Archive for Saturday, July 14, 2001

Presidential meeting comforts mother of slain KU student

July 14, 2001

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Two parents met Friday in Washington, D.C. one to explain what her daughter meant to her family and friends, the other to offer his sympathy and, possibly, hope.

Costa Rican President Miguel Angel Rodriguez Echeverria spoke with Jeanette Stauffer of Topeka about the brutal slaying of her daughter, Shannon Martin, in the Costa Rican port town of Golfito.

Martin, 23, was killed in May while completing biological research. She was one week from graduation at Kansas University.

Stauffer said Rodriguez was very personable and understood her pain he lost his 15-year-old son to an accident.

"He was very courteous and very sympathetic," Stauffer said. "The idea of the meeting, for me, was for him to learn more about my daughter and to attach a mother to Shannon, a mother that is very concerned that the crime is not being solved and needs to be."

Rodriguez was in Washington, D.C., for meetings with U.S. officials, including President Bush. Stauffer's meeting Friday morning also included Jaime Daremblum, the Costa Rican ambassador to the United States, and Robert Woody, a KU representative in Washington, D.C., and a partner with the Kansas City-based law firm Shook, Hardy & Bacon LLP.

The meeting, originally scheduled for 15 minutes, stretched to 35 or 40, Woody said.

"I thought it was a very constructive meeting," he said. "You could tell that they really connected. It was more than just a perfunctory or official meeting."

Stauffer said she knows Rodriguez can't force things to happen in the Costa Rican justice department, but he can help spur a more thorough investigation.

"My concern is so much of the evidence has been lost," she said.

Stauffer said she hoped Costa Rican investigators would now allow assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.

"We want the Costa Rican government to be in charge and just let the FBI or KBI be there back behind the scenes doing investigating," she said.

Stauffer said until the perpetrator is caught and a motive is determined, she will worry about other students and travelers.

KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway said he was pleased the Costa Rican president agreed to meet with Stauffer, and he thanked Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., for setting up the meeting.

Susan Gronbeck-Tedesco, interim director of KU's study abroad program, returned Wednesday after a week in Costa Rica. While in Golfito and San Jose, she spoke with students, host families, program staff and with the U.S. Embassy.

"We are continuing the review of our study abroad program, and we will be involving the KU faculty this fall in a review," she said.

The summer program in Golfito ends Monday, Gronbeck-Tedesco said. When she spoke with students, several said they were planning to travel in the region after the program ended.

"They told me they felt safe," she said.

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