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Archive for Wednesday, May 16, 2001

Martin death folo

May 16, 2001

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"It's not a violent place," said Oscar Quiros, a lifelong resident and director of Kansas University's study-abroad program in Golfito.

"Local people walk late at night with no worry," Quiros said. "Everybody's totally shocked and confused. We have no idea why it happened. We can't even imagine."

Tuesday found Martin's mother, Jeanette Stauffer of Topeka, in the same state of shock.

"It's real hard to understand why it had to happen," she said.

Costa Rican investigators Tuesday had few additional details about the brutal Sunday morning stabbing. Costa Rican newspapers, usually without attribution, continued to provide more details about the crime than police and U.S. Embassy officials would confirm.

Diario Extra, a daily newspaper in the capital city of San Jose, reported that Martin, an athlete and gymnast, apparently fought the attacker who stabbed her 14 times in the neck, arms and abdomen. The newspaper reported Martin was found gripping hair and shirt fragments, presumably of her assailant. The local papers reported there was no evidence of sexual assault, robbery or other clear motive for the killing.

Martin, 23, arrived Thursday in Golfito to complete research for a biology project. She had been a study-abroad student at Golfito during last year's spring semester and returned last week to spend a few days finishing her research on a type of tropical fern.

A reunion

Saturday night she went to the Jurassic Park, a discotheque, with current students who were the last to see her alive.

"She had just arrived, and that night at the bar was the first time they had to interact with her," Quiros said.

Other KU students in Golfito declined comment.

But Quiros said the students told him they had been inside the disco, but went outside because the club's bathroom was inoperable. As some of the students were re-entering the club, they saw Martin coming out.

They greeted her, and a handful of students said they last saw her walking in the direction of her host family's home, which is a little more than 1/10th of a mile from the club.

A passerby found Martin's body about 2 a.m., lying in a pool of blood about 150 feet from the disco.

Martin's death was Golfito's first homicide, said Quiros, who was born in the town and has worked for KU since the Golfito program began in 1992.

"This has been an extremely safe place, so far," he said. "The worst thing that ever has happened to me is someone broke into my house. People keep saying that this sort of thing happens in San Jose, not here."

No suspects

Investigators continued to collect evidence from the scene and conduct interviews, but no suspects had been identified or arrested, said Martin Matamoros, spokesman for the Organization of Judical Investigation, a Costa Rican agency analogous to the FBI in the United States.

A man was detained and questioned Sunday in connection with the slaying but was released Monday after he was eliminated as a suspect, Matamoros said.

A motive hadn't been determined, and no murder weapon had been found. Matamoros said investigators were awaiting results of an autopsy conducted and completed Monday.

"We're not going to say anything about a possible hypothesis yet," he said. "We're just trying to put the puzzle together right now."

The FBI has offered assistance in the investigation, but as of Tuesday hadn't sent agents to Costa Rica, Matamoros said.

The U.S. Embassy in San Jose sent an envoy to represent the woman's family during the investigation, said embassy spokeswoman Marcia Bosshart.

This spring semester, 15 students attended KU's Golfito campus and now are taking final examinations, said Susan Gronbeck-Tedesco, interim director of KU's Office of Study Abroad. Another 14 students still are scheduled to travel there this summer, despite the slaying.

Program continues

"We haven't made a decision (to suspend the Golfito program)," Gronbeck-Tedesco said Tuesday. "We still don't have much information yet, but the program isn't suspended right now. We still plan on having students there."

Stauffer, Martin's mother, said she trusted KU to make the right decision about the future of the Costa Rica program.

"I have faith in them that whatever they're saying will be the best judgment," she said.

In recent years, according to KU, about 30 students each semester have studied in Golfito. About 15 are there during the summer sessions.

Though Shannon Martin wasn't technically enrolled in the study-abroad program on her latest visit, her death marked the first homicide of a KU study-abroad student, officials said.

Three others have died in accidents, according to KU's Office of University Relations. In 1976, two students drowned in Ireland, and in 1995, one was killed in a bus accident in Spain.

The university recently canceled study-abroad programs in Israel because of dangers in that region.

-- Staff writer Kevin Bates can be reached at 832-7187.

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