Death of U.S. Citizen Under Investigation

January 22, 2010

Costa Rican Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) this week confiscated 3,000 jewels valued at $3 million from United States citizen John Felix Bender’s home in La Florida de Barú, in the Southern Zone region of Pérez Zeledón, 10 days after he was found dead there.

Officials did not know about the treasure when they found Bender with a bullet wound to the head on Jan. 8.

Initially, officials considered Bender’s death a suicide. He was found with a 9-millimeter gun next to his body. But a forensic examination that analyzed the bullet’s trajectory determined that the shot could not have been fired by Bender’s own hand. The OIJ is now investigating the case as a homicide.

Officials on Monday interrogated Bender’s widow – whose last name is Patton – at a hospital in Escazú, west of San José, where she has been interned since Jan. 9. On Tuesday, the Prosecutor’s Office ordered four months of preventative prison for Patton for the suspected murder of John Bender.

According to the Costa Rican Tourism Board (ICT), both Bender and Patton received “investor resident” status in Costa Rica on March 16, 2001, and they became permanent residents in April 2009. Bender founded the private Boracayán wildlife refuge in 2002, which has been recognized by the Environment, Energy and Telecommunications Ministry.

The Public Security Ministry flew the jewels by helicopter to the ministry’s San José headquarters in two shipments, one last Friday and one on Monday. They have since deposited the valuables in a vault in an undisclosed bank. Press officials said the OIJ will investigate the type of business Bender was running from his property in Pérez Zeledón.

–Mike McDonald

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