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Tuesday, July 29 2014 @ 12:45 PM EDT

Expat Tales

"Expat Tales" are the personal accounts of people who have traveled through Panama, have already moved here, and their telling of the things that have happened to them along the way. Everyone who has expereinced Panama in any way, shape or form is encouraged to contribute their voice for the potential benefit of others. In this section of Panama-Guide.com you will find articles from and about the members of the English speaking expatriate community in Panama. If you require additional information about this or any other category of information regarding the Republic of Panama please take advantage of our powerful in-house search engine. And if you still can't find what you're looking for we even take requests! Welcome aboard, and please remember to tell your friends about Panama-Guide.com, the #1 English Language Website about the Republic of Panama. Salud.
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6,000 Prison Inmates On Hunger Strike in Panama (Gee, Thanks "Wild Bill")

Expat TalesMore than 6,000 inmates in the La Joyita prison have started a hunger strike today, Monday. (more)

Editor's Comment: (Find out why every prison inmate in Panama should be exceptionally pissed at "Wild Bill" Holbert).

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William Dathan Holbert Now Committing Crimes From Prison - Via The Internet

Expat Tales By Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com - Is anyone surprised? Now there are reports the confessed serial killer William Dathan Holbert, a.k.a. "Wild Bill," is using a cell phone and Internet connection to commit crimes in cyberspace, and the Panamanian authorities still have not shut down his access.

This morning I received a tip from a source who wishes to remain anonymous indicating Holbert is using the Internet to impersonate women and commit fraud;

  • "Get on Craigslist Panama and click on Women Seeking Men in the personal section and you will see posted near the top a warning that Wild Bill and one other in jail with him are using the site to impersonate women and exploit those that answer their ads. Just thought you would like to know, as you write about the bum sometimes."

Correct on both counts. I do want to know (thanks), because I think the Panamanian authorities should enforce their own laws, rules, and regulations regarding prisoner access to cell phones and the Internet - specifically to prevent them from committing these sorts of crimes.

Checking out the tip, I found the following posted on the Craigslist Panama website, at the top;

  • "WARNING. READ THIS BEFORE CONTACTING ANYBODY FROM THIS PAGE. There are two man in jale. Wild Bill (murder) and Fred Osburn (fraud) Using My information and talking with americans saying thats me and I am looking for sexual encounters, and also asking them for money. You think you're talking with me but that's not true. They're two depravates getting all your information and then hacking your accounts. Be careful with any sexual anunce using Jessica or gringa in Boquete because you're just talking with those two guys in jale."

(Note: The photo used in this article is just some random advertisement from Craigslist Panama posted by two chicks who will visit your hotel in Panama City during daylight hours - and is not apparently associated with the illegal efforts by Holbert and Osburn to deceive and defraud the public in any way. But you know me - any excuse to post a pair of hooters is basically good enough...)

Well, that's to be expected. The criminals are concentrated in the prisons, so of course it's natural and normal to expect them to try to continue to commit crimes while in prison if given half a chance. There are actually two versions of this same warning posted on Craigslist in two different sections on different days. So, apparently he's been doing this for some time.

Editor's Comment: I continue to express my concerns to the Panamanian legal and judicial authorities regarding prisoner access to smart phones and the Internet. Javier Martin was trying to use a cell phone from prison to book trips on sailboats for tourists. Now Holbert is impersonating women on Craigslist to commit fraud and identity theft.

Why is it so hard to put Holbert in a tiny little box, with practically no creature comforts whatsoever? He should be provided with whatever is required by law - according to international standards for Human Rights - and nothing else. By that I mean (start) food, bedding, drinking water, and a toilet (/end), enclosed by four solid walls. There's no way in hell this murderous monster should have a cell phone. So he can't talk to his mother in North Carolina. So what? Who gives a shit?

If I were the Warden of the David prison I would make a long list of "things that make William Dathan Holbert unhappy" and then I would implement those things, one by one. In my opinion Holbert should be a very unhappy and frustrated prison inmate. He should suffer each and every possible aspect of the deprivation of liberty and personal freedoms, as consequences associated with the crimes he's committed. He should have no say, whatsoever, with regards to the conditions of his confinement.

What's more, his continued and blatant disregard for prison rules and regulations proves his recently acquired religious rhetoric is false, and purely self serving. Holbert is a hypocrite who cites the Bible, while he simultaneously uses the Internet to impersonate women in an attempt to defraud desperate gringo men in Panama who are seeking affection. This is the same guy who was a Nazi loving white supremacist, who chose the name "Adolf" when buying a fake passport. Yeah, he's all about God and Jesus...

But whatever. This piece of shit will rot in prison until he eventually dies, dreaming about the freedoms he will never again experience, at the very least. He's already severely limited, and I would just like to see that last little bit of wiggle-room reduced to absolute zero.

Related Articles:

Copyright 2014 Panama-Guide.com.

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Expat Stig Pedersen Dies From Injuries Received During Assault In Bocas del Toro

Expat Tales By Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com - Stig Pedersen, a member of the community of English speaking expatriates living in the Republic of Panama of US and Danish descent, died last night as a result of the injuries he received during a brutal assault and robbery.

On June 21, six armed, masked men assaulted and abducted 73 year old Stig Pedersen at his home located in Tierra Oscura, in Bocas del Toro, in the Republic of Panama.

This morning I received the following from one of Stig's friends;

  • I hope you are well.

  • We are all shocked to learn this morning that Stig died last night.

  • You may not have heard that 2 weeks ago 6 armed men arrived at his house ransacked the house and assaulted Stig savagely.

  • The perps stole Stigs Panga and kidnapped Meribel and the unconscious Stig and drove away with Stigs Panga loaded with the loot stolen from his house.

  • Stig was found about 2 hours later at Pittie Creek in his boat and saturated with petrol. Meribel had jumped from the speeding boat fearing for her life and swam ashore.

  • He was taken by the police to hospital in Almirante, later transferred to Changuinola and later still David.

  • He was in intensive care then an operation we think to ease pressure caused by bleeding on his brain.

  • He seemed to be recovering and was allowed home in a wheelchair 2 days ago. He was speaking but was unable to walk due to paralysis down one side of his body.

  • Last night apparently he suffered some breathing difficulties and then died.

  • We are all very sad and appalled by this and I in particular would like to do anything I can to put pressure on the police and prosecutors to make sure this is properly investigated and that criminals get punished.

  • Any advice you can offer or pressure you can exert would be appreciated.

Related Article: Gringo (US/Denmark Expat) Assaulted In Bocas del Toro - Needs Blood Donations

Editor's Comment: I would return to the neighbor who Stig said "wants him dead" as a starting point. My condolences to his friends and family.

Copyright 2014 Panama-Guide.com.

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Well Known American Expat Clyde Jenkins Died in Colombia Yesterday at 78 Years of Age

Expat Tales By Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com - With great sorrow and a heavy heart I report the death of my good friend Clyde Jenkins, who passed away yesterday at a hospital in Colombia. A friend of his posted the following on the Colombia Expats yahoo email group;

  • Clyde passed away about an hour ago. He had been in a coma since early Sunday morning. He was sedated and did not suffer. In the last 24 hours his status turned critical as his kidneys had failed and he developed a bad infection.

  • Gina is making funeral arrangements. Since Clyde was a relapsed Catholic, she is arranging a mass for him. As he wished, his body will be cremated and the ashes scattered.

  • I will verify that a death certificate has been prepared and issued and will also make certain that the US Embassy in Bogota is notified. When I inquired Tuesday, I was told they will need the death certificate before the death can be formally processed.

  • Those of us who knew him and visited him when he was in Santuario know that his life was simple but comfortable. He had homemade furniture, some appliances and clothes. There are two very dated hand held GPS units, a Dell laptop and a larger display. Aside from these, the whole bunch would probably bring only a few hundred thousand pesos if sold. He told me last week that he wanted these few things to go to Gina, and the laptop to his Young student friend Jhonny. He was so grateful for their care during his decline over the last weeks. As long as I knew him, he never had a TV.

  • I will remember this remarkable man fondly. He was highly intelligent. He kept his mind active playing games such as Free Cell, but would add complicated rules, play the games backward and so forth. He devoured the news daily by internet. During our friendship which lasted over 5 years, I visited him often, at times along with my brother Dwight. Clyde liked to recount his childhood in Washington and his later life in San Diego. He wrote some beautiful little vignettes about his life and his loves. He had once been quite wealthy, but lived his simple life very happily. He never complained about not having enough, and was blissfully happy in his precious Santuario. He was an accomplished chef. Whenever I would visit, I would bring lots of goodies for him - cheeses, salamis and other stuff he could not find in Santuario or Pereira. He always got a bottle of Gran Marnier from me. He had remarkable recall. Even in his last days, when he became quite fuzzy and would worry about dementia, I would prop him up by pointing out how well he remembered events, people and places. He told me that perhaps the only regret he might feel in his last minutes would be that he did not live to see Orke O brought to justice in Panama.

  • God Bless you friend. Rest in Peace and surely near your beloved Pacific ocean.

  • Your friend Tommy

I first met Clyde about ten years ago at an even organized for expats in Panama. We quickly became friends, and we were close while he lived here. I would pick him up from his small little one-room apartment in Casco and we would go do whatever together.

Clyde was a constant presence on most of the Panama related Yahoo email groups. I asked him to help me moderate the Americans in Panama Yahoo group, and he volunteered to help me clean out the moderated messages and keep the (mentally ill) trolls at bay. He was happy, friendly, and more than willing to give of his time and experience to help the members of the growing community of English speaking expatriates, both in Panama and in Colombia.

Bye, Clyde. Thanks for everything. Rest in Peace, Marine...

Copyright 2014 Panama-Guide.com.

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"We've Only Been In Office For A Week" - Minister Henriquez Responding To Wild Bill Emails

Expat TalesThe messages posted by William Dathan Holbert, commonly known as "Wild Bill", to his social networking account and sent via email to the Editor of the La Estrella newspaper, have reopened doubts regarding security in Panama's prisons. (more)

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Clyde Jenkins - Reportedly On His Deathbed in Colombia

Expat Tales By Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com - The word from Colombia about Clyde Jenkins - who lived in Panama as a member of the English speaking community of expatriates for years - is not good. Reportedly, Clyde has been admitted to the hospital and the prognosis is not good.

Clyde traveled extensively around Panama while he was living here. He volunteered to help manage the Americans in Panama Yahoo email group as a moderator. A thankless job he did for years as the designated resident "bouncer" - Clyde would help me spot the perpetual trolls and toss them, to the betterment of the overall group and membership.

Clyde was a good friend, who made a long list of enemies by simply doing the right thing. I've already seen some malicious slander being put out against him, now that he can no longer defend himself.

I've only got one source of information for this, and have not been able to confirm independently. I tried to call his house and didn't get an answer so I will try again later. But at this point, it looks like Clyde might have typed his last email...

Copyright 2014 Panama-Guide.com

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US soldier suspected of slaying Panamanian woman

Expat TalesPANAMA CITY, Panama — Activists in Panama are demanding that a career U.S. soldier suspected of killing a local woman be tried in local courts.

Master Sgt. Omar Velez is being held at Fort Bragg in North Carolina in connection with the murder of woman in her mid-20s whose body was found in Panama on June 23. He was charged in the military justice system Monday with unpremeditated murder, according to Army spokeswoman Kimberly Hanson. Velez has not made any public statements about the case and Hanson could not supply the name of his military defense attorney.

Joyce Araujo, president of the Foundation for Gender Equity in Panama, told The Associated Press Monday that she believes Velez’ diplomatic immunity allowed him to evade proper investigation.

Her group is among those in a coalition of women’s rights groups that expressed disappointment on Friday in the handling of the case, and demanded that local leaders reassert sovereignty.

“Diplomatic immunity cannot be an opening for impunity when it involves a crime as profound as the killing of women, especially a Panamanian woman on Panamanian soil,” the coalition wrote.

Velez, who has served in the military since 2000, held a leadership position as a senior non-commissioned officer. He was in Panama conducting training as part of a unit associated with the sale of military equipment when the killing occurred.

Local media report that Velez allegedly had been romantically involved with the woman and was discovered near her body with a shovel after an apparent crime of passion. (AP)

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Trial venue for military killing sparks outrage

Expat TalesBy Meredith Clark - An American soldier charged by the military with the murder of a 26-year-old woman in Panama will be tried in the United States, sparking protests by women’s groups and outraged family members.

Army Master Sergeant Omar Antonio Velez, 35, was charged by military authorities Monday with the “unpremeditated murder” of Vanessa Rodriguez and is currently being held in pre-trial confinement in North Carolina, according to Kim Hanson, an army spokeswoman. Velez was in Panama conducting trainings as part of the U.S. Army Security Assistance Training Management Organization.

Hanson confirmed to msnbc that Velez has been charged and is awaiting his Article 32 hearing, which is similar to a civilian preliminary hearing. However, he was not charged with a crime in Panama because he had been issued a diplomatic passport, giving him immunity from local prosecution. Hanson also said that the military’s criminal investigation division is working on the case in conjunction with the Panamanian government.

The military “will fully investigate this incident and take appropriate action,” Hanson told msnbc in an email. The Army also “expresses its deepest regret” over Rodriguez’s death.

Velez allegedly shot and killed Rodriguez, with whom he reportedly had a relationship, before trying to hide her body. He was arrested on June 23, and, according to the Associated Press, he was found with a shovel near the quarry where the woman’s body was discovered.

A coalition of women’s rights groups in Panama has demanded that officials do something to bring Velez back for prosecution and asked that Rodriguez’s family have a voice in whatever judicial proceedings take place around the case.

On Friday, six women’s groups released a statement calling on Panamanian authorities to release information about Velez’s whereabouts and legal status, and requesting that the U.S. government conduct a thorough investigation and remove his diplomatic immunity. They also asked the United Nations to look into whether the U.S. and Panama are handling the case according to international women’s rights treaties.

“Immunity must not be impunity,” the statement said.

It is not unheard of for members of the military or contractors to receive protection and assistance from the U.S. Embassy. The White House said in June that President Obama had received diplomatic assurances that the soldiers being sent to assist the Iraqi government in its fight against militants would not be tried in Iraqi courts for actions they take while deployed there.

In 2011, American officials helped free CIA contractor Raymond Davis from Pakistani law enforcement after he shot and killed two men in Lahore and ran over another. Officials argued at the time that Davis also had diplomatic immunity; he was released from a Pakistani prison after the families of the dead men were given $2.34 million in “restitution.” (MSNBC)

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Family Members Don't Want Vanesa's Murder To Go Unpunished

Expat TalesThe relatives of Vanesa Rodriguez, who was allegedly murdered by a U.S. Army soldier of Puerto Rican descent, are keeping track of the case, and they do not want the crime to go unpunished. (more)

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US Army Master Sergeant Omar Velez Has Been Charged With "Unpremeditated Murder" of Panamanian Woman

Expat Tales By Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com - US Army Master Sergeant Omar Velez-Pagan has been charged with "unpremeditated murder" under Article 118 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) this afternoon.

MSG Velez-Pagan remains in military pre-confinement in North Carolina, pending the date of a pretrial hearing.

U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) continues its investigation of this case in conjunction with the government of Panama.

A statement issued today by Kim Hanson of the Public & Congressional Affairs at the Headquarters of the US Army Material Command says "We give our assurances to the Government and people of Panama that U.S. military authorities will fully investigate this incident and take appropriate action."

Editor's Comment: OK, first things first. Velez was charged under Article 118 of the UCMJ - murder. It's very important to point out that he was not charged under Article 119 which is manslaughter. Specifically, Article 118 (1) deals with premeditated murder, and apparently the conditions indicated Velez didn't have a "premeditated design to kill." In other words, Velez didn't plot or plan to kill his girlfriend.

Rather, Velez was charged under Article 118 (2) - which deals with unpremeditated murder. The following elements should exist for the accused to be charged in this way;

  • (2) Intent to kill or inflict great bodily harm.
    • (a) That a certain named or described person is dead;

    • (b) That the death resulted from the act or omission of the accused;

    • (c) That the killing was unlawful; and

    • (d) That, at the time of the killing, the accused had the intent to kill or inflict great bodily harm upon a person.

Head's up, I'm going to speculate somewhat here. Velez is together with his girlfriend. They get into a fight. He punches her in the face - either once or several times. She dies as a result of the injuries inflicted by Velez. If that's the way it went down, then Velez is guilty of "unpremeditated murder" under Article 118 (2) of the UCMJ. He didn't plan on killing his girlfriend, but that's what happened anyway, because he intended to "inflict great bodily harm" when he punched her in the face.

Remember this first article I published last Wednesday - US Army Master Sergeant Omar Velez - Prime Suspect In Murder Of Panamanian Woman - said "The Panamanian woman, nicknamed "La chiricana", had multiple lesions on her anatomy, especially in the face, ranging from beatings to lacerations." So there's a pretty good chance that the potential speculative scenario described above is exactly what happened.

It should also be pointed out that Velez is not being held on Ft. Bragg. He's being held in the County Jail, run by the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office. And although the US Material Command press release says Velez was charged today, the online record available through the Cumberland Detention Center Active Inmate Search system still lists "military hold" under the "charge" section on their database. I'm sure that will be updated soon.

In Panama, there's a tangible concern that the US government will make some sort of effort to cover up, protect, or not fully prosecute Velez for the murder of Vanesa Rodriguez. The US Embassy and SOUTHCOM should make a concerted effort to point out what most Americans consider to be obvious and unnecessary. Things are different in the US. In Panama, people are fully accustomed to seeing no justice whatsoever. The rich and powerful regularly and routinely get away with just about everything. There needs to be a conversation, reinforcing the message that in the US, there is a functioning justice system which is much better at prosecuting, convicting, and punishing criminals. Basically - don't worry. If the evidence indicates Velez is guilty, then chances are the system will work, and he will spend the rest of his life behind bars at Ft. Leavenworth.

Mugshot - US Army Master Sergeant Omar Velez has been charged with murder, in the death of his girlfriend, Vanesa Rodriguez, 25, of Panama. Velez was returned to the United States and arrested on 26 June 2014.

Copyright 2014 Panama-Guide.com.

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Mugshot - US Army Master Sergeant Omar Velez

Expat TalesBy Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com - US Army Master Sergeant Omar Velez has been arrested by the Sheriff's Office of Cumberland County in North Carolina in the United States. He was returned to the US from Panama as a suspect in the murder of the 25 year old Panamanian woman Vanesa Rodriguez.

According to a spokesman speaking for the US Material Command, upon his return to the US the evidence against him was reviewed by a Military Magistrate (judge), who determined there was enough to warrant his continued detention.

Omar Antonio Velez, 35, was arrested last Thursday, June 26, 2014. There is a file on his arrest available on the website of the Cumberland County Sheriff's Department. In the section of the form under "charges" - Velez's status is listed as "military hold." Booking ID: 172833. This is his mugshot:

US Army Detectives assigned to the Criminal Investigation Command (CID) have almost certainly been deployed to the Republic of Panama to gather additional information and evidence, as part of the investigation into the murder. Once that process has been at least partially completed, then the US military authorities on Ft Bragg will formally charge Omar Velez, and the legal proceedings against him will commence.

Copyright 2014 Panama-Guide.com.

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U.S. soldier suspected of murder in Panama likely to face military justice

Expat Tales PANAMA CITY (Reuters) - A U.S. soldier suspected of murdering a Panamanian woman will "most likely" face charges in a military court in the United States, a U.S. military spokesman said on Sunday.

Master Sergeant Omar Velez is being held in pretrial confinement at the U.S. Army's Fort Bragg in North Carolina, but formal charges have not been filed against him, said Colonel William Bigelow, a spokesman for U.S. Southern Command.

Velez was conducting training in Panama as part of the U.S. Army Security Assistance Training Management Organization, a unit generally associated with foreign sales of military equipment, Bigelow said by telephone.

He said Velez will probably face charges in U.S. military courts. He emphasized that a final decision has not been made.

Panama's attorney general's office has not commented on the case.

Panamanian daily newspaper Critica has reported that Velez was apprehended as he was attempting to bury the body of the 26-year-old victim, with whom he was believed to have a romantic relationship.

The U.S. Southern Command cannot confirm those details, spokeswoman Kimberly Hanson said.

The U.S. Army "will fully investigate this tragedy and take any and all appropriate action," according to a statement issued late last week.

Editor's Comment: Finally. With this report the US military has confirmed the identity of MSG Omar Velez as the suspect in the murder of the 25 year old Panamanian woman Vanesa Rodriguez. Is should be pointed out that the Panamanian press is reporting Vanesa's age as 25, while this Reuters report is saying she's 26.

And yes, military members on active duty who commit crimes such as murder always face a jury trial under the Unified Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). It's nice to see that Reuters is following my lead on this story.

Reuters should now ask the US Military and SOUTHCOM if they have this photo of Vanesa Rodriguez holding a military issued firearm, on the training range near the Guarare river where Omar Velez was training members of the Panamanian police and security forces;

At the time of his arrest, MSG Omar Velez was reportedly caught red-handed, standing over the corpse of his dead girlfriend, next to a freshly dug grave, the shovel and pickaxe he used to dig the grave, and a bag of lime he was going to dump on her body to speed decomposition. All of this was found near the shooting range where this photo was taken.

One more minor observation. When SOUTHCOM issued this press release over the weekend in response to the murder of Vanesa Rodriguez and the arrest of Omar Velez, the first sentence of the original version said "The United States expresses its deepest regret over the death of a young Panamanian woman." This was later changed to read "The United States Army expresses its deepest regret over the death of a young Panamanian woman." They made the change because the Commander in Chief of the US Southern Command cannot speak for the United States of America - that's what the President is for.

But, there's a problem. The Commander in Chief of the US Southern Command also cannot speak for the US Army. General Raymond T. Odierno is the Chief of Staff of the US Army, and only he can speak on behalf of, or "express its deepest regret."

General John F. Kelly, a member of the US Marine Corps and the Commander in Chief of the US Southern Command can only speak for SOUTHCOM - not the US Army or the United States of America. This is what happens when military gonks issue press releases over the weekend, when the adults - civilian employees with deep experience and lawyers - are taking a day off to roast hot dogs or whatever.

Now, I don't expect SOUTHCOM will issue yet another correction to fix this gaff. And, it's sort of depressing that I had to be the one to point it out. Aren't the lights on there, somewhere? Hello, Public Affairs Branch? Anyone manning the desk (with a clue)?

But whatever. At least now someone in the US government has finally and officially admitted that US Army Master Sergeant Omar Velez is in fact, in custody as a suspect in the murder of Vanesa Rodriguez in Panama. This confirms the earlier reporting by La Critica as spot-on.

Don't fuck this up, guys. If this asshole murdered his girlfriend, there's no need whatsoever to "protect" him from anything. There are more than 50,000 people living in the Republic of Panama as members of the English speaking community of expatriates. Many of them are former military veterans, and military retirees. If there is any perception - and I mean any little tiny perception whatsoever - that the US government or the US military is going to anything to cover this incident, you can expect blow-back. There should be no effort whatsoever to protect this Velez guy beyond whatever is strictly required by law. He is entitled to a legal defense from a defense attorney, but he is not entitled to any sort of defense of his name (or whatever) by the Government of the United States of America.

In short - Omar Velez should be treated exactly the same as anyone else who has been accused of murder.

One more question. Why hasn't he been charged? What's the time frame? How long can the US military hold Velez as a detainee, without charging him with a crime?

From experience in murder cases, I know there are procedural elements regarding evidence. I'm sure the FBI Special Agents working at the office of the Legal Attache in the US Embassy in Panama are doing their thing. Also, there will be someone (not sure who) in a US military uniform who will be responsible investigating and gathering evidence - with the cooperation of the Panamanian judicial authorities - in order to eventually charge MSG Omar Velez with murder and conduct a trial.

There are many elements of this story that are unfolding as I write this. I'll continue to provide follow-up information as it develops. And of course, I'm working my own angles...

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US Southern Command Issues Press Release (US Army MSG Omar Velez - Murder Suspect - Panama Case)

Expat Tales An Army soldier assigned to the US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) is under military custody on suspicion of being responsible for the death of a young Panamanian woman, whose body was found near a shooting range used for training.

The Southern Command issued a press release expressing "sincere regret" over the woman's death. SOUTHCOM is cooperating with the Panamanian judicial and law enforcement authorities in the investigation of the case. They call for "this tragedy to be fully investigated" and the US military promises to take "all corresponding actions" resulting from the investigation.

"We are cooperating with Panamanian law enforcement authorities in the investigation, and we want to assure the government and the Panamanian people that the U.S. military authorities will thoroughly investigate this tragedy and take all appropriate action," says the press release that was published on the Southern Command's website.

Last Thursday, the office of the Attorney General issued a press release reporting that on 23 June "the lifeless body of a woman was discovered, on a farm near the bridge over the Guararé river, where firearms training was taking place."

The site of the discovery is located in the province of Los Santos, 284 kilometers west of Panama City.  

The victim was identified by relatives as Vanesa Rodriguez, 25, a native of the western province of Chiriqui and a resident of Panama City.

"A member of the U.S. Army, who is now in custody at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, USA, is a suspect in this case," says the Southern Command statement. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: Why the FUCK is everyone tip-toeing around using the name of US Army Master Sergeant Omar Velez as the suspect in this case? When the Panamanian National Police first arrested him - while standing over the body of his dead girlfriend next to a bag of lime, a shovel, a pickaxe, and a freshly dug grave - they released his name as the person who was arrested, and identified him as the suspect in the case.

Since then, the Panamanian Attorney General's office issued a statement clarifying for the Panamanian people and the family members of the victim that the suspect (Velez) was working for the US Embassy at the time, so therefore he could not be arrested. No sweat, he was arrested by the US Army, flown back to Ft Bragg, and he's now in custody there. Great.

The US Southern Command finally issued a press release designed to further reduce anxiety over the concept that Velez might not face justice. And of course to express their regret and remorse. Note - that this statement was issued only after I pointed out that the US government and the US Embassy in Panama had remained silent (until then). Whatever, they finally have started to to the right thing, and communicate a little.

But still it makes no sense to try to protect - what - Omar Velez's privacy? When a murder suspect is arrested in the United States does any prosecutor anywhere try to protect his name? Don't they stand up in front of the media and proclaim to the world they've arrested a suspect in the brutal murder case of (whatever)? It makes no sense. I don't get it. In short, WTF?

Speaking as a retired Master Sergeant myself - military guys simply hate it when "one of their own" makes some really stupid decision and does something criminal - whatever it is. I've had friends of mine go down in legal flames for making some bone headed mistakes while serving in the military. But serving in the military is all about levels of trust, personal responsibility, emotional maturity, and making the right decision in the heat of the moment. This guy apparently blew it. And while that's too damn bad (for both him and his victim) it makes no sense for anyone, on any side, to try to "protect" his identity, or to keep his name out of the papers. In short, fuck that guy...

Most civilians don't understand that military members are held to a higher standard. MSG Omar Velez will be held accountable under the US Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). There's an obvious reason for this. If a civilian doesn't show up for his job at Walmart, he's fired. If a military member doesn't show up for his job, that's desertion. A civilian can't get sent to prison for falling asleep on the job, but a soldier can go to prison for falling asleep while manning a forward observation post in a war zone. Things are different for military guys, in many ways.

But murder is murder. Guys in the military are trained to kill. We have guns. We usually have physical superiority over civilians due to strength training and regularly scheduled exercise. We are trained in hand-to-hand combat and martial arts. Military guys have a "keep hitting it until it's gone" mentality sometimes. And when a military guy kills a hostile in a war zone, he gets a medal. We are trained to be lethal, and we are expected to know when to pull the trigger (and of course, when not to...)

Refer to the UCMJ Article 118: Murder - Any person subject to this chapter who, without justification or excuse, unlawfully kills a human being, when he- (1) has a premeditated design to kill; (2) intends to kill or inflict great bodily harm; (3) is engaged in an act which is inherently dangerous to another and evinces a wanton disregard of human life; or (4) is engaged in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of burglary, sodomy, rape, robbery, or aggravated arson; is guilty of murder, and shall suffer such punishment as a court-martial may direct, except that if found guilty under clause (1) or (4), he shall suffer death or imprisonment for life as a court-martial may direct.

And Article 119: Manslaughter - (a) Any person subject to this chapter who, with an intent to kill or inflict great bodily harm, unlawfully kills a human being in the heat of sudden passion caused by adequate provocation is guilty of voluntary manslaughter and shall be punished as a court-martial may direct. (b) Any person subject to this chapter who, without an intent to kill or inflict great bodily harm, unlawfully kills a human being- (1) by culpable negligence; or (2) while perpetrating or attempting to perpetrate an offense, other than those named in clause (4) of section 918 of this title (article 118), directly affecting the person; is guilty of involuntary manslaughter and shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.

MSG Omar Velez will probably say he got into an argument with his girlfriend, got mad, hit her in the face, and she died. If there was no intent to kill her then that's manslaughter. The key words being "in the heat of sudden passion caused by adequate provocation."

But still, why dance around the identity of the suspect? What wasn't his name included in this Southcom press release? Do they have the photo the victim posted on her Facebook page, of her handling a weapon on the same range where MSG Omar Velez was training Panamanians how to shoot? You know, the same place where he was digging her grave?

You won't find me dancing around this asshole, trying to protect anything. If it turns out the victim is someone else, then so be it. As of right now, the Panamanian National Police released his name as being the suspect. Until I hear otherwise, it's on him. Everything else that's flowed since has been in sync with the initial assessment, so I have to assume it's correct. And I also have to assume the US Army, the US government, SOUTHCOM, and everyone else is - for some unknown reason - trying to protect something by not uttering the name of Master Sergeant Omar Velez. Thankfully, I do not drink from the same pitcher of kool-aid as those idiots...

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Murder Victim Identified As Vanesa Rodriguez (US Army MSG Omar Velez's Girlfriend in Panama)

Expat TalesTo the sorrow of her friends and family, the body found dead on the banks of the Guararé river in the province of Los Santos, responds to that of Vanesa Rodriguez, who was 25 years old. (more)

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Foreign Diplomat (US Army MSG Omar Velez) Suspected Of Murder

Expat TalesThe prosecutor in the province of Los Santos said a "foreign diplomat" was involved in the murder of a woman whose body was found on Monday, June 23, 2014 on a farm near the Guararé river. (more)

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Harris man, last seen in Panama, declared dead

Expat TalesBy Derrick Knutson - Bob Ehlert, of Harris, who is known to many in the county because of his involvement with the University of Minnesota Extension as a Chisago County Master Gardener, has been declared officially dead by the U.S. government.

Ehlert was last seen more than a year ago in Panama.

According to a story the Post Review printed on the search for Ehlert last year:

Doug Ehlert, Bob Ehlert’s nephew, said the family and authorities discovered numerous oddities in relation to his uncle’s disappearance.

He said the two men who had been working on Bob Ehlert’s boat in Panama visited the condo sometime after June 21, 2013, and found it unlocked. Upon entering, the men found a broken wine glass, but nothing was missing from the home.

“(Leaving your home unlocked) is kind of surprising in Panama City,” Doug Ehlert said. “You see a lot of houses with razor wire fencing on them.”

A note was also later found that said Bob Ehlert was leaving for two weeks with a woman named Diane to look at properties in a remote resort area called Bocas del Toro.

Doug Ehlert said he looked at the note, and he and Mariah Ehlert, Bob Ehlert’s daughter, thought it didn’t look like Bob Ehlert’s handwriting. He also said it didn’t look as though it was written by a native English speaker.

“It started with ‘I going’ instead of ‘I’m going,’” he said. “It also said, ‘to see some old friend.’ A native English speaker would say ‘an old friend.’”

By talking to some people in the area, the two found out Bob Ehlert met two Colombian women, possibly named Diana and Anna, at a bar called the Havana Club and he went to a soccer game with the women.

Doug Ehlert said he was not able to get in contact with the women.

“I found out that down (in Panama) there are a lot of young Colombian women who prey on older men,” he said. “There have been several scams with women (asking men) to look at real estate.”

But for Doug Ehlert, even the real estate scam possibility doesn’t seem to explain the disappearance. He said he checked his uncle’s browser history on his computer at his condo and found no evidence that he was looking at properties in Bocas Del Toro. He also said it would be odd for his uncle to look at properties there because purchasing houses or condos there can be difficult.

“Titles are hard to get,” he said. “It’s a risky investment unless you’re very careful.”

In addition to those discoveries, Doug Ehlert said they found a receipt from a hardware store that showed Bob Ehlert had bought a sledgehammer, a carpenter’s axe, a pickaxe and spray paint. He and Mariah Ehlert are unsure why Bob Ehlert would have purchased those items.

Doug Ehlert added that his uncle’s bank statements do not show any activity since he went missing, and his sailboat was docked at a Panamanian marina.

However, Bob Ehlert’s car was missing.

In an email last week, Mariah Ehlert said the investigation into her father’s disappearance is still ongoing and “hasn’t lost momentum.”

However, she added, “Things take an extraordinary long time down there (in Panama).”

On a website she set up to update people about the search for her father, mariahehlert.wix.com/findbob, Mariah Ehlert posted this:

“Bob Ehlert had an adventurer’s heart. He wasn’t afraid to get out and try something new; he loved to drink good wine, travel to far-out destinations, sail, garden, give back to his community, and, of course, he loved his family and friends deeply. Bob was much loved and is greatly missed.

“May the road rise to meet you, May the wind be always at your back,

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

The rains fall soft upon your fields and,

Until we meet again,

May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

-Irish blessing”

(ecmpostreview.com)

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John Patrick Acord Has Been Arrested in Panama

Expat TalesBy Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com - John Patrick Acord, indicted by a United States Grand Jury in Houston, Texas for operating a fraudulent investment scheme from September 2011 - September 2013, that raised over $5.5 million dollars from investors who believed they were purchasing shipping containers, has been arrested in Panama City.

Sources say Acord was arrested in the Hard Rock Hotel in Panama City, Panama yesterday. He is now reportedly "sitting in the holding cell at immigration, with no identification."

In Acord's scheme investors were promised guaranteed returns ranging from 13% to over 16%, depending upon the amount invested.

In reality, the 'profits' that were paid out to investors to perpetuate the scheme were actually funded by funds raised from new investors.

This form of investment fraud is the classic Ponzi Scheme; distributing a portion of the money raised from new investors to earlier investors to create the impression of an ongoing, legitimate and successful business operation.

Investors were further deceived by being told that the chief financial officer was an individual name John Delano, when in truth, Delano was a fictional name for Acord.

They also failed to disclose to investors that:

  • Acord had two prior federal fraud related convictions.

  • Acord had twice been permanently enjoined by the Securities & Exchange Commission.

  • Acord's partner Steven Patrick Jones had a prior federal conviction related to shipping and interstate commerce.

  • That investor funds were used for the personal living expenses of Jones and Acord.

  • That Jones and Acord created sham 3rd party leases to create the appearance of a going concern.

The Texas State Securities Board had issued an emergency cease and desist order in July 2012 in connection with the fraudulent activity, however Jones and Acord continued to sell investments in the phony business, EcoEnergy Group, Inc. dba Intermodal Wealth, Inc.

Editor's Comment: Good. Taking out the trash, once again. I have no idea why criminals from the United States continue to think they can "hide" in Panama. Panama will now find some sort of problem with Acord's immigration status, and put him on a flight to Houston, where he will be arrested upon landing.

Related Article: Wanted - John Patrick Acord - US Fugitive Hiding In Panama City - Ponzi Scheme

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US Army Master Sergeant Omar Velez - Prime Suspect In Murder Of Panamanian Woman

Expat TalesA US Army soldier is under investigation for the murder of a Panamanian woman, a crime perpetrated on Monday afternoon in the town of Guararé, in the province of Los Santos. (more)

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Relatives Of Missing Dutch Women Accept Their Deaths in Panama

Expat TalesThe relatives of Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon, the two Dutch women who disappeared in Panama last April, issued a statement this morning in which they accepted the deaths of the girls. (more)

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Remains Found Of Other Missing Dutch Girl

Expat TalesThe bone remains found in the Panamanian jungle last week are those of the second missing Dutch woman, local sources have told Nos television.

DNA testing on tissue from the bones has revealed it to be that of Kris Kremers, the sources told Nos. Other human remains found at the scene were earlier tested as those of Lisanne Froon.

The two young women disappeared on April 1 when they went for a jungle walk close to the town of Boquete where they were staying.

River

No sign of them was discovered until last week when a local found a rucksack containing some of their possessions close to a river. Searches of the area turned up shoes and human remains.

A spokesman for Kremers’ family said the news of their deaths ‘was still overshadowed by the many questions surrounding their deaths’.

It now appears likely the women either got lost on their walk or had an accident. The remains were found 10 kilometres from where they were last seen. (Dutchnews.nl)

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Panamanian Prosecutor Confirms - Remains Are Those Of Lisanne Froon

Expat TalesThe Public Ministry through the First Superior Prosecutor of Chiriqui, Bethsaida Pittí and coroner Silvia Bandel confirmed on Monday DNA analysis conducted on skeletal remains match samples provided by the parents of Lisanne Froon, and they went on to say what they found was a foot. (more)

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Gringo (US/Denmark Expat) Assaulted In Bocas del Toro - Needs Blood Donations

Expat Tales By Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com - On Saturday night six armed, masked men assaulted and abducted 73 year old Stig Pedersen at his home located in Tierra Oscura, in Bocas del Toro, in the Republic of Panama.

They hit him on the head and hauled him off in his own boat, a "white T-top with 'Puff' written on the bow." The boat has a 75 hp four-stroke motor. At the time of the assault, the assailants were reported to be headed towards Almirante.

Stig Pedersen lives in Bocas del Toro and he has a home in Dolega.

Pedersen currently needs six pints of A+ blood. He was beaten severely and has several brain hemorrhages. He is at the public regional hospital in David. Please help, or forward to those who can.

Editor's Comment: Reportedly Pedersen recently told a friend that a neighbor "wants him dead." Obviously the National Police should start their investigation with whoever made the threat against him.

Copyright 2014 Panama-Guide.com.

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Tissue Found In Panama Belongs To Lisanne Froon

Expat TalesBy Laura Klompenhouwer - The human remains that were found last week in Panama are those of Lisanne Froon. (more)

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Tissue from Lisanne Froon

Expat TalesHuman tissue found on Thursday in the Panamanian jungle belongs to Lisanne Froon, one of the Dutch women who have been missing since April 1. (more)

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Remains Found of Lisanne Froon; Kris Kremers Still Inconclusive

Expat TalesThe human remains found last Thursday in the Panamanian jungle belong to Lisanne Froon, one of the two women from Amersfoort who have been missing since April 1. (more)

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Dutch Media Reporting Human Remains Belong To Lisanne Froon

Expat TalesNew, grim revelations suggest the human remains found in the mountains of Bocas del Toro could belong to Lisanne Froon, one of the two Dutch women who disappeared on 1 April, as reported by various news outlets in Holland on their websites. (more)

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Human Remains Found In Bocas del Toro Belong To One Of The Missing Dutch Women

Expat TalesPublic Ministry sources say DNA tests performed on human remains discovered in the province of Bocas del Toro confirm they belong to one of the two Dutch women who have been missing along the "El Pianista" hiking trail in the province of Chiriqui, since April. (more)

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Panama police say remains may be missing Dutch women

Expat TalesPolice in Panama say they have found bones and a pair of boots that could be the remains of two Dutch women who went missing more than two months ago.

Lisanne Froon, 22, and Kris Kremers, 21, disappeared from the town of Boquete in early April.

A backpack containing two mobile phones thought to belong to the women was found in the same area last week.

Investigators say the finds are "significant" and that DNA tests will now be carried out on the bones.

Police said the remains were found in Bocas del Toro province on Thursday.

They are continuing to search the area where the items were found.

Dense woodland

The women had traveled to Boquete earlier this year to do social work with children after completing a two-week Spanish course.

They were last seen on 2 April as they went walking along a mountain path in the densely wooded area along the border with Costa Rica.

The parents of one of the women, Kris Kremers, visited Panama in April to help raise awareness of the search.

A Dutch search team traveled to Panama in May but did not manage to find the women.

The parents of the women have offered a $30,000 (£18,000) reward for anyone providing "concrete information" about their whereabouts.

Boquete is a popular destination for hikers exploring the nearby cloud forest, waterfalls and coffee plantations.

In 2009, a 29-year-old British man disappeared from the town. He left all his belongings and only had with him his passport, credit card and a few dollars.

While visitors are warned against travelling to Panama's eastern border with Colombia because of the presence of Colombian rebels in the area, its western border region is generally considered to be safe. (BBC)

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Remains Found In Panama: Testing To Verify Missing Women's DNA

Expat TalesInvestigators looking into the disappearance of two Dutch students in Panama have found human remains near a location where the women’s personal belongings were discovered.

The remains were brought to the forensic lab in Panama City for DNA testing, said the officer of justice, Betzaida Pitti during a press conference yesterday.

Police in Panama have been working with Dutch officials trying to track down Lisanne Froon and Kris Kremers. The two have been missing since they left their boarding house for a hike on April 1.

Two different shoes and boots were found, announced RTL journalist Britta Sanders on Twitter. No other details were released.

The Dutch Forensic institution (NFI) will be analyzing the belongings of the missing girls, much of which was inside a backpack. It is unclear if the mobile phones that were found on Friday were owned by the two girls. The NFI believes there is a big chance that useful information can be found on these phones.

A bag with the belongings of Froon and Kremers was found last week, including the two phones, two pairs of glasses, money, and an identity card belonging to Froon. The bag was found in Alto Romero, which is located at the Pianista trail. The girls planned to hike around that area, the day they went missing. (nltimes.nl)

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Public Minister Confirms New Findings In Case Of Missing Dutch Women

Expat TalesThe First Superior Prosecutor Bethsaida Pitti confirmed significant new evidence was found during the inspection this morning in the area of the Rio Culebra in Altos Romero, along the coordillera Changuinola in the province of Bocas del Toro, which will be transferred to the Institute of Legal Medicine of Panama. (more)

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