Saturday, November 12, 2011

Arrest Made in Murder of Canadian Expat in Costa Rica

Costa Rica's Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) arrested a Costa Rican national, 36, on Friday (November 11) in the murder of Canadian expat Kimberly Blackwell, 53, murdered on February 2, in Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula, in the Southern Zone.

Blackwell was found beaten and shot to death on February 2 in front of her home near Puerto Jiménez in the town of San Manuel de Cañaza on the edge of Corcovado National Park. She had frequent clashes with poachers who crossed her property to hunt in the park. On the day of her murder, Blackwell had a confrontation with a group of at least three poachers, one of whom was the suspect arrested on Friday.

COMMENT: Blackwell lived in Costa Rica for 18 years before her murder and founded Samaritan Xocolata where she employed local women to harvest cocoa grown on a section of her 52-hectare farm.

Unfortunately for Blackwell, her murder may well have been victim-precipitated, in that she was well known for taking the law into her own hands as demonstrated by her frequent clashes with poachers and trespassers. In one instance, after a poacher killed two of her dogs, Blackwell allegedly ran over the poacher in her car, breaking his leg.

Blackwell’s murder was the fourth killing of a foreigner in the Osa region since 2009. Austrian citizens Horst Hauser, 67, and Herbert Langmeier, 65, disappeared from the town of Puerto Jiménez in 2009. Their remains were later discovered buried on a nearby beach. The prime suspect in that case, a 25-year-old Costa Rican national, turned himself in to authorities in August. Also in August, OIJ agents arrested three individuals in connection with the murder of Lisa Arts, 49, an American woman who worked as a caretaker at Las Palmas, near Puerto Jiménez.

Providing that the suspect that police arrested on Friday is convicted the OIJ will have closed all four homicides.

Blackwell, who grew up in Canada, built a log cabin in the rugged Yukon Territory, where she worked as a logging camp chef in her 20s. She had owned her farm in San Manuel de Cañaza for nine years at the time of her murder.

The original owner of the farm, a local who lived on an adjacent piece of land, has, according to friends of Blackwell’s, moved into Blackwell’s house and taken over possession of the land again, under Costa Rica’s squatter laws.

The are lessons to be learned in this case. Although Costa Rica is a wonderful country to live in, and is among my favorite, like several Central American countries, pro-active law enforcement leaves much to be desired. In the countryside, calling a police emergency number and getting a prompt response could take days.

Consequently, Blackwell's confrontational track-record with local poachers might well have precipitated her murder. According to an autopsy conducted after her death, Ms. Blackwell died of a gunshot wound, although she was also severely beaten.

Blackwell could have filed complaints with local police and communicated with local local or national officials, but there apparently was no record of such communications.

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