Wednesday 20 February 2013

Authorities suspect possible “crime of passion” in murder of American in El Salvador

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The murder of an American last Saturday, February 16, in San Isidro, El Salvador, remains unsolved, but authorities are suspecting the involvement of his young wife’s ex-boyfriend.

Michael James Brown, 53, was ambushed around 8:30 pm – 9pm on a country road in the village of San Isidro within the municipality of Izalco, Sonsonate.

He was killed by a group of 8-10 people who shot him at close range. His Salvadorian wife, Nury Aquino, 23, was injured but survived the attack. Speculation has swirled around Aquino, the key witness, as she was clearly spared.

Brown had just returned to El Salvador from the United States on February 12. When killed, he was driving a rental car along with Aquino on a coffee farm. Brown was shot an estimated five times in the upper body and head.

Aquino spoke out on Radio Impacto to give her version of events. She said that masked men dressed in clothing similar to that worn by the country’s national police flagged their vehicle down. Brown, thinking that it was a checkpoint, stopped, whereupon one man shot him in the neck.

“Michael told me to run,” she said. “I took the wheel and the car accelerated, but I fell, and asked the men not to shoot me, throwing my bag at them and telling them to take it.”

Aquino specifically rejected the theory that a jealous ex-boyfriend was behind the attack. She said authorities had insisted she take a lie detector test before releasing her husband’s body. This has been denied by the chief prosecutor, Herberth Herrera, who said they had been waiting for her to retrieve her husband’s remains, but she didn’t show up.

Outside of the “crime of passion” hypothesis, Salvadoran authorities do not have a clear motive for the crime. The attackers apparently hid among the coffee trees and were waiting specifically for Brown and his wife. Given that $1,500 remained behind at the scene, police are reluctant to believe that robbery was a motive. A gang connection is possible, but the investigation has come up with no concrete connection.

According to Salvadorian authorities, Brown and his wife were frequently travelling back and forth between the United States and El Salvador. 

The murder follows the January 23 travel warning issued by the State Department of the United States. The warning notes that in 2011 El Salvador had the second highest murder rate in the world, and that it is uncertain how solid is a 2012 truce between El Salvador’s two principal street gangs.

As well, in March 2012, as a result of an administrative review of the security situation, Peace Corps El Salvador substantially reduced the number of its volunteers in country.

A total of 22 U.S. citizens have been murdered in El Salvador since January 2010.

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

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