No arrests in island double murder; prime murder suspect released
Friday, July 5th, 2019
Despite having released prime murder suspect, Christian Espat for the death of island tour guide Mario Graniel and American Tourist Dr. Gary Swank, Commissioner of Police (ComPol) Chester Williams says that the investigation is producing results. Since Graniel and Swank were gunned down on June 23rd during a fly-fishing trip out at sea, Williams stated on Tuesday, July 2nd that the ongoing investigation is on the right track. He says that police have removed several weapons from the community and are still questioning people that may help them to apprehend and lay charges on the culprit(s).
Police maintain that the intended target was Graniel, due to an alleged misunderstanding he had with one of the island’s notorious gang members. The double murder has caused major concerns in the travel community and is affecting the tourism sector on the island. Many establishments have complained of cancellations and are losing precious business. These concerns were shared during a community meeting on Wednesday, June 26th, where ComPol Williams revealed that one male person was being sought for the crime. The following day, a police poster was shared by different media outlets identifying Espat as wanted for questioning.
A couple of hours after the poster went viral, Espat turned himself in to San Pedro in the company of his attorney Leeroy Banner. He was held in custody until Monday, July 1st when he was released due to lack of evidence. Head of National Crimes Investigation Branch Joseph Myvett told the media that there was not enough evidence to detain Espat any longer. Thus, he had to be released.
Espat spoke to The San Pedro Sun upon his release, proclaiming his innocence. “Every time something happens on this island, they try to blame me,” said the island fisherman. “I want the community to know that I have nothing to do with this double murder; I am trying to change my life,” Espat claims that on June 23rd when Graniel and Swank were killed, he was off the island in Benque Viejo del Carmen, and it was upon his return to the island that he found out police wanted him. He says he willingly turned himself over to police because he believes he was wrongfully accused. Espat does acknowledge that he has committed a few offenses in the past. “I am not a saint, I have done some bad stuff, but these things that they are trying to accuse me, I have nothing to do with these crimes. As you can all see, every time they remand me, I come out, because they do not have evidence against me, I am unfairly targeted.” Espat is asking for police to do their job well, to apprehend the true criminals and stop incarcerating innocent people.
Police have not released any further details of the ongoing investigation, which involves members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation from the USA.
Graniel was laid to rest on June 25th in San Pedro Town, while Dr. Swank’s life was honored on Tuesday, July 2nd at a church service in his native Virginia, USA.
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