Archive for Thursday, August 22, 2002

Host family erects memorial to slain KU student

August 22, 2002


Kansas University student Shannon Martin called O'dette and Marciel Porras her Costa Rica "mama" and "papa."

"She loved them dearly," said Jeanette Stauffer, mother of Martin, who was stabbed to death May 13, 2001, during a research trip to Golfito, Costa Rica. She was staying with the Porrases, who had been her host family during a KU Study Abroad program the previous spring.

Martin's slaying devastated the Porrases. As part of their healing process, the couple recently erected a monument in their host daughter's name. The memorial stands next to their home and about 200 feet from where Martin's body was found.

"Those poor people have to deal with feelings  I hate to say the word guilt  that it happened not only in their country, not only in their community, but almost in their back yard," Stauffer said.

The monument, a white tile altar topped with a white cross and two flower vases, bears an inlaid plaque that reads, "KU Study Abroad Student Shannon Lucille Martin, Dec. 30, 77-May 13, 2001."

It's nestled among the tropical plants Martin loved so much. She was in Costa Rica finishing up research on tropical ferns and was just a week away from graduating with a degree in biodiversity, ecology and evolutionary biology at the time of her death.

Amber Robbins, a KU senior in biochemistry from Pratt, who recently returned from the university's summer program in Golfito, stayed with the Porras family during her trip. She didn't know Martin, but she documented the monument-building process in photos and provided copies to Stauffer.

She said the Porras had help from a few of Martin's Golfito friends. The group finished the tribute, which stands about 2 1/2 feet tall and can be seen from the road that passes in front of the Porras home, in late July.

"They had a lot of fond memories about Shannon," Robbins said. "They're great people, and Golfito's a great town with some wonderful people in it."

A major break in the Martin case came last month, when Costa Rican authorities arrested two more suspects in Golfito.

Luis Alberto Castro and Rafael Zumbado have been taken into custody and are being held on suspicion of homicide. Another suspect, Katia Vanesa Cruz Murillo, whom police arrested in November, also is in jail. All three suspects face 20 to 35 years in jail if charged and convicted.

Stauffer said Wednesday that Costa Rican authorities conducting the investigation told her they were waiting on testimony from another witness before they could formally charge the suspects. Prosecutor Erick Martinez said in July the trial could begin in the next few months.

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