While I was following up on a cruise ship crew member drug arrest in Belize the past week, I have been coming across a series of murders that seem to have the calling cards of organized crime executions. Now, with the ninth especially violent murder in a week coupled with a growing trend of drug trafficking that includes cruise ship passengers and crew, it seems Belize has become the one destination that has gone from tropical oasis, to tropical crime lord haven, almost overnight.
This past December, an unemployed man, age 45, from South Carolina, Allen Richmond who was lucky enough to have his ex-wife take him on a cruise, was doubly lucky when she paid his $500 fine for possession of Marijuana. He actually managed to get through the entire ordeal quickly enough with a guilty plea to get back on the cruise ship before it left port.
Last month, a young man from New Hampshire was lucky enough to be on a cruise with is parents, who paid his fine. But, not until after they all missed the ship departure. Bennett Whittley, age 21, plead guilty to possession of 12.1 grams of weed. Magistrate Roberto Ordonez fined him $250 plus $5 in court cost, after Whittley spent a night in the holding cell at the Queen Street Station.
Now, with the recent wave of murders in Belize, something locals says is like never before seen in the history of Belize, it has become a war zone day and night.
Roberto Torres and Eugene Flores were gunned down February 14, 2008 in broad daylight along with Ron Thomas. Thomas made it, the other two didn't.
The same night another man was gunned down, Shannon 'Shaggy' Henderson. Police say they suspect drugs as a motive in the fatal shooting. Henderson was living with a pregnant Canadian woman who was expecting his child.
February 13th, Nazim Romero, age 21, and Jose Ricalde, age 45, were murdered execution style as they sat in their neighbor's home in the early evening hours. Alfredo Urbina was also hit in the hail of bullets. He was being cared for by Romero, after Urbina was the target of an attempted murder only days before. Another man, an associate of this group, has gone missing. Police are looking for information into the disappearance of Alden Hall.
Also on the 13th was a brutal armed robbery of Fromi Daly. Before dawn two masked, armed men came looking for her husband. Finding him gone, they robbed her of $14,000 in cash and jewelry and hit her in the head with a gun, knocking her to the ground. She survived the attack, but it is unclear if her husband would have.
Alvaro Galvez, age 36, was executed in his apartment February 12, 2008. Neighbors heard the shots, but ignored them. Nobody reported the sound of the five shots fired into Galvez's body to police. Two days later his bullet ridden body was found in his apartment by his employer.
Last Saturday, February 9, 2008, there was an attempted massacre, with 16 students shot, two of them fatally in a hail of 35 bullets. Police say the shootings are gang related.
February 8th, Kirk Craig was attacked by a man wielding a machete. Craig was at standing at the corner of St. Joseph and Nurse Seay Streets when the altercation took place. He was taken to the hosptial after severe blood loss from his head.
Jason Munnings was also gunned down and police are trying to discover why. Munnings was murdered February 2, 2008 at the corner of Mosul and Vernon Streets, while still in his vehicle.
Munnings loved ones are still trying to recover from the loss of another family member, Magistrate Richard Swift whose death too still remains a mystery after he and five friends went fishing and never returned. At this point, it becomes clear, some of these murders are obviously related to drugs, gang or major organized crime families.
Six days later the badly decomposed corpse of Magistrate Richard Swift was found at Middle Caye on Glover’s Reef, sixty miles south of where the fishing party was last known to have been. The official cause of death was from blunt force trauma. Swift had two broken ribs which punctured his liver.
Police in Belize admit that murders were up in 2007 over 2006 and already in 2008 they are skyrocketing. There were 39 murders in 2007. This year so far there have been 15 in 47 days. If this rate continues, Belize will see over 100 murders in 2008.
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