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Colombian murder case sees little development since 2002 indictments


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POSTED: Sunday, November 29, 2009

QUESTION: What ever happened to the six men indicted in 2002 in the United States in the gunshot slaying in Colombia of Hawaii resident Lahe'ena'e Gay and two other Americans?

; ANSWER: The U.S. State Department deferred to the U.S. Justice Department about discussing the case, and Justice spokeswoman Laura Sweeney declined comment about the status of the indictments involving the killing of Gay, 41, Terence Freitas, 24, and Ingrid Washinawatok, 41.

The three were on an education mission to Colombia at the request of the Uwa tribe in 1999 when they were kidnapped and killed by Fuerzas Armada Revolutionarias de Colombia rebels.

Six rebels were indicted in the killings by a Washington, D.C., grand jury in 2002, and extradition was being considered for them.

Ali El-Issa, Washinawatok's husband, said the Justice Department told him three years ago that one of the men had been captured and brought to Washington, D.C., and held for a year. El-Issa said, according to a Justice Department official, the prosecution was unable to move forward and had to release the suspect.

“;They told me they don't have the witnesses. We lost them,”; recalled El-Issa. “;I told the guy, 'In the U.S. we have a witness protection program. How come we cannot have the witness protection program protect them? How come you didn't bring the witnesses to the U.S. to protect them?'”;

El-Issa said the Justice official told him there was a chance the suspects would be imprisoned in Colombia without needing the witnesses because the system of justice was different there.

El-Issa said he heard how the man had been caught in a bar in Colombia telling people how he had killed the Americans.

“;I was very upset,”; El-Issa said about learning that the man would be returning to Colombia. “;I told them not to call me again.”;

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This update was written by Star-Bulletin reporter Gary T. Kubota. You can write us at What Ever Happened to… Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana, Suite 7-210, Honolulu 96813; call 529-4747; or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).