Five students brutally murdered in Liberia

January 19, 2017

Five university students were found Thursday morning in a studio apartment in Liberia with their throats slashed in an apparent multiple homicide.

Ranging in ages 22 to 24, most of the three female and two male victims were tied up by their hands and feet and also gagged. All of them suffered fatal wounds to their throats from a knife attack before being found around 7 a.m. Thursday, according to a report from the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ).

At a press conference, OIJ Director Walter Espinoza said a 14-year-old girl is the lone survivor of the attacks. As of Thursday afternoon, she was in stable condition at the hospital in Liberia receiving treatment for a severe cut to the throat, according to Espinoza.

The five slain students were all enrolled at the University of Costa Rica and were originally from Upala, Alajuela. At least one of the students was renting the studio apartament, located behind a house in the La Victoria neighborhood of Liberia.

Espinoza said that only one of the victims was not found gagged. No weapon was found inside the small room.

According to the OIJ report, a neighbor found the bodies Thursday morning when he or she found the apartment door open and looked inside the room. The neighbor found the 14-year-old girl still alive, and she was immediately rushed to the local hospital.

OIJ and local reports have identified the five victims as: Stephanie Hernández, 24; Dayanna Martínez, 24; Ingrid Mendéz, 24; Joseph Briones, 22; and Ariel Vargas, 24.

Espinoza and other authorities said Thursday that they have no suspect and are unaware of any possible motive for the homicide. A local prosecutor told the Spanish-language daily La Nación that nothing was stolen from the house.

The National Police Force released a brief statement via social media Thursday morning indicating that it was ramping up search efforts for a potential suspect throughout Guanacaste province. Public Security Minister Gustavo Mata said in a public statement that more officers would be sent to the border with Nicaragua, less than an hour’s drive from Liberia, to prevent a possible escape from the country.

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