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 NEWS
Saturday 03 May 2003


3 face trial in slaying of KU student

Costa Rica: Judge says trial will be held this month in death of woman who had been studying abroad A judge on Friday ordered two men and a woman to stand trial on premeditated murder charges in the slaying of Shannon Martin, a University of Kansas biology student who was stabbed to death two years ago in Costa Rica.

Pedro Irigonegaray, a Topeka lawyer representing Martin's mother, Jeanette Stauffer, said he was pleased that the three would be tried.

"We hope justice will be served," Irigonegaray said during a telephone interview Friday in Topeka.

Martin, a 1996 graduate of Shawnee Heights High School, went to Costa Rica in 2000 as part of a study-abroad program, then returned one week before she was to graduate to gather more specimens of a tree-dwelling fern she was researching.

Shannon Martin

Martin was 23 years old when she was stabbed to death around midnight on May 13, 2001, while walking from a bar to her host family's home in the town of Golfito, 190 miles south of San Jose, the capital.

Last month, prosecutors filed murder charges against Kattia Cruz, 28; Rafael Zumbado Quesada, 48; and Luis Carrillo Castro, 38.

After hearing prosecutors' evidence during a preliminary hearing Tuesday, Judge Daniel Moran said all three defendants should be tried for conspiring to kill Martin.

Defense attorneys had portrayed Cruz as the trio's ringleader, hoping the judge would decide that Zumbado Quesada and Carrillo Castro should face lesser charges. Costa Rica doesn't have the death penalty, but a premeditated murder conviction carries a prison term of more than 20 years.

Moran left it up to court administrators to determine a trial date, but said proceedings must begin before May 23, the last day authorities can detain Cruz if her trial hasn't begun.

Jeanette Stauffer was in court for the preliminary hearing but left Costa Rica earlier this week. She and other family members plan to return for the trial, said Edrick Martinez, the case's lead prosecutor.

Irigonegaray -- who said he has spent hundreds of hours working on the case free of charge with help from his partners, Elizabeth Herbert and Bob Eye -- said he isn't licensed to practice law in Costa Rica but also plans to be on hand for the trial.

Moran refused to allow Stauffer to take the stand during the preliminary hearing, ruling that her testimony was irrelevant. Martin's mother is offering a reward of up to $50,000 to anyone who has information about the killing.


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