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Archive for Saturday, June 30, 2001

6-30Costa Rica ambassador

June 30, 2001

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Ambassador Jaime Darenblum said official concern about the May 13 brutal stabbing of the Kansas University student is "extremely high."

"We attach top priority to solving homicide cases in Costa Rica," Darenblum said.

Martin, 23, was stabbed 14 times after leaving a bar. She was in Golfito, Costa Rica, completing biological research she started while studying abroad there last year.

Since her murder almost seven weeks ago, no arrests have been made. But several suspects have been questioned and had hair samples taken. Officials apparently seek a match to hair believed to be from her assailant, which was found clutched in Martin's hand.

The hair samples will be carried by a Costa Rican official in a diplomatic pouch to the FBI Crime Lab in Washington, D.C., at 7 a.m. today, said Martin Matamoros, a translator for the Organization of Judicial Investigation, the Costa Rican equivalent of the FBI.

Matamoros said he was unsure how long the testing would take.

Martin's mother, Jeanette Stauffer of Topeka, said she would like to believe Darenblum and Costa Rican authorities when they say investigators are doing their best, but she has heard conflicting reports.

"I've been in touch with people from Golfito, and they're not seeing anything being done locally," she said. "It's just been kind of shoved under the rug."

Though DNA testing is now apparently moving forward, she said she wants to maintain pressure on Costa Rican authorities.

"The U.S. embassy and other sources have said that it's very important that as many people as possible write to the Costa Rican Embassy with their concerns that this isn't being solved," Stauffer said.

Darenblum said that Costa Rica continues to be one the safest countries in Central America and that police investigators were doing their best.

"Costa Rica has a very exemplary record in solving homicides," he said.

In March 2000, two American college students were shot to death in Costa Rica. Two suspects were tried and jailed. A third suspect remains at large and is believed to be in a neighboring country. Darenblum said police were still working with other countries to find the suspect.

Darenblum said Costa Rica's murder rate is the lowest in Latin America and lower than the U.S. murder rate.

According to U.N. statistics, the annual homicide rate in Costa Rica between 1994 and 1999 ranged between 5.4 and 6.0 murders per 100,000 people. Federal Bureau of Investigation statistics show that for 1994 through 1998, the murder rate in the U.S. dropped from 9.0 to 6.3 murders per 100,000 people.

"I think Americans are safer in Costa Rica than in many places here in the United States," Darenblum said. "And we're very proud of the fact that there are more Americans living in Costa Rica than Costa Ricans living in the United States."

-- Staff writer Matt Merkel-Hess can be reached at 832-7187.

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