Image for illustrative purposes only
Image for illustrative purposes only

QCOSTARICA – American Brian Hogue is one of 203 people who went missing in Costa Rica last year (152 men and 51 women), who in the words of Organismo de Investigacion Judicial (OIJ) agents, “were swallowed up by the earth”.

The OIJ reports receiving 593 complaints of adults gone missing during last year. These are people, without explanation, left home and never returned.

Of the 593, the OIJ says 390 were located by police (24 were found dead) or returned to their homes.

The OIJ  Office of Planning and Operations says that in the last three years, the number of missing persons has quadrupled. For 2013, the number of people whose whereabouts is still unknown is 35, while for 2014, the number is 40.

Although disappearing is not a crime, a special unit of the OIJ does carry out an investigation if the person becomes a victim of crime such as a kidnapping, homicide or an assault.  See our reports on the disappearance of Canadian businessman Ryan Piercy.

Back to Brian Hogue. During their investigation into the mysterious disappearance of the then 64 year-old American, the Deputy Prosecutor against Organized Crime (Facdo) learned of changes in the property registry of ten properties owned by the investor.

Although the body has not been found, investigators believe Hogue was killed. In a press release on March 8, the Fiscalia General (Attorney General) said it had sufficient evidence to open a case for murder against two sisters surnamed Gaitan. They are currently serving a six month preventive detention.

Last week, a man identified by his last name Zuniga turned himself in to the OIJ office in Limon. Zuniga, who has also been remanded to six months preventive detention, is believed to be the mastermind behind the crime. The OIJ also has in custody two others involved in the crime, identified by their last names Corrales and Lopez, charged with fraud and misrepresentation. The latter is also being charged for arranging an abortion for one of the detained sisters.

The OIJ says that although investigators try to establish a motive behind the disappearances, after reappearing most are not willing to talk to police.

Some of the reasons that motivate disappearances are financial debt, alimony payments or inheritance disputes among family members.

In addition, there are cases of drug addicts that lose touch with family and friends, who report the missing. Some are found in detox centres.

Although the OIJ is not releasing details, of the 24 missing last year and found dead, five were confirmed homicides.

Source: La Nacion