The death of a pizzeria owner in a sleepy beach town in Costa Rica has many expats wondering what may have happened to the 36-year old man.

José Elkin Gómez Sánchez. Photo Diario Extra
José Elkin Gómez Sánchez. Photo Diario Extra

Jose Elkin Gomez Sanchez had been missing since Thursday, August 15, when Costa Rica was busy celebrating Mother’s Day and the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

His body was found floating off Playa Flamingo, province of Guanacaste.

According to a report by tabloid daily Diario Extra, Gomez was found by fishermen a few miles out to sea. They noticed several fish in a feeding frenzy and were surprised to see that they were nibbling on a human body. The fishermen contacted the National Coast Guard Service detachment at Playa Flamingo.

Once the Coast Guard recovered the lifeless body of Gomez, local law enforcement officers confirmed that they had been looking for him for a few days. He was last seen in his pizza restaurant in the late afternoon of Mother’s Day. Several of his friends launched a search for him around the Playa Flamingo community during the weekend until they grew frustrated and contacted Fuerza Publica (Costa Rica’s national police force). He was found in the ocean hours later.

Agents from the Organization of Judicial Investigations (Spanish initials: OIJ) are looking into a possible homicide. Gomez was an avid SCUBA diver and waterman; it is not very likely that he drowned. His body was also found a few miles offshore, which is not consistent with previous drownings in Playa Flamingo, where the Pacific Ocean currents tend to return bodies to shore within a day.

Diario Extra did not print the name of the restaurant Gomez owned, although it appears to be Flamingo Sub’s Pizzeria, which gets pretty good reviews on TripAdvisor -including this one from August 31:

“Good pizza but now closed”

I had a ham and cheese pizza. When I got to my condo I found out it was a cheese pizza. The past week or so the restaurant has been closed.

For some reason, there has been quite a bit of commotion among the expat community with regard to the disappearance and death of  Gomez. The fact that he owned a pizzeria has sparked the imagination of some expats who suggest he may have been involved with Italian-American organized crime, hence the “sleeps with the fishes” remark. Others have hinted that he died from a “Colombian necktie,” which is a gruesome execution by throat slashing that also involves the anatomical rearrangement of a victim’s tongue.

The conjectures above are baseless, and they seem to be fueled by bad cliches, silly stereotypes and a steady diet of HBO and Netflix. OIJ agents explained to Diario Extra that the body of Mr. Gomez was found in a very advanced state of decay, and that fish had been feasting on his remains. The agents could barely identify Mr. Gomez, let alone determine if he was killed with a weapon. They don’t even know if he was murdered; they are currently investigating that possibility. A full post-mortem report is pending.

To those who did not know Gomez and his life in Costa Rica, information on him is limited to his Facebook Timeline and a 2007 snippet on the Tico Times. His Facebook activity depicts a cool guy; a fun-loving waterman and former Boy Scout who enjoyed spending time with friends and attractive women. He had recently gotten a tattoo of a very stylized stingray on his back. Friends from all over have left very kind messages on his Timeline: They are people living in Belgium, Mexico, Colombia, the United States, and Costa Rica.

Gomez was briefly mentioned in the February 9 sadly-gone print edition of the Tico Times, 2007:

Community Connection

Tamarindo Talk

If you are looking for native Costa Rican souvenirs for family and friends when visiting here in Flamingo, take a few moments to stop by the Nativo Costa Rica shop on the second floor of the Flamingo Beach Hotel. Jose Elkin Gomez from Colombia has moved here to make a better life for himself. Check out his handmade wares and local crafts made of wood, shells and threads.


Article by Costa Rica Star

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