San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Suspect Gets 210 Years For Bank Massacre

The verdict is in in the case of a bank robbery and massacre that devastated the north-central mountain community of Monteverde and shocked the nation last year.

A court in the Pacific port city of Puntarenas Tuesday sentenced Erlyn Hurtado to 210 years in prison for crimes including first-degree murder, aggravated robbery and kidnapping. Hurtado is the only one of three brothers accused of orchestrating the bloody ordeal who is still alive.

The sentence, however, will be reduced to 50 years, the maximum jail time allowed under the Costa Rican Penal Code. Additionally, he was ordered to pay damages to the families of the nine people killed and to 17 people injured during the violent standoff, considered one of the worst tragedies in recent Costa Rican history, the wire service ACAN-EFE reported.

On March 8, 2005 (not 2004 as we incorrectly stated last week), Hurtado and two brothers approached the Banco Nacional branch in Santa Elena, a small town below the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve. According to the guard on duty and witnesses, the men used AK-47 assault rifles to open fire as they approached the bank.

The bank guard fired back, hitting and killing two brothers in front of the bank. Hurtado entered the building and kept 33 people hostage inside for 28 hours (TT, March 11, 2005).

While the hostages in the bank lived the nightmare, Costa Ricans around the country watched the drama unfold on live TV.

The crisis ended March 9 after Hurtado gave himself up. Nine people died in the incident, including his two brothers, a police officer and six people who were in the bank at the time of the assault.


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