US sailor, Dean Jay Fletcher is being held for extradition to Tonga, where he is accused of murdering his wife before escaping police custody and sailing to American Samoa.

A murder suspect, who escaped police custody and sailed around 300 nautical miles to American Samoa in the South Pacific, is being held for extradition to Tonga.

Officials from the Kingdom of Tonga said the American sailor, Dean Jay Fletcher, 54, is accused of beating his wife, Patricia Linne Kearney, to death on 6 July 2016, at Neiafu Port of Refuge, Vava’u.

Fletcher is alleged to have punched and kicked his wife as the couple arrived at the yacht, Sea Oak, according to provisional arrest documents.

Witnesses allege seeing Fletcher assaulting his wife.

The next day, Fletcher went to the Neiafu Police Station to report his wife had died when she slipped and fell down stairs on their yacht.

Fletcher initially tried to escape police custody on 11 July, after asking permission to use the toilet. He was quickly captured by police officers.

He managed to flee police custody again in September and was seen sailing away on a yacht.

The sailor was later spotted in Pago Pago, the capital of American Samoa by an acquaintance.

She had read about Fletcher’s escape from Tonga in the press, and promptly informed the authorities.

Fletcher was later taken from American Samoa to Honolulu, Hawaii, by US Marshals, as there is no federal court in the US Pacific territory.

A final decision on whether Fletcher is extradited will be made by the U.S. Department of State.

Under the Criminal Offences Act, the crime of murder in the Kingdom of Tonga may still, with the permission of the King, be punishable by death.

However, capital punishment has not been imposed for more than 30 years in the Polynesian sovereign state and archipelago.