UPDATED: Police capture suspect in Liberia murders of five students, find key evidence in raids

February 3, 2017

2:05 p.m. Friday update

OIJ Director Walter Espinoza said in a press conference that the canine unit was able to locate a kitchen knife, which he said investigators believe to be the weapon used during the attacks, during the raids of the suspect’s house. Investigators also found bloodied pants and shoes that they said were likely worn by the suspect the night of the homicides.

The detained man’s housing unit, which he was reportedly living in with relatives, is located right in front of the studio apartment where at least one of the students lived.

Original story updated 12:58 p.m. Friday continues here:

Agents from the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) arrested the main suspect they say is responsible for the Jan. 19 massacre that left five students dead in Liberia, Guanacaste.

Officials detained the suspect, identified only by the last names Ríos Mairena, during a Friday morning raid on a house in the town that was announced on the OIJ Facebook page.

OIJ director Walter Espinoza was on the scene during the raid and told reporters afterwards that Ríos Mairena lived in a neighboring house and had access to the apartment where the five young friends were killed. Espinoza said in a press conference that the suspect likely had a sexual fixation for one of the three young women who was murdered.

He said that investigators don’t believe the crime was premeditated or well-organized beforehand, leading them to say the motive was purely emotional and had nothing to do with revenge over money or drugs.

The OIJ director said Río Moreira had “a peculiar personality” that he further described as sadistic and prone to aggressiveness.

Liberia murders

(Courtesy OIJ)

Each of the five students, aged 22 to 24, was found tied up with their throats slashed in a small apartment that one of them rented in Liberia’s Barrio La Victoria. A 14-year-old girl, who also suffered a severe throat wound, was the lone survivor of the attacks and had been recovering at the local hospital.

She was able to assist officers with a police sketch of the suspect, as well as details of the crime that police have said was committed by a lone perpetrator with a kitchen knife. He then managed to tie up the victims one by one before killing them, according to OIJ’s version of the crime.

Forensic specialists and canine units on the scene Friday were searching the suspect’s house after his arrest for more indicators like blood and possibly the murder weapon.

Espinoza added in his talk with reporters that the 33-year-old suspect had a prior arrest for possession of marijuana that landed him an eight-year jail sentence.

A spokesman from the Justice Ministry said it was a judge that granted the suspect’s conditional release and not ultimately the ministry’s decision. The spokesman said the Justice Ministry recommended that the suspect not be given a conditional release from prison.

OIJ officials further painted the suspect as an anti-social man who easily becomes violent. Multiple officials including Espinoza said the homicide could have been spurned on after the man consumed drugs or alcohol.

Authorities have yet to announce if there was any sexual assault committed during the crime.

The Tico Times will have updates to this story throughout the day as they become available.

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