San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
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Preventive detention extended for suspect in killing of Florida aid worker in Costa Rica

The body of U.S. aid worker Sondra Elizondo was found in a hotel room in San José’s Barrio La California on Dec. 9, 2015. Alejandro Obando was arrested two days later in connection with the killing and has been held in preventive detention since.

(Via Vida Volunteer website)

Costa Rican authorities have extended preventive detention of the main suspect in the slaying of U.S. aid worker Sondra Elizondo last December.

A Prosecutor’s Office spokeswoman told The Tico Times in an email exchange Monday that 24-year-old Alejandro Obando Vega will remain in preventive prison through at least June 11 while the investigation continues into Elizondo’s stabbing death at Casa 69, a hotel in San José’s popular Barrio La California.

Elizondo, a 45-year-old mother of two, was found in the bed of her hotel room on Dec. 9 with multiple stab wounds over her face and body. The next day police arrested Obando in the Walmart parking lot in Guadalupe, northeast of the Costa Rican capital. During a subsequent raid at his apartment, police found several credit cards with Elizondo’s name on them.

In an exclusive interview with The Tico Times last December at San Sebastián prison, Obando said he and Elizondo had been involved in a romantic relationship for three years before her death. Throughout the conversation, Obando claimed he is innocent and that he loved Elizondo.

Alejandro Obando Vega, left, and Sondra Elizondo dated for three years, Obando said.

(Via Facebook)

“They accused me of it, of course, because I’m the only guy who was with her,” he said. “But I have no fear of anything. They can go through all the evidence they need to. I have no fear.”

Obando admitted that he was in the room with Elizondo on Tuesday, December 8, the night of her killing, but he said he left at 7 p.m. He said the two were texting that night and that he didn’t learn of her death until police arrested him on Dec. 10.

Authorities would not confirm if texts were sent from Elizondo’s phone that night, due to the ongoing investigation. But they are confident they have the right suspect in custody.

Elizondo would often travel to Costa Rica from her home in Merritt Island, Florida, to help oversee the Vida Volunteer nonprofit that she helped found and direct. The organization helps install medical clinics in impoverished communities across Costa Rica and other Central American countries.

Obando told The Tico Times the couple was slated to travel to Nicaragua the week Elizondo was killed.

Contact Michael Krumholtz at

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Ken Morris

Sorry, but after feeling that I went too lightly on the Tico Times yesterday for parroting the government line about the fiasco with the Cuban migrants being a “humanitarian” undertaking, I have to challenge a headline that calls this victim an “aid worker” and an article that includes: “Elizondo would often travel to Costa Rica from her home in Merritt Island, Florida, to help oversee the Vida Volunteer nonprofit that she helped found and direct.”

This is what her friends have said about her. For all you or I know it may be the truth (and nothing but the truth). However, we know that she also traveled to Costa Rica, in large or small part, to hook up with her lover, and we frankly don’t know how serious or effective her nonprofit was. Has the Tico Times checked it out? She wouldn’t be the first person, after all, to operate a nonprofit as a means of providing cover and maybe acquiring funds to do what she wanted to do for herself.

Look, I am not saying that she was a bad person, much less deserved to be killed. For all I know she was a saint and the kid who killed her is scum. But there is a young man sitting in jail for her murder who is widely regarded as scum, and unless the Tico Times has verified that she was primarily an “aid worker” seriously operating a legitimate nonprofit, you really shouldn’t publish these things as if they are facts.

Instead, you should write that “supporters claim that she was an aid worker who often traveled to Costa Rica to oversee her nonprofit.” That’s enough. Readers will still get the information, and can believe it if they want to. You don’t have to try to dissuade them from believing it. However, you really shouldn’t present it as fact.

Likewise with the “humanitarianism” of the Cuban fiasco. Responsible journalism would add clauses like, “which according to government sources was a humanitarian endeavor.” That gets the government’s interpretation presented, and allows readers to make up their own minds about its accuracy, without the newspaper itself saying that it is true.

In both these instances the Tico Times just wants for journalistic integrity. And it doesn’t matter what opinion you or readers have. It’s a matter of unbiased reporting.

And if you want to publish an editorial on either of these matters, by all means do. Opinions are fine, even helpful. But conflating them with the news is poor journalism.

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