Panamanian authorities investigating Crofts murder
Friday, September 19 2008 @ 06:27 PM UTC
Contributed by: Don Winner
Editor's Comment: For the most part Terry Smith quoted me very accurately in this article. There are only a couple of minor points I would like to correct. I think where he said "international hit" Terry actually meant to write "intentional hit" which is what I said, and what he wrote later in the article. In fact, I am simply speculating that possibly Kim Crofts was not shot by someone whose intention was robbery. If someone is going to enter your house with a gun to rob you, they tend to stand there, hold you at gunpoint, and steal your stuff. This whole "running away while shooting thing" just doesn't work.
Also, I did 20 years in the Air Force (not 21). When I said the thing about getting shot five times with a .22 caliber pistol, that was specifically in terms of being out there on Isla Solarte. People get shot five times with a .22 pistol in Curundu all the time and live because they are within an easy ambulance ride to the Santo Tomas hospital in Panama City. Out there on an island you will bleed out before you can get into the operating room, and that's what happened to Kim Crofts. I don't know where the closest operating room or trauma center is, but I doubt there is one on Isla Colon. Anyone from Bocas - where's the closest trauma center that can operate on a gunshot victim?
Eduardo Lim Yueng, a spokesman for the National Police of Panama, said his agency was not conducting the investigation, but provided a written response on Wednesday to a query from the Idaho Mountain Express.
"The only witness in Kim Crofts' case is his wife," Lim Yueng stated. "According to Mrs. Crofts," he wrote, she and Kim heard "a noise on their backyard and went down to check out what's going on. Mrs. Crofts saw a native with a gun and he is the person who shot five times to Mr. Crofts." He said Mary Austin Crofts is the "only witness" and the DA's office is "still talking with her about the facts."
"Nothing was stolen from the house," he wrote, adding that he believes there is still a possibility that authorities "will order a gunpowder test to her hands."
Burt, who was provided with a copy of the Lim Yueng response, declined to be specific but said some of the information is not accurate. She said the investigation is being conducted by the Judicial Technical Police, commonly referred to as the PTJ.
Meanwhile, an investigative journalist in Panama said Crofts' murder appears to be an "international hit" rather than a botched robbery.
"I've investigated numerous robberies in Panama and never once have I seen a case where they walked in and shot the gringo," said Don Winner, who publishes Panama Guide, an online English language news source about Panama.
A former New York state resident, Winner has lived in Panama City for 21 years. He described himself as a weapons expert with 21 years service in the U.S. Air Force, five of them in Special Forces.
Winner said a .22 caliber pistol, the type of weapon reportedly used to kill Crofts, is a weapon commonly used in execution-type slayings in the region.
"You get shot five times with a .22, you're dead," he said.
He also finds it difficult to believe that Crofts was shot while pursuing an intruder who was firing back as he fled.
"A guy running away shooting over his shoulder just doesn't make sense," Winner said. "I don't think I could even do that and I have extensive weapons training."
Winner said it looks more likely that Crofts was killed by a "trained shooter."
He said the fact that the Crofts' dog died a few days before Crofts was killed also supports the possibility that it was an "intentional hit."
"It's common to poison the dogs before a break-in," he said.
He pointed out that if Crofts was killed intentionally, that doesn't imply that murder was politically motivated or the result of illegal activities. He said murders sometimes occur in the region out of revenge for what people in the U.S. would consider minor reasons.
"Possibly, he could have offended some dude a year or so earlier," Winner said. "In building a house in Panama, you have to deal with a lot of people who might not comply with your expectations. It's very frustrating to get things done here.
"All you have to do is piss someone off and they'll hire someone to shoot you for $500," Winner said. "The average monthly wage here is only $400. Sometimes, it's an ex-cop or even an active duty cop who's looking to pick up an extra $500."
Winner said the crime rate in Panama is not any worse than in the U.S. In fact, in Bocas del Toro, he said, violent crime is somewhat unusual and is less frequent than in most parts of the United States.
"When I look at the information on Kim Crofts, there's just a lot of things that don't add up," he said. "There's so many different ways that this could have went down."
The Crofts had lived in Panama for four years. Mary Austin Crofts is the former executive director of the Blaine County Recreation District.
"Isla Solarte is a small island with few people living there," Lim Yueng wrote. "Usually natives from small islands around do the housekeeping."
Express staff writer Greg Moore contributed to this report.