Archive for Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Martin murder case steps forward

Costa Rican judge to decide whether suspects will stand trial

April 30, 2003


Before the week's end, a Costa Rican judge is expected to decide whether three suspects will stand trial for the May 13, 2001, slaying of Kansas University student Shannon Martin.

"In Costa Rica, a judge has 48 hours after the preliminary hearing to examine the evidence and render a decision," said Martin's mother, Jeanette Stauffer, in a telephone interview Tuesday with the Journal-World.

Stauffer and her husband, Brad, were in Golfito, Costa Rica, for the preliminary hearing for the three accused in Martin's stabbing. The hearing, which lasted about 25 minutes, ended around 4 p.m.

"It was a due process hearing," Stauffer said. "There wasn't a lot of new information. It was pretty much both sides going over the charges -- the defense attorneys argued there wasn't enough evidence; the prosecutor said there was."

The hearing marked the first time Stauffer had been in the same room with the woman and two men -- Kattia Cruz, 28, Alberto "Caballo" Castro, 32, and Rafael "Coco" Zumbado, 47 --accused of killing her daughter.

"Today was very helpful. I needed to be here," Stauffer said. "I was strong; I just looked at them and thought to myself, 'How could you do this to my daughter?' It was difficult."

If the judge orders any or all of the accused to stand trial, the trial would likely begin in four to six weeks before a three-judge panel.

"They don't have jury trials in Costa Rica," Stauffer said.

Martin, a 23-year-old biology student scheduled to graduate from KU with honors, was killed shortly after midnight May 13, 2001, in Golfito. Her body was found in the early morning hours along an old airstrip access road, 100 feet from her host family's house and about two football fields away from the Jurassic Bar, where she had been at a party shortly before her death. She was stabbed 14 times -- the knife wounds were between 3 and 4.4 inches deep -- in her back, stomach, neck and arm. An autopsy showed she was stabbed several times after she was dead. Forensic analysis indicated multiple assailants attacked Martin, an athletic gymnast who had been taking kickboxing lessons for more than a year.

Several neighbors told police they heard a woman scream several times sometime after midnight but dismissed the noises because the secluded area was frequently used for sex and drug abuse.

Martin was neither raped nor robbed, except for one gold earring taken from her body. No clear motive has been established for the slaying.

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