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Sunday, February 18 2018 @ 04:50 PM EST

Child Kidnapper Bought A House in Cerro Azul - Cash

Expat Tales

By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - David T. Matusiewicz, 41, a former optometrist from Newark, Delaware, who was captured Friday in a village near Managua, Nicaragua, and who now faces multiple felony charges in the alleged abduction of the girls in violation of a joint custody order, bought a house in the exclusive Cerro Azul neighborhood just outside of Panama City in the Republic of Panama for $175,000 dollars, reportedly paying cash. Paul Haney owns and operates Panama Canada Realty, specializing in selling properties to English speaking expatriates in the highlands of Cerro Azul. According to area residents, David Matusiewicz arrived in October 2007 and purchased a home. David, his mother Lenore, and the three girls lived in the motor home for about a month while the finishing touches were put on renovations to the home to make it inhabitable. (more)

Growing Community of Expatriates in Cerro Azul: Cerro Azul was first developed as a collection of weekend getaway homes for Panama's elite. Originally the Melo group bought much of the mountainous land to the Northeast of Panama City because the higher elevations and cooler temperatures were suitable for their business of raising chickens. They then started selling lots for weekend getaway retreats to Panama's rich, and in the 1980's owning a house or a "little chalet" in Cerro Azul became part of the standard. But, these were all weekend getaways and practically no one lived there full time. Then about ten years ago a slow trickle of English speaking expatriates started to discover Cerro Azul. They liked living relatively close to Panama City, as well as the cooler temperatures offered by living at a higher altitude. This morning when taking these photos, at 2,700 feet above sea level, it was 72 degrees Fahrenheit compared to 92 degrees in Panama city, just 20 miles away. There are now about 75 full time residents in Cerro Azul, almost all of them English speaking expatriates. They're having a toga party this weekend if you're interested.

"I'm Shocked" Real estate agent Paul Haney of Panama Canada Realty said he was "shocked" to learn David Matusiewicz and his mother Lenore had kidnapped the three girls; Laura Emily Matusiewicz, 6; Leigh Matusiewicz, 5; and Karen Rachel Matusiewicsz, 3. In fact, David Matusiewicz told Haney that he was from Vancouver, Canada. Haney makes a living by buying up the older vacation homes built years ago by rich Panamanians, doing restorations and then flipping the properties to newly arriving expatriates.

Nice Place: David Matusiewicz reportedly paid $175,000 dollars in cash for the house. He parked his 33-foot RV in front of Haney's real estate office in Cerro Azul for about a month until some remaining construction work and restorations were complete. Matusiewicz, his mother, and the three girls lived in the RV while they waited for the house to be ready. The house is two levels, about 2,200 square feet, three bedrooms, sitting on a quarter acre lot with a wonderful view of the mountains to the rear of the home.

"Altos del Torreon" The house David Matusiewicz purchased in Panama is located in a sector of the Cerro Azul development called the "Altos del Torreon." Each of the different sub divisions have names. This photo shows the road leading to the house.

"We Called Him The 'Child Kidnapper'" Rachelle Smith has been living in Cerro Azul for a number of years, and she says local residents knew something just wasn't right with David Matusiewicz from the minute he showed up to live among them. "Someone would ask about his wife and he would say 'she's back in the United States trying to sell our house' and then to the next person he would say 'she's in town taking a Spanish lesson' - his stories just didn't add up," she said. Among themselves and behind his back they called him "the child kidnapper" because they suspected something very wrong was going on with David Matusiewicz and his children. Rachelle Smith contacted Panama-Guide.com as soon as she saw the earlier article published about this case;

  • "Hello Don; I live in Los Altos Cerro Azul and just read your article on the kids that were kidnapped by their father and I couldn't believe it! I met him when he first arrived here because he came up here and bought a house. From the moment I met him I told my husband something was very suspicious about his story he told of why he had three kids with his mother. I think he fled here because several of us thought he was running from something. He told us he was from Canada and I tried to find info on kids that had been kidnapped in Canada to see if he was listed. He told everyone up here he bought the house he was living in and he has someone from here watching it for him and doing the yard still. If you want any other info here's my contact information (snip). Rachelle Smith."


A 30-Day Trip to Belize: Supposedly, when David Matusiewicz packed his three girls and his mother back into their motor home and left Panama, he told neighbors that he would be taking a "30 day trip to Belize." He was apparently arrested in Nicaragua on this trip, and area residents suspect he eventually expected to return to Panama. Inside of the house there are children's toys, drawings on the walls, and furniture. The house is locked up, and Paul Haney's son Adam has been taking care of the place, cutting the grass and keeping an eye on things.

Playground in the Backyard: The house has a playground in the backyard with a swing set and "teeter-totters" that look like they've been there for a long time. There's also a spectacular view of the mountains from the back of the house and the backyard.

Dropping a Dime: I spoke to U.S. Marshal David Thomas this afternoon. He was quoted in an earlier AP article about the arrest of David Matusiewicz and his mother Lenore in Nicaragua earlier this week. Since Matusiewicz reportedly forged some paperwork to get a home equity loan before fleeing the United States, I thought they might be interested in the house in Cerro Azul. I also contacted reporters from the News Journal in Delaware, a local paper that's been covering this story. And, I also suppose Christine Belford's attorney's might be interested in the house in Cerro Azul, considering it was her signature David Matusiewicz forged to get the money for this house. Now investigators in the US and Panama will probably do the forensics on the property purchase, figure out the details, and decide how best to proceed.

Copyright 2008 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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