Archive for Sunday, September 12, 2004

Mom struggles to pay informants

Promised reward for information in KU student’s death not raised

September 12, 2004


Jeanette Stauffer made a $50,000 promise she can't keep.

"I really thought I could raise the money," she said. "But I was wrong. I was desperate."

Shortly after her daughter, Kansas University student Shannon Martin, was murdered in 2001 in Costa Rica, Stauffer put up a $50,000 reward for information leading to the killers being caught and convicted.

Last year, Kattia Cruz, 30, and Luis Alberto Castro, 34, were sentenced to 15 years in prison for their roles in Martin's slaying. Their sentences were later doubled.

A third suspect, Rafael Zumbado Quesada, was acquitted. He was later convicted of the unrelated murder of a drug dealer.

Martin, a 23-year-old honors student, was stabbed to death after leaving a nightclub in Golfito, Costa Rica. Her body was found beside an airstrip-access road near her host family's house.

Two witnesses' testimonies and an informant's undercover work proved critical in the convictions of Castro and Cruz. Each of the three, Stauffer said, now expects a $10,000 reward.

"The only reason they came forward was because of the reward," she said. "And, now, because there's so much corruption down there, their lives are in danger. I want to get them the money so they can get out of there."

But Stauffer doesn't have the money. She and her husband, Brad, are deep in debt, having spent more than $100,000 in legal fees and telephone and travel expenses.

"This past summer we've spent $11,000 or $12,000 fighting (Castro's and Cruz's) appeals," she said. "You think at some point it's going to come to an end, but it just keeps on going.

"It's been a terrible burden," she added. "But all you can do is keep going. You've got to see it all the way to the end. These people murdered my daughter."

But Stauffer said she would not beg.

"I don't like to do that," she said, "and I think the public and the media are tired of me. This has been going on for three years now, I can't blame them."

To reduce their debts, the Stauffers recently sold their home in Topeka. They now live in Eudora.

Cindy Maude, president of Callahan Creek Inc. advertising agency in Lawrence, has set up a Shannon Martin Reward Fund at Capital City Bank in Topeka.

"We have close to $8,000," she said. "We'd like to get close to $30,000."

Martin and Maude's daughter, Kyle, were best friends.

"To me this isn't just one family's issue," Maude said. "The issue is that what Shannon's parents have gone through for the past three years could happen to any of us, so, in a way, we all have some responsibility to help."

All donations to the fund will be used to reward the witnesses and informant.

Two years after Martin's death, KBI agent Larry Thomas and A. Jesse Ybarra, a Spanish interpreter for the state and federal courts in Topeka, volunteered to help with the investigation.

Ybarra said he's heard from both witnesses and the informant. "They've asked for their money," he said. "They fear for their lives, they want to get out of the area. It's an area that's having a lot of trouble with drugs."

The witnesses, he said, are poor.

"One is a car washer for a taxi-cab company, the other one is a butcher," he said. The informant "is a young kid who's running the streets. He's the one we're worried about the most. He could end up dead."

Stauffer said she's not giving up.

"I'll figure something out," she said. "I have to be good on my word."

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