In small groups, the search brigades scour the countryside hoping to find the remains of those being looked for, unfaltering, by their loved ones over the course of years. They are doing the work that the Mexican government, they say, is either unable or unwilling to do. PHOTOS: Jan-Albert Hootsen.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A former Colorado man suspected of murder in Costa Rica has been sentenced to three years in federal prison for passport fraud and identity theft.
William Ulmer, 49, was living in Arvada last year when he was arrested at Denver International Airport. He was about to board a plane to Hawaii to celebrate his honeymoon when agents for the U.S. Diplomatic Service arrested him.
Ulmer pleaded guilty to using his brother’s passport to fly out of Costa Rica in 2010. He landed in North Carolina where his case was prosecuted by the United States Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina in Charlotte.
In their motion for an upward sentencing departure, federal prosecutors said, “Ulmer fled Costa Rica to avoid questioning by Costa Rican law enforcement authorities regarding the disappearance and suspected murder of his then live-in girlfriend Barbara Strunkova.”
The federal judge could have given Ulmer an additional nine months in jail based on the upward sentencing motion but decided not to.
Strunkova disappeared on Dec. 5, 2010, 18 days before Ulmer fled the country. Soon after Ulmer left the country Costa Rican police discovered blood evidence and money missing from Strunkova’s bank account that pointed at Ulmer.
Diana Zimmerman is a former friend of the couple who has blogged about the case extensively.
“I think he murdered Barbara Strunkova here in Costa Rica,” Zimmerman said. "Evidence was found by the police that can really only lead to one conclusion and that is he most likely murdered her.”
Zimmerman said she’s happy Ulmer has finally been held accountable for something but adds three years in prison isn’t true justice for Strunkova's family.
“No I don't feel like they got justice. I feel like this is better than nothing which is what we had up until now, but as far as justice for Barbara no," Zimmerman said.
Court documents reveal that if Costa Rican authorities ever found Stunkova’s body, they would be prepared to charge Ulmer with murder. But unlike the United States, which will prosecute a murder without a body, Costa Rica won’t.
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