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Two arrested in killing of American lawyer in Venezuela

The main entrance of the Vista Real building complex, where John Ralston Pate (inset), was found dead on Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015. (Photos: Main, AP Photo/Fernando Llano; inset, via De Sola Pate & Brown)

The main entrance of the Vista Real building complex, where John Ralston Pate (inset), was found dead on Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015. (Photos: Main, AP Photo/Fernando Llano; inset, via De Sola Pate & Brown)

Two men have been arrested in the killing of an American lawyer who was living in an affluent neighborhood in Caracas.

Venezuela’s Attorney General, Luisa Ortega Díaz announced on Tuesday during her weekly radio show that Juan Carlos Pimentel Pacheco, 24, and Antoni José Rodríguez Moreno, 26 have been arrested in connection with the killing of John Ralston Pate, 70.

In what appears to have been an attempted robbery or kidnapping that went wrong, Pate and his girlfriend, the 67-year-old Sally Elizabeth Evans, were attacked at the Vista Real building in the Lomas de San Ramón neighborhood of the city and stabbed repeatedly.

A website affiliated with the government of President Nicolás Maduro, Aporrea.org, said a third man had also been detained in connection with the Pate case but did not name him.

Opposition groups have complained repeatedly that police make arrests only in high-profile cases, such as Pate’s and that of former beauty queen Monica Spear last year. According to official figures, only 8 percent of all cases are cleared.

Ortega said Pimentel and Rodríguez will be arraigned Wednesday.

Friends and neighbors are still stunned about the attack, saying that nothing like it had been seen in the neighborhood before and that Pate and Evans seemed like the unlikeliest people to be targeted for such violence.

“I lived right next to him,” a young, blond neighbor who for security reasons preferred to be identified only by his first name, Facundo, told Fox News Latino. “No scandal, never. This is not the type of crime you see around here.”

The Vista Real complex includes 30 apartments, a pool and 25 video cameras on the premises. It would seem that at least one would have recorded an image of the assailants.

The building’s plumber, who would only identify himself as Enrique, told FNL, “It’s a disgrace, you rob a man, take whatever you want, but you don’t kill him. Not like that, inside his house.”

The presence of the security cameras and the fact that Evans survived the attack with a punctured lung, would indicate that Caracas police may have some leads they could pursue, but last week, they had set up roadblocks on the street leading to the Vista Real. Cars were being stopped and searched and drivers had to show ID.

An unusual display of security in this well-off section of the city.

“This is the first time we see something like this in this building, I would dare say the neighborhood,” a balding man entering the building who requested anonymity, told FNL. He characterized Pate as a quiet man, who “would arrive late, leave early.”

Pate was a partner at the firm of De Sola Pate & Brown specializing in corporate law. Most of his clients were foreign firms who wanted to do business in Venezuela. Sources confirm that he had done some consulting on behalf of the U.S. embassy.

Pate moved to Venezuela in the early 1970s, where his son, Thomas, was born and raised.

Rosa, a cleaning lady from Colombia, told FNL that she would see Pate leaving the Vista Real in the morning, as he was headed to work.

“I would say ‘hola’ to him, he would say ‘hola’ to me,” Rosa told FNL. She said that she would see Pate leaving the building early in the morning, heading to work.

It was the very picture of a normal, upper-middle-class life. At least until a savage attack ended it.

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Carlos Camacho is a freelance writer based in Caracas. You can follow him @carloselpana.

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