Wednesday 22 September 2021

Costa Rica Re-Opens Serial Killer Case

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He preyed on mostly women but was not timid about shooting men. He caused every much the same shock and fear in Costa Rica as the “Son of Sam” did in New York City and today his nickname is all that is known about him for certain and that causes cold chills — “El Psicopata” — The Psychopath.

Día-Internacional-Contra-la-Violencia-Hacia-la-Mujer-2013And he has never been caught.

But this week the Chief Prosecutor’s office announced that it is reopening the case of the serial killer of 14 women and five men between 1986 and 1996.

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There is no new evidence to mark the serial killer and the Supreme Court has instructed Chief Prosecutor Jorge Chavarria to open the case simply to commemorate the International Day of Non-Violence Against Women. Nov. 25. Veteran detectives of OIJ, Costa Rica’s eminent investigative agency attached to the Court, remember the case as one of intense frustration to their homicide division.

Chavarria explained that, recently, he participated in a workshop in Panama sponsored by the High Commission of the United Nations that established a procedure such cases of violence against women. During the decade when the Psychopath was at large, OIJ had only old fashioned police procedures.

They searched for witnesses, combed the scene for clues such as fingerprints. DNA testing was only a science fiction dream in the near future. Moreover, Costa Rica had never before experienced a serial killer and OIJ was inventing methods as they proceeded.

“When I read that procedure,” Chavarria said, “Immediately that case came to me because I participated in an advisory group on that investigation. For the first time I told myself, ‘Man, if this case of the Pyschopath is a simple case of female murder with the men as only collateral, the way that man destroyed these women precisely reveals him.

“I ordered Paula Guido, who is to my mind the best homicide investigator, to study those cases to see if we can reactivate the investigation and go into the context of the genre that were no considered in that era because we did not know,” he added.

The last of the cases in the Psychopath’s bloody trail were the deaths of Ileana Alvarez and Mauricio Cordero on April 25, 1996. He (and detectives are 99.9% certain the murderer is male) preyed on women in the Desamparados area as his “comfort zone” but, as in the last case, preyed on couples in secluded “lover’s lanes.”

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OIJ interviewed numerous possible “persons of interest” but did not find promising subjects. Rumors swirled in the streets that the killer was some prominent person or other and gaps in the chain of murders were correlated with movements of Costa Rican men outside the country–without result.

The UN procedure did not look at the case as targeting women, although the death of men seemed to be merely erasing a witness. The UN program hopes to raise the sensitivity of detectives to the patterns of behavior of those with grudges against women.

One of the officials most on board the decision to reopen the Psychopath cases is OIJ chief Francisco Segura. At that time the idea of a serial killer of women was not contemplated in the law but he says he was always convinced that women were the main targets.

“I, at least, always knew that the actions were directed against women and that the men were only disturbances,” Sagura told La Nacion. Th first cases attributed to El Psicopata was the horrific massacre of seven women at “la Cruz,” a figure of a cross located in a rural area of San Miguel mountain near Alajuela.

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Forensics said the women were gunned down by a military-style rifle. The area had been a favorite pilgrimage site for faithful Catholics and the slaughter of such innocents rocked the country back on its heels at a time when the murder rate was still low in this country.

But not all those involved with the early investigation agree that it is worth reopening old wounds. Rafael Guillen, OIJ chief from 1987-1993, told La Nacion, “Penal action expires after 10 years. Why not use very good resources on other cases where the statute of limitations has not run out? I think it makes no sense.”

Gerardo Castaing who was chief of the La Union office of police and handled the early phases of the case agreed. “There’s nothing that can be done now,” he told the paper, adding, “Unless there is a later case we don’t know about.”.

But Gerardo Lascarez, assistant director of OIJ and their former chief of homicide from 1987 to 1993, disagrees. “The chief prosecutor of course knows that the time pro penalty is expired. But it appears to me that this opportunity is important because both the prosecutors and the judicial police have a debt to the country.”

Put that way, the cold case doesn’t appear that cold.

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Reports by QCR staff

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