San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Expat Crime

Tamarindo hotel owner assaulted again, months after break-in left husband dead

Less than eight months after three masked men broke into her Playa Langosta hotel, beat her husband — who later died — and took off with their life savings, Suzye Lawson said she was beaten by another trio of men Saturday on her property, the Villa Alegre bed and breakfast near Tamarindo.

Lawson told The Tico Times that the invaders, who she did not recognize and didn’t think were the same ones who committed the April break-in, assaulted her Saturday night around 6:45 p.m. while they “scoped out” the area in and around her beachside hotel. They found her in a back corner behind the hotel and attacked her, Lawson said.

“My dog was going absolutely wild but it was a different kind of angry barking,” the 69-year-old hotel owner from California said. “I went over and thought I saw a shadow and turned around and that’s when the guys jumped me.”

She said a man with dreadlocks held her down, yelled at her to keep quiet, and began to beat her badly enough so that she was bleeding from the face by the end of the ordeal.

The men left the property without stealing anything, despite the fact that Lawson said one of the doors to a villa room was open and a guest’s laptop was in sight. Lawson said she saw her doctor on Tuesday and that she is more “emotionally wounded” than physically.

“I have to sell the place because I’m just too tired to do this anymore,” Lawson said. “I need to move from this place. It’s going to haunt me now.”

Barry Lawson built the Villa Alegre bed and breakfast on the coast of Playa Langosta 20 years ago. In April, three men assaulted Barry, leading to his death, and stole tens of thousands worth of cash and valuables from the Lawsons.

Michael Krumholtz/The Tico Times

An official from the U.S. Embassy happened to be staying at Villa Alegre when the latest invasion and assault took place and immediately called police. Lawson said four officers showed up within half an hour of the call being placed.

On the night of the April break-in, none of the phone calls that Lawson and her husband, Barry, made to 911 after they were assaulted and robbed were answered. The couple lost nearly $40,000 of their savings, the majority of which was intended to fund a scholarship program for local schoolchildren in financial need.

Barry Lawson died less than a week later from head injuries sustained during the attack, according to a death report from the U.S. State Department.

Paradise marred: Who killed Barry Lawson?

A chief inspector from the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) branch in Santa Cruz confirmed Wednesday that investigators have received an official complaint about the latest assault at Villa Alegre.

“This case is being treated separately,” OIJ inspector Rodolfo Vasquez told The Tico Times. “We have people working on this latest case but I’m not able to comment further because the investigation is still open.”

Vasquez said OIJ has no suspects for the Saturday assault and added that there are still no suspects from the break-in in April that led to an uproar from Tamarindo residents worried about security in town and the apparent lack of police presence.

The Tico Times placed multiple calls to the cell phone of Santa Cruz police chief Noé Guerrero on Wednesday afternoon but the calls were all dropped. Guerrero said he wasn’t getting good reception.

Guerrero told The Tico Times in October that police don’t believe home invasions are happening at an alarming rate in the area.

There were eight guests staying at the bed and breakfast on Saturday, according to Lawson. She said one guest was sitting by the pool when the attackers came but that the guest went into her room and locked the door when she heard Lawson screaming.

Lawson said she does not know what could have motivated the latest group of men to come on to her property and assault her. She added that she does not have enough money to pay for a private security guard after most of her savings were stolen in April.

“I want people to be protected in the town I live in,” she said. “It’s out of control.”

Contact Michael Krumholtz at

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Joe Calabrese

When you have crime without punishment, the end result can only be more crime…

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This whole story is very fishy as told by the newspaper and the authorities. First it’s $40,000 (‘their life savings”) and then it’s $40,000 for charity. Was there a double indemnity clause? Why was $40,000 lying around the property? That kind of money is good to keep around, but it a safe, and underground. I hope the insurance investigators get into this process. We have a James M. Cain novel in the making here.

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What is the Problem?? Pay for private security! Not Costa Rica will change the rules, but if you make Business in tourism, you have to do all for security. Costa Rica is not a “Pura Vida Country”. The police is not like in US or Europe and the laws are for monkeys. I dont understand the owners of many small hotels or B&B’s.

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There is PLENTY of crime in the Tamarindo area but police don’t seem interested in doing anything about it. A few years back, a window in our car was broken out while we were eating dinner. (nothing was taken as we knew not to leave anything of value in our car). The restaurant manager had already talked to the police (who were just down the street) and said that they would be there shortly.. “as soon as they finished their joint”… smh… no wonder nothing gets done.

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They beat her and didn’t steal anything, including a laptop that was sitting nearby? Is there something behind this story we’re not hearing? What was this couple into? This makes no sense.

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Kristen Atkinson

Bullsh!t home invasions aren’t happening at an alarming rate. My parents have had two home invasion robberies near Tamarindo in the past two years. Nothing has been done.

It’s beyond sad to hear this woman still has to live in fear after losing her husband (because of a corrupt bank employee, no less).

Montezuma, I love you. The rest of CR…not so much anymore.

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We were robbed recently. We caught the thieves 2 days later with stolen goods from another house hit the same day. The police were there. Nothing happened. The OIJ said when we get the evidence and give it to them then maybe they can investigate. So it is up to you to get evidence and investigate. Citizens are on their OWN in CR. I have been here 23 years and the cops always say the same thing… is the laws. Well CHANGE THE LAWS!!!

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