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These stories were published Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 168
Jo Stuart
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Chiropractor Matthew Shirzad greets sign carrier Amir Efterkhar at the Tibunales de Justicia Monday where Shirzad had to appear before a judge in what amounted to a preliminary hearing on an allegation that the chiropractor threatened a judge.

His case got support by up to 40 creditors of the Villalobos Brothers high interest firm, some of whom, like Efterkhar, came with signs.

Story HERE!

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Another child killed in sex-related murder
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Yet another grisly murder of a girl shocked Costa Ricans again Monday and triggered a police manhunt that captured a suspect by midmorning.

The dead girl this time is just 15 days older than 11 years, according to police. She is Muriel Tatiana Camacho Cantillano. The murder happened in the lower-class area of El Carmen de Guadalupe, and the scenario was all too common.

The suspect is a friend of the family who lived nearby. He is identified as Oscar Hernández Rojas, either 54 or 56. He was caught hiding in grass in a field some 2 kms. (about 1.25 miles) from the murder scene. His dog, which was well-known in the dead girl’s neighborhood, gave him away, police said.

The suspect had ingested some type of agricultural chemical in an attempt to commit suicide, police said. He was being treated under guard at Hospital Calderón Guardia.

A preliminary police report said that the girl and her brother, 9, were home alone about 7:30 a.m. because her mother was hospitalized and her father was working. Police said the assailant arrived, sent the boy out to purchase bread and then raped the girl and ended up cutting her throat with a knife.

The boy returned to find his sister in a pool of blood inside the small house. The boy’s screams alerted neighbors and set off the police manhunt.

Officers Alexis Sánchez and Geovany Chaves found the man in an area between the statute of Cristo de Sabanilla and the El Carmen cemetery. Police said that he was vocal to neighbors about an affection he had for the child. The man has a prison record, including a robbery conviction in 1981, said police.

As police were taking Hernández to the hospital, the victim of a similar crime was fighting to get

well after sustaining three bullets in the chest. She is 13-year-old Mariluz de los Angeles Peraza. A man described as a former boyfriend, Daniel Alberto Salazar Adamis, 26, ambushed her Wednesday night as she walked with a relative near her home. He then shot himself, an action that proved fatal a day later.

The girl had broken off a romantic relationship with the man twice her age, said police at the time.

Some kind of attraction gone wrong may have been involved in the shooting spree July 30 that left three young persons dead in Puerto Escondido on the Osa Peninsula.

Carlos Corrales Picado, a 40-year-old fisherman systematically hunted down two teenage boys then killed a 4-year-old while the child played in the patio of his home. Then the man shot and gravely injured the child’s father, police said. Corrales fled but was later found dead.

María Martínez Pichardo, 30, and her two daughters, Johana, 3, and Yorleny, 4, died at the hands of the woman’s jilted lover, Jhonathan González Alvarado, last July 22 in Triangulo de Solidaridad in San Gabriel de Calle Blancos, Goicoechea. He killed himself later in prison. 

The first victim in this wave of child deaths was Katia Vanesa González Juárez, 8, who also is believed to have been killed by a man known to her family. She was found buried July 10 under the floor of  a nearby home inhabited by Jorge Sánchez Madrigal, 34, a man who had demonstrated an extra fondness for children in the Quesada Duran neighborhood in southeast San José. He is in jail.

The impact of the latest crime generated a lengthy report on local television, complete with sociologists, ministers and legislative deputies.

Costa Ricans have a strong appreciation of children and do not usually face these type of crimes, must less a series. The Asamblea Nacional is considering strengthening penalties for crimes against children.

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The signs were not elegant and may not have even been readable from a distance, but they made the point.
A.M. Costa Rica photo
These are the kind of friends you want to have
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The gathering at the Tribunales de Justicia Monday was of the true, true believers.

Four carried signs bearing the legends "Liberty to Oswaldo," "Return our money now" and Where is my money?"

But the numbers were down. A reporter estimated that about 40 creditors of the failed Villalobos investment operation showed up. Others said less than 20. That was a lot less than a previous gathering Nov. 26.

The event Monday was the preliminary hearing for Matthew Shirzad, the Villalobos creditor turned court critic. As a result of the judicial hearing, he now has to sign in with prosecutors every two weeks. He is facing a charge of menacing a public official, the official being the investigatory judge in the Villalobos matter.

Shirzad was so bold as to mail letters to Judge Francisco Sánchez Fallas and prosecutor Walter Espinoza. Since he now is in a court case involving those two, they have effectively shut him up because he should not be in contact with them during the investigatory stage.

Standing with signs was Amir Eftekhar, a former Iranian ambassador under the Shah, a man who identified himself as John Moore, a Canadian who identified himself only as Alberto and a woman named Sandra Arroyo.

Moore is a true, true, true believer and a self-described friend of Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho, the fugitive operator of the high-interest borrowing firm. 

When asked what it would take for him to think ill of Villalobos, Moore said that the businessman would have to admit to taking the money placed with the firm.  Moore would accept nothing else because he said he has known Villalobos for years and mixed socially with him.

The sign holders were not the rowdy bunch that some creditors feared. They stood quietly and responded to questions with a smile.  They had a lot more impact then they knew.

Some Costa Ricans approached a reporter standing out of earshot of the sign holders. The spectators admitted that they, too, were creditors of the Villalobos and had sympathy for the North Americans and other foreigners blindsided by the financial collapse. Each had their own story of hardship.

The courthouse lunch crowd seemed to pay attention, too.

"Oswaldo," of course, is the brother of Luis Enrique. He stayed behind when his brother fled and is in custody, although ailing. He comes up for another judicial hearing soon and almost certainly will be continued in some form of custody while overworked prosecutors continue their investigation. The investigation could take two years more.

According to another creditor, Shirzad also wrote a letter to a U.S. federal district judge asking him to stop the investigation in that country of the Villalobos finances. A U.S. deputy attorney general in Miami has been ordered to conduct a rigorous investigation at the request of the Costa Rican government.

The U.S. judge is not likely to derail a probe that might involve as much as the$1 billion that the brothers had on their books when they closed up shop Oct. 14.

Nor are Costa Ricans likely to free Oswaldo or return the money that legitimately would belong to the Villalobos Brothers if charges are dropped.

But that is the goal of Shirzad and others. They are seeking to agitate until the Costa Rican government halts the investigation of the high-interest firm. Shirzad also has some complaints about how money was catalogued when investigators raided the Villalobos operation July 4, 2002. He says money is missing.

In general, these are the creditors who believe the Villalobos brothers are the victims of a conspiracy engineered by jealous bankers, government officials and others. They reject the idea that the brothers could be involved in money laundering, fraud or illegal banking, the allegations that have made Enrique Villalobos an INTERPOL poster boy. The operation was suspicious because the Villalobos brothers paid 3 percent interest a month to creditors.

Prosecutors probably are unable to answer the other question the sign holders asked: "Where is my money?" Investigators confiscated almost nothing when compared to the amount on the company’s books. One creditor said investigators missed a room full of money that the brothers spirited out of their Mall San Pedro location some days later.

And those creditors who have questioned Oswaldo Villalobos at Clinica Catholica on the topic said that he is not very talkative.

Agents say brothers
went on shooting spree

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two brothers conducted their own personal crime wave murdering, assaulting and shooting persons in the Tres Rios area, according to police. They arrested the pair over the weekend. 

Held were Deibert Ureña, 17, and Javier Ureña, 18. Both are considered juveniles because all the crimes alleged happened while Javier was 17.

And the crimes are ample, so much so that agents for the Judicial Investigating Organization are asking any more victims to come forward now that the two young men are in preventative detention. 

The pair were arrested at their home in Dulce Nombre de La Unión at the end of last week.

On Aug. 4 police allege that the pair robbed a man named González in the public right-of-way and took money, a cellular, jewels and a bicycle of high value. Police found the bicycle when they raided the house where the pair lived, they said.

The victim in this case fought back and injured one of the robbers, so the next day the pair went looking for him and thought that he was in a bar in Calle Mesén. They were incorrect, but they shot a man named Sánchez anyway, said police. The victim suffered a shoulder wound.

But in a crime attributed to Deibert Ureña March 30, police said an 11-year-old boy was shot in the eye with a .38-caliber pistol and lost the eye.

On April 11, Javier Ureña is a suspect in the shooting death of Nelson Pereira, a minor, who died shortly after being taken to Hospital Calderón Guardia.

A Judicial Investigating Organization spokesperson said the pair probably would be treated as juvenile offenders.

Censure of Tovar 
fails in assembly 

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An effort to censure Roberto Tovar Faja, the foreign minister, failed in the Asamblea Nacional Monday.

The allegation was that Tovar contravened the pacifistic spirit of Costa Rica and unnecessarily and absurdly involved the country with the United States in the Iraq war without having the authority to do so.

The measure failed to get the required 38 votes to pass. The assembly is controlled by the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana, the party of President Abel Pacheco and Tovar.

Hurricane savages
parts of Baja California

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

LA PAZ, México — Mexican authorities have evacuated thousands of people from Baja California as Hurricane Ignacio churns off the peninsula's east coast.  The storm has toppled trees and lashed the area with heavy rains. Officials ordered the evacuation of residents in this southern city and other low-lying areas. 

The U.S. National Weather Service warns the system could cause dangerous flash floods and fast-moving mudslides. Forecasters say it is slowly moving to the northwest and could dump 15 inches or more of rain on the area. The storm is expected to weaken if it makes it to land. 

A hurricane warning is in effect for south of the cities of San Evaristo on the east coast and Bahia Magdalena on the west. 

A tropical storm warning is in effect for other southern areas, as well as parts of mainland Mexico's west coast.

U.S. crime rate estimated
at surprise 30-year low

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. crime rate has dropped to the lowest level in 30 years, surprising many experts. 

A study released Sunday by the Bureau of Justice Statistics said that property crimes and violent crimes, except for murder, decreased to about 23 million last year. That compares with 44 million victims in 1973, the first year the government began recording crime data. The study found crime down in cities, suburbs and rural areas, across all racial, ethnic and income lines. 

The study did not examine murders, which are measured separately by the FBI. Preliminary reports from the FBI indicate that the number of murders increased slightly last year. 

Some experts had expected violent and property crime rates to increase because of higher unemployment and budget cuts in towns and cities. Criminologists attribute the long-term plunge to a number of factors, including a drop in gang membership, an aging population and tougher prison sentences. Violent crimes are predominantly committed by young males. 

The United States' jail and prison population swelled to more than two million last year, an all-time high. 

Canada continues
battling wildfires

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Firefighters in Canada's westernmost province of British Columbia continue to battle raging wildfires which have destroyed some 250 homes and forced more than 30,000 people to flee their homes. 

Winds helped spread the fires, which were ignited by lightning nine days ago near the city of Kelowna. 

Lighter winds and cooler conditions Sunday and Monday allowed more than 3,000 people to return to their homes. This also gave hundreds of firefighters and soldiers a chance to make progress containing the blazes. 

Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien flew over the affected area and promised the province will get federal disaster fund assistance.  So far this year, more than 2,000 fires have consumed 178,000 hectares of forest in Canada.

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This is a perspective view of the Central Valley created by scientists at the U.S. National Aeronautic and Space Administration. San José and the most populated parts of the valley are in the right center as a gray area. Rising behind it are the volcanoes Irazu, 3402 meters high (11,161 feet) and Turrialba, 3330 meters high (10,925 feet.). 

Irazu is the highest volcano in Costa Rica and is located in the Irazu Volcano National Park, established in 1955. There have been at least 23 eruptions of Irazu since 1723, the most recent during 1963 to 1965. This activity sent ash and secondary mudflows 

into cultivated areas, caused at least 40 deaths and destroyed 400 houses and some factories. 

This image was generated in support of the Central American Commission for Environment and Development through an agreement with NASA. The commission involves eight nations working to develop the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, an effort to study and preserve some of the most biologically diverse regions of the planet. This three-dimensional perspective view was generated using topographic data from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission  and an enhanced Landsat 7 satellite image. 

NASA's gas detection device might track volcanoes
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A research and development team from Kennedy Space Center recently used a new hazardous gas detection system to study volcanic emissions in Costa Rica. 

The new prototype system named the Aircraft-
based Volcanic Emission Mass Spectrometer also will have a direct application to the Space Shuttle Program, according to the U.S. National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA).

The device is a step toward an advanced system that will be able to detect toxic gas leaks and emissions in the Space Shuttle aft engine compartment and the crew compartment, providing an added level of protection for the astronauts and the vehicle, said a release from the space center.

"For shuttle applications it was especially helpful that we had the opportunity to fly the system at altitudes of up to about 40,000 feet," said Dr. Richard Arkin, ASRC Aerospace Corp.'s lead designer.

A mass spectrometer is a device that determines the presence and concentration of various chemicals.

Arkin, Dr. Tim Griffin of NASA and two other members of the Kennedy Space Center team recently used the device to analyze gases vented from the Turrialba Volcano in Costa Rica.

The tests were made over several weeks both from the air and in the volcano's crater. The study was the first to sample and quantitatively analyze fresh volcanic gases in their natural chemical state, said NASA.

Active vents in volcanoes, called fumaroles, produce toxic gases including sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide. They also produce carbon dioxide, which while harmless in small amounts, can kill when too concentrated.

"Hikers on the volcanoes sometimes get cold then are attracted to the warm vents," Griffin explained." But when a large vent is producing massive amounts of carbon dioxide, the carbon dioxide displaces oxygen. When they breathe it, they don't get oxygen and they die."

Costa Rican leaders would like to see continuous monitoring of volcanoes both to warn citizens of hazards and to potentially help predict volcanic activity. But that's just the beginning of potential uses of the system, Griffin said.

The system also shows promise for commercial applications in a variety of environments and industries.

Applications include the semiconductor, petrochemical, automotive, refrigeration and cathode ray tube industries. The technology could be used for breath and blood analysis as well as for monitoring air quality in the workplace.

"Mass spectrometer technology could be used to ensure public safety and equipment protection in so many areas. Previous mass spec systems have been so expensive and bulky that their use was limited to laboratories," Griffin said.

NASA photo
A technician uses the gas detection device to measure emissions vented by the Turrialba Volcano.

The new system is both small and mobile. In addition it has the ability to easily and accurately produce in-depth data, said the report from the space center.

When the system becomes mass manufactured, it is expected to sell for less than $20,000 rather than the $150,000 commonly charged for an off-the-shelf laboratory mass spectrometer. Labor costs to run the machine will also be reduced. "Because of the system's custom software, it operates with little need for assistance by technicians," Arkin said.

The Costa Rican project was part of the Costa Rican Airborne Research and Technology Application mission and was funded through the National Science Foundation.

CRUSA (Costa Rica USA), a consortium of Costa Rican universities and government agencies, partnered on the project.

The inspiration for international cooperation that gave rise to the study came from a discussion between NASA astronaut Franklin Chang Diaz and a  University of Costa Rica professor, Dr. Jorge Andres Diaz. Diaz had previously served as a visiting scientist at Kennedy. Chang was born in Costa Rica.

"The CARTA mission and the use of the . . . instrument has been of extreme importance to Costa Rica," Diaz said. "Not only because it is the first NASA-Costa Rica joint scientific collaboration, but because the results collected during the air campaign will be used by many national and international institutions and will have an immediate impact in decision making policies for our country that potentially would save lives."

Johnson Space Center provided the WB-57F aircraft and support through its Ellington Field group for the nine research flights in the hazardous gas study. Several pretests of the system were made in Houston.

Ames Research Center provided infrared and visible photography as well as multispectral imaging on the airborne research mission.

Griffin and Arkin's research and development group, part of Kennedy Center’s Spaceport Engineering and Technology Directorate, also developed the Shuttle's Hazardous Gas Detection System. That system, which came on line in 2002, is ground support equipment used on the mobile launcher platforms to detect hydrogen and oxygen leaks on and around the shuttle. 

New infrared telescope will find ancient universe
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. Space Agency NASA has launched a new super-sensitive infrared telescope that will enable scientists to better understand the evolution of the universe. 

A Delta 2 rocket lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida, early Monday and successfully delivered the large telescope, known as SIRTF (Space Infrared Telescope Facility), into orbit. 

The launch originally had been scheduled for April, but was postponed several times due to technical problems. 

NASA says the observatory (telescope) will trail behind Earth in its orbit around the sun to avoid interference from our planet's own infrared radiation. 

Scientists say the new telescope's infrared radiation will allow it to detect light below the 

visible light spectrum, and take pictures of the oldest, darkest, coldest and most dust-obscured objects in the farthest corners of the universe. The images picked up by the telescope will show the universe as it was billions of years ago. 

The telescope is expected to deliver its first images back to Earth in October. NASA expects it to make some 100,000 observations during its estimated five-year life. 

The SIRTF telescope joins the Hubble and Chandra telescopes in rounding out a trio of NASA observatories in orbit around Earth. 

Chandra uses short wavelength x-rays above the visible light spectrum to detect the hottest objects in the universe, while Hubble detects medium-length light waves. 

Scientists say the three telescopes will complement each other, giving them different views of the same celestial object to give scientists a broader understanding. 

Little Theatre Group kicks off season with comedy
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Little Theatre Group opens its new season Saturday with "Any Friend of Percy D’Angelino is a Friend of Mine."

The show will be at the Blanche Brown Theatre in Bello Horizonte, Escazú  at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and again on Sunday at 2:30 p.m., the group announced.

The organization also is holding an open house and a general meeting Monday at 7 p.m. also at the theater. The group seeks new members.

The play, a comedy, is written by Jason Milligan and originally was presented as a staged reading in Los Angeles featuring Peter Falk, Christian Slater and Jean Smart, and first produced at New York's legendary West Bank Cafe.

The play is a humorous look at organized crime, soap operas and Hollywood, according to a synopsis available on the Internet

Tim Hawkins, playing mobster Frankie, makes his sixth appearance with the Little Theatre Group. Lisa DeFuso, who plays Sharon, Frankie’s bombshell wife, is a Little Theatre Group regular.

Tom Humes, who plays Tony, the actor who wants to play a mob boss, has been involved in the theatre for 30 years including 15 years in New York City.

Play tickets are 6,000 colons ($15) which includes 

Little Theatre Group photo
Tim Hawkins, Lisa DeFuso and Tom Humes

bocas and a complimentary drink.  For reservations, call 289-3910.

The show already has been on the road with performances in Manuel Antonio and Jacó.

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