Investigation ongoing in the murder of Mirza Morales; believed to have ties to the 2019 San Pedro Double Murder

Tuesday, May 30th, 2023

Former San Pedro resident, 31-year-old Mirza Morales, was murdered at her business establishment, La Casona Restaurant and Bar, at El Progresso (Seven Miles) in the Cayo District over the weekend. According to police reports, the incident seems to have been a targeted attack, as no signs of a robbery were observed. Before relocating from San Pedro Town, Morales was the partner of tour guide Mario Graniel who, along with American tourist Dr. Gary Swank, was shot dead during a fly-fishing trip.

Mirza Morales

The unexpected attack on Morales is believed to be a hit. The official police report stated that on Saturday, May 27th, at about 9:15PM, Morales was inside her kitchen washing dishes when a male person suddenly approached her and fired several shots in her direction. Police responded to the scene at about 9:24PM. Morales was then transported to the Western Regional Hospital, where she was pronounced dead on arrival. Police say they have detained several persons of interest who they not only believe can provide information on Morales’ assassination, but may also have been involved in the Graniel/Swank double murder.
At a press briefing on Monday, May 29th, the Commissioner of Police (ComPol) Chester Williams, said that Christian Espat is being sought for questioning. Police believe that the same people behind Graniel’s and Dr. Swank’s murders are the ones responsible for killing Morales. ComPol Williams indicated that narcotics may have been the motive of the crime, among other factors. According to them, the investigation suggests Morales was murdered by someone who knew her well.
The 2019 double murder in San Pedro
On June 23, 2019, Graniel and Swank were out at sea on a private fishing tour at sea. The official police report stated that after responding to a distress call on the western coast of San Pedro Town, they found Graniel’s lifeless body inside a purple and black boat with the registered name ‘Johnnie G.’ A short distance from the boat, Swank’s body was found floating face down. The police report further stated that both persons were found with multiple gunshot wounds to the body. After Graniel and Swank were pronounced dead at the Dr. Otto Rodriguez San Pedro Polyclinic II, the bodies were later transported to a morgue in Belize City.

Dr. Gary Swank and Mario Graniel

At the time, Commissioner of Police (ComPol) Chester Williams maintained that the intended target was Graniel due to an alleged misunderstanding with one of the island’s notorious gang members. It was alleged that Morales was having an affair with the said gang member, and Graniel had confronted him. Police reported that two days before the double murder, there was a shooting incident at Graniel’s home in the Boca del Rio Area. Following the shooting at Graniel’s residence, police temporarily detained several suspects but claimed an official complaint was never made at the police station, and hence they were released.
As the investigation continued, Espat, who is no stranger to police, handed himself over to police upon learning that he was being sought for the double murder. At the time, allegations emerged that he was involved with Mirza Morales, but he was later released from the San Pedro Police Station due to a lack of evidence.
Months later, the double murder investigation went cold in February 2020. ComPol Williams stated that the main suspect was believed to have been killed in Guatemala. He explained that as they closed on the suspect, he went missing from the western town of Benque Viejo del Carmen. ComPol said he understood that he had been taken across the border and murdered in Guatemala. The case, however, remains open for future investigations.


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