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Archive for Sunday, April 28, 2002

Slain daughter provides ‘strength’ for journey

April 28, 2002

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— Jeanette Stauffer today will face the hardest part of her quest for justice in the slaying of her daughter.

With her husband, Brad Stauffer, and lawyer Pedro Irigonegaray, Stauffer is in Golfito, a rural port town on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. It's the town where her daughter, Shannon Martin, was slain almost a year ago.

The eight-hour trek from San Jose was not one Stauffer took lightly. She used the time to release emotions and compose herself for the days ahead.

"I get my strength from Shannon. There's nothing I wouldn't do for her. I can't bring her back, but I can look for the problems that caused her demise," Stauffer said.

Martin, 23 when she was killed, was once enrolled in Kansas University's study abroad program in Golfito. She returned to the tropical rainforest she loved to collect rare ferns for her research project at the university and was stabbed to death May 13, 2001, just days before she would have returned home to graduate with honors from KU.

This is Stauffer's third trip to Costa Rica.

The first time she went to visit Shannon.

The second, she was there to pressure authorities to solve the case.

Today, she's in the Central American country to try to keep the investigation of her daughter's death moving forward.

"In November, the OIJ (the Costa Rican equivalent of the FBI) said they believed at least two assailants would be found in a short period of time. Why haven't they been arrested?" Stauffer said.

Six months after the slaying, OIJ officers arrested 27-year-old Costa Rican Katia Cruz Murillo for her alleged involvement in the murder. Cruz has given little information. Under Costa Rican law she cannot be interrogated, though she is in custody. The Tico Times, an English-language newspaper in Costa Rica, reported that Murillo had been in the same bar as Martin on the night of the stabbing and wore a sweatshirt that was later found near Martin's body.

"We need to go into this as if it was an unwritten book so we can reach a judicial conclusion; the worse thing we can do is assume something," said Irigonegaray, who is working pro bono to assist Martin's murder investigation.

Stauffer and Irigonegaray say they just want to help the police.

"I hope we can provide local authorities with support as opposed to coming and telling them what to do," Irigonegaray said. Stauffer "has been interested in preventing another mom and dad from going through the same thing."

Stauffer said she still had many concerns about safety in Golfito for the students who study there.

"After she was killed, no one seemed concerned about her murder," Stauffer said, referring to the fact KU students continued to come to Golfito's study abroad program the semester after Martin was murdered. "I don't think KU can deal with safety precautions with one flier, one program ... you need to sit students down and explain. Shannon needed to know what elements were around the bar."

Martin was murdered after leaving Jurassic Bar to walk back to her host family's house. The stabbing occurred just a few hundred yards from the bar.

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