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Friday, January 29th, 2016  |  USD: Buy 531.29 / Sell 543.92
20 years

Five months later, family of murdered American still seeks answers

Kurt Heigis (courtesy of the Heigis family)

Kurt Heigis was murdered near La Fortuna in February. (courtesy of the Heigis family)


July 22nd, 2014 ( After more than five months, there have yet to be any arrests in the case of Kurt Heigis, the U.S. man who was murdered in February near La Fortuna de San Carlos.


Unknown assailants intercepted Heigis as he traveled in his vehicle on a gravel road about 4 kilometers from La Fortuna.  The assailants slit Heigis’ throat on the side of the road, killing him.


Robbery did not appear to be a motive in the slaying, as the assailants did not steal any valuables, including $1,900 in cash that Heigis had with him.  Authorities also ruled out the possibility that the crime was drug-related.


Traveling with Heigis was a 30-year-old Nicaraguan woman, to whom Heigis was married without his family’s knowledge. She said she was spared in the attack by begging for her life.


Heigis’ daughter, Joanna Heigis-Mong, told Inside Costa Rica on Sunday that the past five months have been a “nightmare” and she is left with only unanswered questions.


“Some days are better than others, while there are also some really bad days. I can only speak for my immediate family, but I know my older sister has struggled too. Of course this is not easy for anyone, in fact it’s really a nightmare. It is one thing to lose someone you love, but it is a whole different story when they are brutally slain and viciously taken away. You are left with NO damn answers, just questions.  This weekend would have been our annual bike (motorcycle) ride so it has been rough,” she said.


Inside Costa Rica:  Do you believe the case is being thoroughly investigated?


Joanna Heigis-Mong: No, I do not.  I feel they think, ‘whoopee, it is another American murdered.  It has been swept under the rug.  Kurt was someone’s son, brother, uncle, dad, grandpa, great-grandpa and friend.


Inside Costa Rica: Describe the contact you have had with the OIJ and/or other Costa Rica police and investigators.  Have you found them competent and concerned for delivering justice in your father’s case?


Joanna Heigis-Mong: Contact? One freaking time in May – May! Months later.  And this only because I demanded it through the embassy! I have sent them questions and inquiries, as well as ideas of who they should look at and nothing!


Inside Costa Rica: Tell us about your father – what kind of man was he?  Did he seem to be enjoying his life here prior to his murder?


Joanna Heigis-Mong: Dad loved life. He enjoyed outdoors, landscaping, riding his motorcycle, horseback riding, and he loved Costa Rica. He enjoyed going there every year; he said there was so much beauty all around and in their culture. It was more relaxed. He was happy he found a house to buy and fix up, he was thinking of selling it to buy another.


Inside Costa Rica: Do you believe authorities could be doing more to bring your father’s killer or killers to justice?


Joanna Heigis-Mong: Of course I do.  There are too many things that are right in front of them, and I feel like they are hiding or protecting them. I speak for myself – so understand that I am angry.


Inside Costa Rica: Have there been any agencies or individuals in Costa Rica that you have found helpful since your father’s death?


Joanna Heigis-Mong:  I am working with a close US agency that I would rather not say. I am thankful for them because she is always checking in, asking what they can do. The Embassy has showed sympathy and they are always trying to reassure me that it takes time. Maybe so. I know justice is not always swift, however I think it should be at least moving forward.


Inside Costa Rica: Given your experience of the last five months, do you have faith in the Costa Rican judicial system?  Do you believe arrests will eventually be made?


Joanna Heigis-Mong:  According to a web site, Costa Rica has a statute of limitations on murder* , which is a shocker because the US does not. I believe in justice, even more so in karma. Karma can be a real [expletive].
*See editor’s note.


Inside Costa Rica: Is there anything else you would like to tell or ask of our readers?


Joanna Heigis-Mong:  If anyone knows anything, please come forward to the proper authorities.   Imagine if this was your family, wouldn’t you want answers? We need them. There is no real closure, it is like waiting for an end and having no control over it in any way, shape or form.  It’s maddening.




Editor’s notes:  There is indeed a statute of limitation on murder in Costa Rica.  The statute is 10 to 30 years, depending upon interpretation and circumstances (premeditation, for example.)


We sincerely appreciate Joanna taking the time to answer our questions, which itself is surely painful.  Please understand as well that some questions have gone unasked as they could potentially affect the investigation.


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  • disgusted

    Joanna, Thank you for the insight and lack of investigation into your fathers murder. My sincere condolences. The USA Embassy not only here and though out the world have become a toothless tiger. Much of what you say is right on about the investigation part. I would like to know
    1. Who was involved in the killing?
    2. Was the wife/girlfriend involved and did she profit from this in anyway? Like did she get the property and or money???

    3. Hear directly from our USA embassy what they have done and get the senator of his state involved as well.
    4. Here what is the working theory of the OIJ i now, and why it is not being actively investigated anymore?
    5, Ex Pats from USA here is a warning shot at us. The OIJ and those investigating have made it clear We are not a priory or for that factor any murder.. We are on our own, right USA Embassy?

    Joanna, This also unnerves us here as well. Was this a random act?/ I do not think so. Leaving that much money and the vehicle and a witness too boot something does not add up here as to why?

    I hope some closure and comfort come soon to you


    • duke ster

      Disgusted, you ask good questions and I want to try to help also. You are on to something for sure. #1- The wife is involved. #2 she knows who did it. #3 I wrote before that OIJ helped me when I was robbed. They showed up on time for an appointment just 30 minutes after I reported it. They canvassed the neighborhood to talk to witnesses. Here is a fact and you can think about it. The person who robbed me was “Poker Dan”–you guessed it–another gringo who I was helping by giving him a job. –the OIJ really wanted to get him. So How am I to know if it was because they really wanted to “get” a Gringo or because they are a good agency.- I do realize the Ticos are happy when something bad happens to a gringo. So why they aren’t doing much to solve this murder as you say–I can only guess. One thing is for sure, if Ticos were involved– they will never get even questioned or punished or looked at –if Nicaraguans are involved.. who knows which Ticos hate more–Nicaraguans or Gringos? I will try to contact someone to see what they know about this if anything. Here again I recommend the tried and true method of loosening lips. PUT UP A SUBSTANTIAL REWARD! Someone ( besides the wife and the assailants) knows who did it and why. It might take a little time but put the reward out asap and keep turning up the heat ( increasing the reward). SOMEONE will come forward . I hope you know that a HUGE percent of all arrests are made from tips–aka reward money or revenge snitching. The daughter will need boots on the ground in Costa Rica – she needs to hire someone to keep things rolling–again MONEY is needed. MONEY will find the killers. Money and a good investigator. Disgusted seems to have a natural talent for searching. He asked the all important question. .”who stands to gain from this killing”? The wife has all the answers –believe me. Turn the wife upside down and you will find the killers. This is Central America, she CAN be turned upside down.

      • Joanna

        Thank you Editor for a nicely written article.. And everyone for their feedback.. Please let it continue.. I do not have the kind of money that is needed to put into this; I wish I did.. I will not give up.. That is for sure.. I have involved the Senate’s office; just an FYI. All of these questions have entered my mind (and the families).. but there are no answers as of yet..

        • duke ster

          Didn’t someone say the OIJ investigated and no drugs were involved? How does one determine if drugs, nuclear secrets, or any of hundreds of other scenarios were involved ? Were any other persons present? What were the couples movements in the days or hours leading up to the murder? Who did they interact /speak/meet with in the days/hours leading up to the murder? I really believe you should go there ( with licensed gun permitted security people who are in the “business”) and question the wife. That shouldn’t cost more than a plane ticket and the investigator/security person’s fee for a day or two. Surely you can ask for help on this site and someone will step forward ( for a few bucks). Costa Rica is awash with former “spooks”-(former/current contractors/ intelligence/law enforcement community) . I am sure if you asked, someone would step forward for a few days pay. Some of these guys could be pretty helpful if you approach them correctly.You might be surprised at the low fees they might ask for just to find out what’s up and maybe to see to it that everyone is not too shaken up and now paranoid about their safety and would be happy to be able to show the community that the situation is not getting all that dangerous down here.Because when you find out that it is an inside job or some crime gone wrong, then it all makes sense that it happened because of this or that and it was not a random killing.As disgusted said, things don’t add up. Many killings happen down here by the gardner/housekeeper teaming up to do the Gringo in for his property and who knows what else he had that you didn’t know about? Of course the wife gets the property–unless you can fight for it. Is she a legal resident of Costa Rica? If not–maybe she can’t get the house automatically. You can tie it up in court. Do some digging–I suggest offering someone a percentage of the sale of the house ( if you win it) or some arrangement along those lines and maybe some retired law enforcement types or spooks will get the ball rolling, after all they are probably not too busy these days.Possibly a lover of the wife lost his cool about her leaving him? That would explain the throat slitting –remember O.J.?- Throat slitting is a crime not usually associated with, well what type of crime is this? WE know it was not a robbery. What does that leave? There was more than one killer. Did a fight take place? Did your father defend himself? Can any readers shed some light on how this poor girl can get more details of the “investigation”? I see that some of the readers on this site are very intelligent and very connected to the ways of Costa Rican law, hopefully if you write an impassioned letter –they will get involved. I know the editor has his contacts and he gets inside info on a lot of issues. Maybe he will suggest to you how to get some more details from OIJ. Did you go to the San Jose OIJ offices and speak with a supervisor? Try that for starters, bring a “reporter ” with you. A “reporter” who will “write an in depth story” about OIJ’s handling of this murder of an American citizen who , as they say, was not involved in drugs, so what was he doing that he got his throst slit? Does OIJ want this kind of bad publicity when tourist dollars are thinning out rapidly?

          • Joanna

            There were No drugs.. my fathere didn’t do drugs or associate with them… and robbery was not the motive. Yes, she got everything down there… I fought to bring his remains home.. and yes, I have asked myself many of these same questions…

          • expatin paradise

            If the “wife” already got all the property, she and the money are probably long gone. It is too bad that assets could not have been frozen pending the outcome of the investigation.

            Did anyone investigate the legitimacy of the alleged marriage? Forged documents are commonplace here.

            The fact that the woman, an eye witness to a vicious murder, was allowed to live by the attackers doesn’t add up. I hope that the OIJ is quietly looking at her and her associates and building a case.

            While gringos may be resented by some Ticos, Nicas are hated by most Ticos. If the OIJ suspects a Nica in this case, they will charge her, if she isn’t already back in Nicaragua. Unfortunately, the Heigis family stands to gain only satisfaction, and that’s a long shot, given the conviction rate here.

          • duke ster

            I was NOT trying to put out there that your father was involved in drugs-please don’t think I am trying to sully his memory-I was trying to make the point that How did OIJ know whether or not WHATEVER was involved? They must have based all their ideas on what happened by speaking with the only witness –and if she lied about anything–does OIJ just believe her? expatin paradise makes good points-who is this wife? And YOU make good points-you understand that it was personal. Since you are working with an un named I only hope they have jurisdiction to actually help. If the correct U.S. agency is involved-it will do wonders. So you know it was personal and you have experience with criminal justice,you are in a better position than most would be. Now we know it was personal, that means a lover did it, right? How do we discover who he is and where he was? All very hard to do, especially if you are in the U.S. and have limited funds.
            I like expats’s assertion that the Ticos dislike Nicas more than they dislike Gringos, that tells me something. They let her go-they must have had to. .But we never know–don’t sell them short, there are really good Ticos out there who are very professional and don’t care if other Ticos don’t like Gringos–they will do their job. It might sound crazy but meeting these types of Ticos always made me proud to live in Costa Rica.
            If she has the house-she will be living there or be able to be found by the collection of rent. She must be found and questioned. The “correct” questioning will lead to the killer. So that is the key–finding this snake and squeezing her until she confesses. It’s a simple idea, the executing of the idea is the trick but it can be done. Personally if my father were murdered I would place an ad on yahoo groups, “costaricaliving”, “costaricacentralvalleyliving” and there are a few more with lots of readers .Place an ad asking for investigative help or ANY kind of help in questioning this woman–Keep posting–every week–keep your search on the front burner of people’s minds–
            Keep all of your contacts private and don’t share ANYTHING with the who you are in contact with. Because you have a background in criminal justice you probably don’t understand how things really get done and you trust “agencies”. Forget all that and dig into the world of “keep your mouth shut with who and what you know”. .I can’t go further in helping you because I am “away”.So if there is a way to contact you by e-mail or privately, somehow let me know and I will put you in touch with my contact. Get your personal e-mail to me and I will give u my contact–other than that I can’t go further.
            The Editor here has done a WONDERFUL job of asking you public questions and helping you. He is doing something way beyond what others would do. That is rare in today’s world. Also there are many REALLY smart and well connected people who are fans of this site. They are reading all this and some are responding and others are quiet -probably because of the limelight. Put your contact e-mail out here on this site–even if you make up an e-mail address solely for this investigation. You will be contacted further off site. People want to help bring your Father’s killer to justice- many want to keep Costa Rica a “safer” place and when the killer is caught or erased, it will show everyone that you CANNOT kill a U.S./European/ upright citizen from anywhere, take his house and more, and simply get away with it. This will discourage future would be low lifes who hatch ideas to take what the “rich” foreigner has. They will all remember how this particular killer got caught.
            Years ago a housekeeper teamed up with the gardner and they killed the gringo owner of a very visible “a frame” house in Escazu so they could take what he had. It was news on Tico Times when it was a paper English newspaper.The Costa Rican police agencies really did their job on that one as they were put in prison, but I don’t know the particulars. Keep this on the front burner and your father’s killers WILL be caught.

    • Joanna

      I cannot answer that openly.. My suspicions run deep.. I will say this, I do not believe in coincidences..

    • disgusted

      Joanna, Thanks for your reply and insight. So who benefited was the “wife” she got all the property and assets like TV’s, stoves and such. I guess as well she got the $1,900 as well. My suspecions would be #1 the wife and or her immediate family. I do not know how long it would take her to get the property sold. You’re right it was a personal killing. maybe the 30 yr old has children from a former relationship. The ex is still in the picture.. The wife can be a good actress in portraying a distress women. I think we as a collective could solve this with the right question answers and follow up questions. Again , Best too you Joanna.

  • Michael Clarkson

    Terrible thing, we have let the world know this kind of stories before tourists want to move to CR, if you come here and you get killed, raped, or robbed you are on your own no one seems to help.

  • NorthendFool

    The victim looks very familiar to me. Is he from Tennessee? Did he ride a Sporster? Did he go to Daytona Bike Week? Let me know, thanks.

  • James F. Agnos

    I reported Douglas Keith Smith to OIJ for making death threats and offering a reward for murder. They did NOTHING, (that I know of). He was arrested and deported at a later date. For Fraud and Immigration Violations. I hope the killers of your father are found and brought to justice.

    • disgusted

      What your saying, Their is no FBI here in CR?? the OIJ did nothing? Really what a surprise.

      • James F. Agnos

        The Central American Field Office of the FBI is in the United States Embassy in Panama City, Panama.

    • duke ster

      James, this guy threatened you here in Costa Rica? Threatened you with a contract killing? And you went all the way to panama city to report this to the FBI? That is an incredible story. I certainly congratulate you for your tenacity. How many of us would be so intelligent as to do this?
      Are you telling us that this daughter of the slain U.S. citizen ( Heigis) could file a report with the FBI in Panama city and they would do an investigation here in Costa Rica and even follow the wife’s trail to Nicaragua on her behalf? That would be incredible-I mean if the FBI is after someone– watch out baby–they WILL be caught! The FBI are smart cookies.Please fill us in on a little more of the details if you have the time.

      • James F. Agnos

        FBI jurisdiction is limited in foreign countries. Only because a conspiracy existed among Americans were the FBI able to open a case against Doug Smith and his accomplices.

        • duke ster

          Oh I thought they already arrested him. In any event you are to be admired because of your tenacity in going after your enemies.

          • curious

            ive living in costa rica for 10 years, know many american expays, and have never seen or heard (in the real world) of this doug smith. all i see is various incoherent ramblings on craigslist rants and raves and attention hungry journalists. what did he actually do?

      • duke ster

        Let me relay an interesting story of a “lettered agency’s” tenacity when they want to catch someone
        I was “working on the inside” and met a really interesting character, he was a super good guy-I mean some characters the public or law enforcement deem a bad character -sometimes are very human and on a personal level can become good friends despite their situation or how law enforcement or John Q Public views them. This guy –lets call him Tony– told me how the FBI used his “associate” to get their man.( This can all be verified by a story which came out in the Ft Lauderdale Sun Sentinel a few years ago–way after the event) The FBI wanted a guy on charges that he killed several black leaders of whatever “black rights movement”- This was in Mississippi or somewhere way deep down south. and the wanted guy was a KKK type. So they couldn’t get KKK to talk despite all legal methods and trying. This brought them to “Tony’s associate” lets call him Vinny. They went to Vinny and asked him to get a confession from KKK. as to where the bodies were. Vinny would have the benefits of gaining inside information on his “organizational rivals” Let’s call them the other wiseguys. Vinny could get all the secret info on the wiseguys who were business rivals.Where they were at any given moment and so on. Having information where your enemy is at any given moment or where he will be at a certain time on a certain day would possibly put them in a precarious situation if anyone wanted them “out of the picture” Now Vinny could get revenge and also step into territories controlled by the other wiseguys and take over. Vinny decides to help the “lettered organization” let’s call them the DVY—Vinny drives from Jersey- goes down south in his Cadillac and takes some TV’s. Seems KKK was a TV repairman. Vinny goes into KKK’s shop and says come around back I have some TV’s in the trunk of my car in the alley and I need some help bringing them inside. So KKK goes out to help Vinny take them out of the trunk–Vinny hits KKK over the head and throws him into the trunk and takes off. Remember I am hearing this from Tony and we are sharing a stateroom in “hotel graybar” –this gets better… so Tony goes on telling me the story. Vinny drives his Cadillac , with KKK safely stored in the trunk,out on some gravel country road in the middle of nowhere-not hard to find such a road down in the Mississippi countryside. Vinny stops and opens the trunk and KKK sees Vinny and 3 other “suits” . KKK probably thinks all are wiseguys at this point when actually only Vinny is a wiseguy-the other 3 are..well they are members of one of the fine “lettered law enforcement agencies” But again, KKK doesn’t know this and the DVY isn’t fessing up and identifying themselves, that would be counterproductive at this stage of the game. Vinny asks KKK where the bodies are, just like his associates the DVY have been doing. KKK says he doesn’t know what he is talking about-hmmmm where have we heard this statement before? Maybe someone should ask the wife of Heigis the murdered U.S. citizen and biker , the same type of question but word it like this..”where are the people who murdered MR Heigis”!
        Now Vinny asks the vital question that DVY has been asking all along but not getting answers to. Vinny asks KKK “where are the bodies”? Still no correct answer. So what does Vinny do? Vinny pulls out his piece and shoots KKK’s ear off! Then Vinny asks the million dollar question again, “where are the bodies”? Only THIS TIME KKK comes up with a location and a confession. Good work Vinny! Who cares about the victims of KKK? I am impressed with Vinny’s methods of questioning and believe the agency should consider putting this method in their training manual–nah— bad idea-they might use this method on me or you when wanting an answer to a particularly sticky question we don’t want to answer at this time sir.
        So now Vinny has a leg up or leverage on the DVY and proceeds to use the heck out of his new found fountain of secret information, such as ” tell me when Jimmy Smacks is out and about and where to catch up with him and at what time.” Well there goes Jimmy Smacks– no longer a business rival and also “take this Jimmy” for such and such you did to me. Then follows more set ups and more of Vinny’s wiseguy opponents are out of the business so to speak. And very permanently out of the business.
        Sometimes even the best sources of information can desire to put an end their helpful ways and want to finish their relationships with certain individuals. They have the right don’t they? I mean after all, where was the fine print in this contract? Did it have a loophole? Seems Vinny had a medical condition whereby he needed a lot of blood transfusions. And the lettered agency was tired of Vinny using them all the time. Why oh why didn’t Vinny take it easy and only ask the DVY secret information once in a while? Greed Greed Greed—-
        Ok- Somehow one of the bloodbags Vinny got for his much needed lifesaving blood transfusions was “tainted”
        with an extremely deadly and fast acting version of the aids virus…. Bye Bye Vinny. No more using the DVY to aid you in your personal list of hits and claiming of new profitable business territories.
        ” Disclaimer” I don’t remember the actual name of Tony or his “associate” and I know of no further information on this event or series of events and further more, this was all fabricated by me because I secretly want to be a writer of FICTION I read the story in the Ft Lauderdale Sun Sentinel and fabricated this story- That is what this is…. pure FICTION! Of course we don’t believe for a second that one of our lettered agencies would ever operate in this way. And I certainly don’t want anyone to believe that any agency of a government would do anything even remotely close to what this FABRICATED story says. Remember–this is a fabricated story from a would be crime story writer. So please do not look for me. Just goes to show you what COULD have happened if you were able to read between the lines of a published story in a well known newspaper.

  • Ken Morris

    Joanna below makes the point that struck me from the beginning, namely that the killing was personal. We know it wasn’t motivated by theft in the ordinary sense and it doesn’t appear to have been at all random. Someone wanted Mr. Heigis dead.

    The difficulty seems to be that no one knows who that was, or at least the suspects are not mentioned owing to the ongoing investigation. Compounding the difficulty is that Mr. Heigis seemed to have kept his personal affairs private. Not mentioning a marriage to your kids is a sign of a private man.

    An important point for expats to appreciate is that this doesn’t suggest that gringos in general are at risk, that Ticos don’t care about a murdered gringo, or anything like that. Insofar as there might be any lesson like this for gringos, it could be that a cultural misunderstanding allowed Mr. Heigis to unwittingly seriously piss off a Latino. It doesn’t sound like he was the kind of fellow who would do this intentionally, but maybe he did so unintentionally. Certainly someone was hopping mad, but who this was and why they were mad we don’t know. It’s possible that he didn’t know either, although this is remote speculation.

    I think he probably knew, just didn’t tell anyone.

    And yep, the wife looks like a suspect, but I’m sure OIJ knows that and has investigated, so I’m not going to badmouth her.

    It’s a puzzling case and I’m curious to know who killed him and why, but I’m sure it was personal, just don’t know which person or why.

  • joey

    Polygraph the Nicaraguan wife. She prolly knows something.

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