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Saturday, May 25 2019 @ 10:55 AM UTC

Panamanian authorities investigating Crofts murder

Expat Tales By TERRY SMITH for the Idaho Mountain Express - Police in Panama continue to investigate the shooting death last week of former Hailey resident Kim Crofts and reported Wednesday that Crofts' wife remains a suspect. "We know that, because they have no one else," said Melody Burt, a friend in Panama of Crofts' wife, Mary Austin Crofts. "They have no evidence against her or anyone else except that she was the only witness. That's standard procedure. It's what they do in the States." Crofts, a Hailey native, died of multiple gunshot wounds the evening of Friday, Sept. 12, at his home on Isla Solarte in Bocas del Toro in northeast Panama. (more)

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?

(Article Continues)

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.

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Panamanian authorities investigating Crofts murder
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, September 21 2008 @ 04:27 AM UTC

this letter is in response to the investigation and capture of the murderer of my friend, kim crofts.
i have lived in bocas del toro for the past 4 years. i met and became instant friends with kim and his wife, mary, within the first week of my moving there.
unfortunately, at the moment, i am in the states and got the horrific news of kim's murder via email. i feel absolutely helpless to assist my friends in our bocas community until i return to bocas next week.
i can do nothing more than hope and pray that anyone who reads this message passes it on to whomever is responsible for apprehending the person who so cold-bloodedly shot and killed my friend.
the police, the sherrif (by the way - who is in control of the police now that ernesto smith was fired, his secretary?), the mayor, the governadora, president torrijos, and/or any other persons with political power needs to immediatly step up to the plate and make a huge, expedient effort to capture the perpetrator of this senseless, unjustified crime. where are people getting guns and the nerve to think that they can get away with committing such a heinous murder, in such a tiny, close-knit community, anyway?
the country of panama', and most notably, bocas del toro, isla colon, has very, very suddenly become like the wild west, lawless and corrupt.
international tourism, and the slick, marketing encouragement of retirees, investors, developers, etc. has been a selling point for people to move to panama' "en-mass" over the past several years.
this one, horrible crime of kim crofts being gunned down and killed at his own home, gone uninvestigated, and unsolved will most certainly be the down-fall of the growth and popularity of panama'. touche'.
my sentiments are in memory of my friend, kim crofts and to his loving wife, mary austin crofts. what a terrible loss to us all.
may kim's life be representative of a martyr who helped to change the attitude of a government in dire need of attention to law and order.
my entire point is for the capture and just punishment for whomever is responsible, without the tempting of a monetary reward for the effort. keep in mind the golden rule and do the right thing. i believe in karma...
with a broken heart, i stay optomistic, still,
lynnie-ann english, resident of isla colon, bocas del toro, panama'