Park ranger to serve 12-year prison sentence for attempted murder

August 11, 2016
2 Comments

After losing an appeal, Costa Rican Park Ranger Mauricio Steller, 32, turned himself in to prison guards Wednesday to begin a 12-year sentence. Steller was convicted last August of the attempted murder of Alix Castro Chavarría, who was caught poaching sea turtle eggs during a 2009 ranger patrol of Playa Carate in the southern Pacific Osa Peninsula.

During the patrol, Steller shot Castro in the chest with his service weapon, paralyzing 70 percent of Castro’s body. Both Steller and his patrol partner claim that the shot was in self-defense, after Castro and two men attacked the rangers with machetes.

Because of the remoteness of Playa Carate, authorities did not immediately search the scene and did not recover any machetes. The prosecution presented six witnesses — most of whom were Castro’s family members — who testified that Steller fired his gun without provocation.

Steller’s conviction last year spurred a wave of protests from environmental groups and employees of Costa Rica’s National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC), who wanted clarification over park rangers’ right to use force. Though park rangers are supposed to enforce environmental laws and are often issued guns, their legal right to use them remains ambiguous.

Because they are not covered by the General Police Law, park rangers who use their guns on the job receive the same scrutiny as any civilian self-defense case. SINAC is also prohibited from providing its employees with a lawyer even when criminal charges stem from on-the-job duties.

After the conviction, Steller appealed the charges and was allowed to continue working while awaiting a final verdict. Just before the appeal, as calls for a presidential pardon for Steller were beginning to gain traction, it came to light that the ranger was also under investigation for his alleged involvement in a drug case potentially related to a triple murder.

With the appeal now rejected, Steller will serve the 12-year sentence he was convicted of last August. Steller’s lawyer, Roberto Zamora, told CRhoy.com that they are considering taking the case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

You may be interested

What to do in Costa Rica: concerts, culture and love around the country
Events
213 views
Events
213 views

What to do in Costa Rica: concerts, culture and love around the country

Elizabeth Lang - February 16, 2018

With Valentine’s Day just behind us, it’s time to celebrate love in all of its expressions, as well as Costa…

Waiting for the weekend
Tico Times Pic of the Day
183 views
Tico Times Pic of the Day
183 views

Waiting for the weekend

The Tico Times - February 16, 2018

It's Friday and this Aracari bird knows it! While appreciating the sunrise at the Caribbean side of the country, the…

New poll: Statistical dead heat in Costa Rica’s presidential elections
Elections 2018
319 views
Elections 2018
319 views

New poll: Statistical dead heat in Costa Rica’s presidential elections

AFP - February 15, 2018

Evangelical preacher Fabricio Alvarado and former government minister Carlos Alvarado are in a statistical tie as the second round of…