Archive for Tuesday, July 3, 2001

COSTA RICAN MURDER DNA evidence in U.S. for analysis

July 3, 2001


Martin, 23, a Kansas University senior, was slain May 13 in Golfito, Costa Rica, a few days before she would have graduated. She was in Costa Rica completing biological research.

Martin's mother, Jeanette Stauffer of Topeka, has questioned Costa Rican resolve to settle the case. And she has criticized Costa Rican officials for failing to quickly deliver the DNA evidence to the United States.

But Costa Rican Ambassador Jaime Daremblum insists that bringing the murderer to justice is a "top priority" for his government. An embassy official said the evidence arrived Saturday in Washington.

A spokesman for U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback confirmed the arrival.

"But that's all the information we have now," the spokesman said. "We're still waiting to see how long the analysis will take."

FBI spokesman Paul Bresson told the Journal-World the analysis could take anywhere from two days to two weeks.

Meanwhile, Susan Gronbeck-Tedesco, interim director of KU's study abroad program, is preparing for a first-time visit to Costa Rica next week.

She said her trip is unrelated to the Martin murder.

"I haven't been to Costa Rica," she said. "I'll do a standard site visit. We regularly visit sites to check on things."

KU officials promised a review of the study abroad program after Martin was brutally slain near a Golfito nightspot where she had met with friends.

Gronbeck-Tedesco said the program review will begin in the fall when professors are back from summer hiatus.

"We want faculty input for that review," she said.

Interest in the Costa Rican study program has not diminished since Martin's death, Gronbeck-Tedesco said.

"We didn't have any cancellations for the summer, and we haven't so far had any cancellations for the fall," she said. "But we offered to every student that option, and no one has taken us up to date."

KU spokeswoman Lynn Bretz said Diana Carlin, the KU dean who oversees international programs, had been making calls to the State Department, the Costa Rican embassy and others in Washington "to help the Stauffers."

Bretz said Gronbeck-Tedesco and Carlin last month asked retired KU professor Charles Stansifer to go to Costa Rica after Martin's murder. Stansifer, an expert in Latin American history, has been to Costa Rica dozens of times and was heavily involved with the KU program there.

"We immediately asked Charlie to go down and check things out," Bretz said. "He met with embassy officials in San Jose and talked with the students and businesspeople and others in Golfito to try to understand the dangers and issues of security. It was just part of our information-gathering and an attempt to just very carefully monitor what's going on."

Bretz said KU officials are convinced Costa Rica remains safe for students, perhaps more so than the United States.

"The tragic event that happened this spring is the first time in 40 years any incident of that degree has occurred," she said. "We have safety issues for students here and in Kansas City, and nothing in life is without risk. We're just trying to do our best to monitor what's happening right now."

-- City Editor Mike Shields can be reached at 832-7154.

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