In seeking justice for her murdered daughter, U.S. citizen Jeanette Stauffer visited Costa Rica this week from her home in the U.S. state of Kansas for what she said is the “13th or 14th time” since the killing.
Stauffer’s daughter Shannon Martin was brutally stabbed to death in the Southern Zone town of Golfito in 2001 when she returned to visit after studying there on an exchange program. After Stauffer waged an uphill battle in the courts, two suspects were convicted of Martin’s murder in November 2003. This week, Stauffer was in San José expecting to address the judges in the latest of many appeals in the case.
“I need to be a voice for Shannon in this,” Stauffer told The Tico Times.
Upon arrival at the court Tuesday morning, however, she was informed that the appeal had to be postponed because the court was short a judge. Stauffer, who flew back to the United States Wednesday, was told she would be informed of the new court date within 15 days. Judicial Branch spokeswoman Sandra Castro told The Tico Times later that day the hearing was rescheduled for Jan. 30, 2007.
Luis Alberto Castro and Kattia Cruz were each given 15 years for Martin’s death in 2003 (TT, Nov. 28, 2003). On an appeal, their conviction on charges of homicidio simple – similar to second degree murder – was changed to homicidio calificado – the highest degree of homicide in Costa Rican law – and the pair was given 30 years each. This second sentence, however, was then annulled by the Penal Branch of the Supreme Court (Sala III) in October 2005 following an appeal by the defense. According to that ruling, two of the three judges who ruled on the first appeal were also present during the original trial, and should not have taken part in giving the new sentence. That hearing resulted in five additional years for Castro, and the same sentence for Cruz (TT, April 28). The defense attorneys are now requesting the charges be lowered back to homicidio simple, Stauffer said, for which the maximum sentence is 15 years.