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These stories were published on Friday, July 11, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 136
Jo Stuart
About us
Police, a next-door neighbor and his grandson talk about what happened inside this house last Friday.  This is where a schoolgirl, 8, was lured, raped and murdered.

See our story: 


A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
It was a typical end to a perfect week
And so the reunion which had been planned by a team of former residents and Leann, the current director of the International House, for the past year, is over. 

At first it seemed that five days of partying and socializing would be a bit much, but it wasn’t. The word that describes best the whole thing was "lots." There were lots of people (170 from 40 countries were at the formal dinner), lots of food, lots of laughter, lots of pictures taken, lots of catching up, lots of children. Exactly 26 marriages came out of the International House. 

What was perhaps special about this reunion was that the students I knew between 12 and nearly 20 years ago were people I felt I would still like to know today . . . and I did. I suppose it is always a surprise to discover that the freewheeling youth of yesteryear is a responsible banker or project manager of a software company, a psychologist, — or a diplomat with international responsibilities. Not to mention a parent. 

There were many highlights and special moments, but one that was most touching was when Phyllis Simpkins spoke. Phyllis and her husband Allen bought a sorority house 25 years ago and created the International House. She and Allen were responsible for many gifts and improvements at San José State University,"but this," she said. "has been my greatest accomplishment." 

They all wanted to know about Costa Rica. They remembered that was where I was going after I retired. Some have been to Costa Rica. I expect others will visit. I have invitations to visit other countries, which means that I have a friend just about anywhere I want to go between China and Paraguay. I was surprised that so many remembered me with such fondness.

Because I had a train to catch, I missed the Sunday farewell brunch. I figured it would be a pleasant ride remembering the special moments as the train rumbled its way though the beautiful California countryside. That was not to be. Although I had a reserved seat, after asking if I wanted to sit upstairs or downstairs, the attendant gave me seat number 50 upstairs. 

As I approached it, I saw this huge man in seat number 51 overflowing into my assigned seat. My sitting there was not going to change his need. Trying to be nonchalant, I turned on my heel and went back downstairs

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

and told the attendant I would sit in the small car downstairs. In a short while the attendant came and took orders for lunch which she would bring from the dining car. Two of the women ordered hamburgers. 

When they came they looked pretty good so I decided I, too, would have a hamburger, but would go to the dining car. I haven’t had a hamburger in over a year.  Back in my seat I began to experience the worse heartburn I have ever had. So much for hamburgers, I thought. Any ideas about the reunion were overshadowed by my discomfort and listening to the conversation of three of the women — all about churches, ministers with liberal Bible quotes. 

Suddenly I realized it wasn’t just heartburn, and I leapt up, running for the restroom. I managed to make it to the front of the car and the four foot tall plastic lined paper bag that served as a waste basket. I stuck my head into the bag just in time and with all the sounds that usually accompany this activity, began upchucking my hamburger and anything else I had consumed in the past 24 hours. I was mortified at the spectacle I made and kept raising my head to say, "I’m so sorry about this." before plunging my head back into the bag and resuming. I could hear murmurings like, "Don’t worry about it."

One of the women who later helped me (and who had also eaten a hamburger), said she didn’t feel too well, either, and she did a repeat performance of my act, but managed to make it to the restroom. 

Of course, with two of us violently ill, an official of the train came and made us write down lots of information like everything we had eaten in the past 48 hours (refer back to "lots of food."). When neither of us wanted to think about food. He assured us Amtrak would take all financial responsibility. 

I wondered briefly if people all over the train were throwing up, but mainly I wondered (as I was being wheeled out of the station to my daughter’s car), what it was about my life that so often juxtaposed the sublime with the ridiculous. 

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Suspect in girl's death raped and killed once before
By Saray Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

One of the two men held in the murder of an 8-year-old schoolgirl killed another girl in 1983 and has at least one other sex conviction.

That was the news neighbors in Barrio Quesada Duran chewed on Thursday as they mingled near where Katia Vanesa González Juárez lived before a murderer took her Friday.

The neighbors wondered why someone with an extensive record of sex crimes and property violations was not in jail.  The man is Jorge Sánchez Madrigal, 34, and police say he is the man who snatched the girl from the street Friday and ended up burying her in a shallow grave beneath the floorboards of his house.

A roommate, Rubén Delgado Barboza, 51, also was 
Katia González 
held for investigation but his participation in the crime still is uncertain. He was supposed to be at work all day Friday. The house is some 75 meters (about 250 feet) from the second-floor apartment where the girl lived.

One neighbor, William Velas, said he complained often to police about drug use in the single-story home next door. But he said he heard nothing Friday at the time, according to police, the girl was being 

murdered within. The walls are concrete.

Jorge Rojas, director of the Judicial Investigation Organization, explained that at the time of the murder in 1983, Sánchez, then in Heredia, was only 17 and could not be tried as an adult under laws at the time. The victim was Sonja Liseth Rivas, 13, who was raped, strangled and buried.

Consequently, Sánchez went free when he reached 18.  He and the girl attended the same school, Rojas said. 

Across town, lawmakers paused for a moment of silence. "This is a day of mourning in our country. The boys and girls deserve protection because they are our future" said a statement from the Asamblea Nacional.

The law worked better when Sánchez was convicted of rape and attempted murder in 1992. He got seven years and served his term in La Reforma Penitentiary. Neighbors said he also has been a suspect in property crimes like car theft. The said that the government shared some of the blame for not keeping such a man in jail.

Rojas described the man as a sociopath and a pedophile. The man was very friendly and offered to help investigators when they arrived to search the home about 8 a.m. Thursday, said Rojas. One agent noticed irregularities in a wooden floor. Some 20 inches below the floor was disturbed soil and 20 inches below that was the body of the girl, Rojas said.

Investigators are conducting a more extensive, slow search of the structure, and they plan to search buildings where Sánchez lived. For example, he was living in San Francisco de Dos Ríos when Jessica Valverde Pineda, 4, vanished near her home not far away in Los Guidos de Desamparados in  February 2002, said investigators.

Another unsolved crime is the abduction of Osvaldo Faobricio Madrigal Bravo, 3, of San Miguel de Higuito in Desamparados. That happened June 4, 2002, and a taxi driver and a local guard have been convicted in the crime. But the exact circumstances still are uncertain. The boy died while in hands other than those of the pair who, at best, were just deliverymen.

Velas, the girl's neighbor, said that he saw the main 

A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
The father, Keller González, meets the press

And so does OIJ Director Jorge Rojas

suspect in the street Saturday talking with a child about 3 and offering her a piece of banana.

Delgado, the older man, told a reporter Monday that he was always kidding around with the girl’s mother, Olga Juárez. He also expressed surprise when told that the girl had disappeared three days earlier, even though that topic was the talk of the neighborhood. Delgado said that although he knew the mother he had no idea that she had a daughter of that age. Delgado has lived in the neighborhood about 20 years.

Investigators started to home in on Sánchez over the weekend based on his criminal record, but it took them until midweek to generate the evidence for a search. From the beginning police did not suspect family members. Keller González, the girl’s father, lives in distant Puerto Jiménez and was not in town when the crime took place.

He spoke with reporters Thursday. The girl’s mother lives with Erick Fonseca with whom she has had another child. The three adults worked together to try to find the girl.

Police also knew that the girl had had no trouble at home or school and was, in fact, starting a school vacation. She was a low risk for being a runaway.

Results from an autopsy should take at least two days.

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Plane crash kills
three in south

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three persons died Thursday morning when a light plane crashed just before landing at St. Vito de Coto Brus, investigators said.

The dead included two U.S. citizens and the Costa Rican wife of one, they said.

They were identified as Raymond Rayniere, 74, and his wife Gaudy More Amey, 27, and Carrol Griffin, 75.

The plane hit a hill called Alto de Pinar and broke apart about 8 a.m. The craft was a Beechcraft Bonanza, and investigators said the area had low visibility due to fog.

The crash scene is not far from the airport. The area is in southwest Costa Rica.

The craft was believed to be coming from Golfito. Rayniere lived in San Vito, investigators said.

Police duck trap
set with dynamite

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

In a major police action involving more than 600 officers and even the air division some 250 families were thrown off a piece of land owned by Standard Fruit Co. of Costa Rica Thursday.

The action happened on Finca Bambuzal in Sarapiquí, said the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

Police said they met little resistance but did find three cases of dynamite that appeared to have been set up in a bamboo stand to do damage to police when detonated. That did not happen.

The last time police tried this on the same finca, they were met with gunfire and some police officers took hits in their bulletproof vests.

The invaded territory had become a magnet for criminals and drug users from all over Costa Rica, police said. The property had been in the courts as the persons who resided there illegally sought some possession rights, but a judge lifted an injunction against police action a week ago.

Two tourism laws
create regional units

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A special commission on tourism Thursday approved the creation of agencies to promote tourism in Guanacaste and in Limón.

The idea is to decentralize the functions of the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo by creating local agencies closer to the actual places where tourism is being conducted, said a release from the Asamblea Nacional.

Each agency, the Agencia Promotora Turística de Guanacaste and the Agencia Promotora Turística de Limón, are subjects of individual laws that will now go to the full assembly.

Los Chiles planning
two-nation festival 

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There will be a festival in Los Chiles on the Nicaraguan border this weekend from Friday through Sunday.

The event brings together artists from both countries.

The northern area of Costa Rica always has had more contact with Nicaragua to the north, according to Lucrecia Sancho, regional cultural director of the Northern Zone. The area also is one of poverty and unemployment, and arts and crafts are an option for economic activity as well as a way to boost tourism.

The events run until noon Sunday.

Quake hits near coast

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 4.4 magnitude earthquake hit just off the central Pacific coast of Playa Uvita about 4:20 p.m. Thursday, according to the U.S. National Earthquake Information Center. The quake was about 33 kilometers (about 20 miles) deep, said the center.

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Vault investor group will open office next week
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some 10 investors from The Vault Holding Co. say an office soon will be opened to field investor complaints. They asked investors to "sit tight for a few more days."

The group includes Kells Faulkner and Rodney Strange, two associates of Vault operator Roy Taylor. They are the two persons who filed criminal charges against Taylor, and the charges led to the police raids of Vault properties.

Taylor killed himself June 24 while in police custody at his downtown headquarters. Since then investors have been trying to piece together the empire that Taylor once boasted was worth $100 million.

"Currently and for several weeks, you have a team of three attorneys, three investors and numerous assistants working 12 to 18 hours per day identifying and finding the assets that backed your investment," said the statement from the investor group.

The group has located 18 vehicles, 51 corporations with properties and 11 mortgages, said the group, characterizing their search as "dismantling an elaborate house of cards."

"We feel time is of the essence," said the statement. "We also want you to know that our efforts are for the common good of all legitimate investors. Yes, we, too, want our money back, but we want the same for all of you."

The statement said that the 10 members of the group were shouldering the financial load. "United we swing a pretty big stick," said the release.

The group said that by Wednesday an e-mail address will be available so investors can make 

contact. The group also said it has secured a private office that will be staffed and functioning by the following Friday.

Taylor did a lot of his work informally. He also had the technique of customizing his sales pitch for each potential investor. He accepted money and said he paid 3 to 3.5 percent interest a month. He enlisted investors as "partners" and encouraged them to invest in their specialties. He created new companies seemingly on a daily basis.

Many of his companies look much better on paper than they actually are.

Faulkner invested some $3 million with Taylor less than a year ago and drew on the money to develop Crocodile Rock and filthy McNasty’s, two bars in Jacó. She is the majority stockholder in those corporations, although Taylor used to take credit for the companies when he told potential investors about The Vault.  Like many investors, the bulk of her money was held in The Vault Holding Co. She also oversaw the remodeling of the Vault headquarters that now sits sealed on the pedestrian boulevard in downtown San José.

Taylor’s wife, Lilliam Corrales Barquero, is in jail for three months of preventative detention while agents for the Judicial Investigating Organization try to reconstruct the company. A bookkeeper, Aracelly Valverde, also was detained, but she has been freed on her own recognizance.

The crash of the Taylor empire was the most spectacular of the high-interest operations that failed in the last year. There are many connections among the firms.

Taylor invested some money with Luis Enrique and Oswaldo Villalobos Camacho, the so-called Brothers high-interest firm whose owners closed its doors Oct. 14.

U.S. finally setting up system for direct deposit
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

U.S. citizens finally will be able to get direct deposit of their federal pensions or Social Security checks at three Costa Rican banks.

The application process will take about 30 to 60 days, according to a release from the U.S. Embassy.

Embassy employees have been receiving pension checks for citizens here via diplomatic pouch and then inserting the checks in the Costa Rican mail system as certified letters.

Some pensioners were using a service by Vinir Corporation S.A. and Casa de Cambio Vinir. But that Escazú operation closed last Sept. 4 in anticipation of bankruptcy. Vinir would accept the checks in Miami and pay out the money to expats here.

The banks that will accept the direct deposits are Banco Nacional, Banco de Costa Rica and Banco Interfin. The first two are government-owned banks. The payments are being processed by the Bank of New York and Citibank, said the embassy release.

Of course, expats here will have to open up an account at one of the banks if they do not already have one. The money will be in the account by the third working day of the month, said the embassy.

Of course many pensioners get their payments at banks in the United States and simply withdraw the money from one of the many automatic teller machines in the country. 

But some don’t want to pay the fee that such a transaction generates.

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