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Thursday, June 21 2018 @ 02:41 AM EDT

Police Discover Woman's Body on Isla Carenero in Panama - Possibly The Missing Yvonne Baldelli

Expat Tales By Don Winner for - This afternoon a local Panamanian resident who lives on Isla Carenero in the Bocas del Toro region of the Republic of Panama made a gruesome discovery. He came across a "green military style" backpack while collecting firewood. He thought the bag might have originally belonged to a tourist who had been the victim of a robbery, and it had been discarded in the jungle by a local thief after the valuables had been removed. But when he looked inside the bag the first thing he saw a human skull, so he left the bag where he found it and notified the authorities.

The police detectives who responded to the scene found the bag, which they described to me as a "green military style" backpack. This is potentially important because Brian Brimager is a former US Marine. There was a "skull and some of the bones" in the bag, but the investigators indicated at this point they do not think they have recovered a complete skeleton.

They said judging by the size and shape of the skull, and the fact there were some women's clothes in the bag as well, the victim was most likely a female. They secured the site, and will be returning in the morning when the sun comes up to make a more complete and thorough search of the surrounding area to look for more evidence.

It is important to point out a more complete investigation will be required in order to determine the identity of the victim with certainty. Now the authorities will be able to use DNA samples provided by Yvonne Baldelli's family members in early 2012 to either confirm or deny their suspicions they have at last found the body of Yvonne Baldelli. An investigator told me "we are operating under the presumption this is the body of a woman, based on the size and shape of the skull and the presence of the woman's clothing. We are proceeding under the assumption it could very well be the remains of Yvonne Baldelli, which will of course have to be proven through comprehensive scientific and forensic testing."

You might recall the American Yvonne Baldelli has been missing from Isla Carenero since 26 November 2011. There was an intense effort to find her remains on the island, to include special endeavours and joint missions by the Panamanian Directorate of Judicial Investigation (DIJ) working together with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the investigators and prosecutors from Panama's Public Ministry. There were repeated searches by scuba divers in the waters surrounding the island, and searches by specially trained cadaver dogs all over Isla Carenero, all to no avail. In addition there were searches organized by family members and volunteers who trudged through the swampy inner area of Isla Carenero. Yvonne Baldelli went missing, and her remains had not been found.

Prosecutors in San Diego California in the United States arrested Brian Brimager on Thursday, 27 June 2013, and charged him with crimes related to the murder investigation. They say Brimager traveled to Costa Rica and used Baldelli's ATM there to withdraw money from her account, in order to make it appear like she had left Panama and gone to Costa Rica with another man, as he claimed. He has also been charged with making false statements to federal officers who were investigating Baldelli's disappearance. The indictment against Brimager contains all of the details of what he did, and how he did it. Brimager also used Baldelli's laptop computer to send emails from Baldelli's account to her family members, in an attempt to make it seem like it was Baldelli (and not Brimager) who was sending the emails. Brimager remains in custody in the United States, and he is already facing a very long stretch in federal prison on those charges.

It's also important to point out that so far, Brian Brimager has not been charged with murder, either in Panama or in the United States. The investigators and detectives both in Panama and the United States were hesitant to press murder charges against Brimager, out of fear their case would be significantly weakened because Baldelli's remains had not been found. Obviously, if the suspicions turn out to be true and if these remains are positively identified as belonging to Yvonne Baldelli, then I would expect the Panamanian authorities will file murder charges against Brimager, sooner rather than later. But at this point it appears the decision to hold off and wait turned out to be right on the money.

Editor's Comment: I'm sure this news will be bitter-sweet for Yvonne Baldelli's friends and family members. During the course of this investigation I've gotten to know some of them very well, and they know I'm 100% in their court (God bless you guys). On a personal note, my gut tells me they've found Yvonne. Yeah, I know. That makes me a bad journalist - but I don't care. That's why my comments are here, this is just me talking now. For Yvonne's friends and family I hope they've found her, because it will give them some much needed closure, and will also help (immensely) to nail the bastard who did this. Let's see how it pans out over the next few days and weeks.

Copyright 2013

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