the USVI and traveled to and from the territory frequently for business, leaving his car at the isolated East End house he rented and worked from while in the territory, according to his landlord.
Netherland’s confusing web of failed and current investment projects were fodder for a flurry of news articles in the insurance man’s hometown Tennessee publications. There were references to questionable business activities and nefarious dealings, and a recently-failed insurance investment proposal for a Florida municipal pension plan which fell apart shortly before Netherland’s death, according to stateside news reports.
St. John ended up with the national notoriety of another “suspicious” death.
Employee Finds Victim
Police were dispatched to the residence after an employee of the victim entered the house, found the victim and called 911, according to the preliminary information.
“I saw him Monday afternoon,” the owner of the lone rental house in the furthest reach of the undeveloped subdivision told St. John Tradewinds at the time. “The next morning the girl came to clean up and he was slumped over dead between the bed and the outside wall.”
“It looked like a tussle and they hit him or he hit his head,” one source said. “It wasn’t like (the house) was ransacked — his wallet was gone; his watch was gone.”
“I don’t think they knew he was there,” the long-time St. John resident surmised. “This guy didn’t go out.”
“This is an isolated spot,” the property owner said of the modern house which hangs off a cliff on the north shore of Privateer Point on the East End of St. John with a porch cantilevered far above the shoreline overlooking Tortola.”
“He was renting,” the owner said. “He never locked his doors. He was on the phone 10 hours a day.”
“He sat out there in the peace and quiet… ,” the owner said of the Cliffside location.
“Of course forensics came out,” the homeownwer told St. John Tradewinds. “They did the whole cop thing; but nothing ever comes of that.”
“He was a big guy,” the property owner said. “There had to have been a fight.”