San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

High Court Upholds Conviction in 2001 Murder

It took seven years but the country’s judicial system upheld the conviction of two people found guilty of murdering U.S. citizen and student Shannon Martin.

Ticos Kathia Cruz and Luis Castro were originally sentenced for Martin’s 2001 murder in 2003, receiving 15 years each. But after numerous appeals, annulments and other court procedures, the convicts ended up with 30 and 35 years, respectively. Cruz has been in prison since 2001 and Castro since 2003.

Martin, 23 at the time of her murder, was in Golfito as an exchange student with the University of Kansas. She was studying biology.

Her body, with 14 stab wounds, was found May 13, 2001, next to an airstrip near her host family’s house.

The conviction would not have been possible without the committed efforts of Martin’s mother, Jeanette Stauffer, who spent tens of thousands of dollars to hire private investigators, interpreters and outside help from the United States. She hounded Tico authorities and the FBI.

The effort left Stauffer and her husband, Brad, with at least $220,000 in debts, she told The Tico Times on Wednesday. She also quit her job as director of communications for the Kansas secretary of state.

Stauffer, who has struggled with long bouts of depression since her daughter’s murder, said she was glad the appeals are over. But she said she wasn’t satisfied with the final verdict.

“I’m not happy,” said Martin’s mother, who now works as a domestic violence counselor.

“I believe in the death penalty. But I’m glad the appeals court upheld the lower court’s decision.”

Kansas Bureau of Investigation Assistant Director Larry Thomas, who was the lead investigator brought in by Stauffer, said he was satisfied with the outcome.

“I feel that justice has been served for Shannon and I appreciate all the efforts of the Costa Rican authorities,” he said.

Thomas is the same man credited in the United States for catching the BTK killer, Dennis Rader, in Wichita, Kansas in 2005.

BTK stands for bind them, torture them, kill them – Rader’s method of operation.

Thomas’s work on the Martin case yielded a taxi driver who testified that Cruz and Castro had blood on their clothes, tying them to Martin’s murder.

“The breakthrough was when people saw we were working for Shannon’s mom and just had compassion for her,” Thomas said.

Thomas said Martin knew at least one of her killers. Stauffer said the murder occurred after an attempted rape and robbery.

After the FBI refused to help Stauffer, Thomas said he took on the case because he knew Martin and his kids went to the same high school as the victim. He said KBI donated his labor to solve the case.

Stauffer created the Shannon Lucile Martin Foundation after her daughter’s murder. With funds raised through the foundation, an EnglishCenter in Martin’s name was created at the Coast Guard Academy in Golfito.

The center opened in February 2004 and graduated two classes of English-language students before funds stopped arriving and the academy terminated the program, Coast Guard instructor Daniel Villalobos said.

Stauffer said the foundation was dissolved during one of her sustained depressions but that its materials would be donated to another English-language center in the Golfito area.

A third suspect in Martin’s murder – Rafael Zumbado – was found not guilty in 2003.


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