Children missing; business burned; local psychic didn’t predict charge
It’s day eight and the disappearance of two siblings from San Marcos, Toledo remains a mystery. Since Monday police have been scouring the area, but up to news time, there are still no solid leads as to what could have happened to Onelia and Benjamin Rash, two school aged children who went missing on August thirtieth. On Sunday, a group of angry villagers set ablaze a crocodile sanctuary owned by a US couple. This was fuelled by telltale predictions from a local psychic who has now been charged. The focus of the search for the Rash children has shifted to the arson of the sanctuary and the story has caught the attention of the international media. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.
Isani Cayetano, Reporting
The ruins of what was once a million dollar investment developed to protect local crocodile species a few miles northeast of Punta Gorda Town remains under heavy police and military guard. The American Crocodile Education Sanctuary, founded by Vincent and Cherie Rose, was reduced to ashes on Sunday by a gang of angry villagers in search of two missing children. The busload of men armed with rifles and machetes entered the property on the advice of a soothsayer. Despite not finding Benjamin and Oneila Rash they set the place ablaze. The oracle however, has since led many to believe that the Roses absconded from the United States as fugitives of the law. Vincent Rose has flatly denied those allegations.
Vincent Rose, Owner, ACES
“We didn’t move here running away from something. We came here to help and to build a beautiful education facility and tourism facility for Toledo and that’s where we chose to move and build it all.”
But Rose did not get to enjoy the fruits of his labor. Instead he has been tried in the court of public opinion for allegedly abducting the children to feed his crocodiles. Rumors of his hatred for children have been spreading throughout the village of San Marcos like wildfire.
Marcos Choc, Resident, San Marcos Village
“Well I’m a tour guide and I work with these people and I spoke to Vince and Vince is a guy [who] told me that he hates children, he hates kids right. So that is why I’m putting my; I’m saying that he’s the one doing it.”
Furthermore Rose has been found guilty by a jury of his peers for committing that crime simply based on a psychic reading.
“It’s the stupidest thing you ever heard of and so is how that [uh], how it came to be. I guess it came from a psychic?”
That woman, forty-two year old Delfina Alvarez, has since been arrested and charged by Punta Gorda Police for the crime of pretending to be a fortune teller. She has pleaded not guilty and was granted bail in the sum of one thousand, five hundred dollars. The fine however, does not compare to the damage that has been done to Rose’s lifelong investment.
“They misunderstood everything. They went on a wrong tangent and went against the law and as far as I’m concerned all they’ve done is done a terrorist act in your country Belize.”
The callousness with which the villagers destroyed Rose’s property has completely eclipsed the ongoing search effort to locate the missing children. Today makes a week and a day and they have not returned home. Assisting Punta Gorda police every step of the way is Senator Pulcheria Teul.
Senator Pulcheria Teul, Exec. Dir. Toledo Maya Women’s Council
“We have been working since Thursday morning with the police here in Punta Gorda [Uhm] especially with Mr. Mariano, the superintendent. We have also made visits to the family in San Marcos in trying to give some comfort to the family and some reassurance that we will do everything possible to recover the children.”
Those efforts are yet to prove successful. Punta Gorda police, over the past forty-eight hours have arrested and detained one individual whom they say had photographs of Benjamin and Oneila Rash on the day they went missing. Further investigation however, could not confirm his involvement in their disappearance. He has since been released.
The burning question for most has to be the reason why these children were allowed to venture twelve miles away from home to sell fruits.
Pedro Rash, Father of Missing Children
“Well, I told them already, I told their mother that they don’t have to go again because school would be open Wednesday. I told them start to prepare and pack your books but kids like they usually go from the market and sell noh. But that is just the second time they come off from Hopeville and sell.”
Punta Gorda Police are investigating both the disappearance of nine year old Oneila and Benjamin Rash as well as the arson of American Crocodile Education Sanctuary separately and no closer to finding the children or the suspected arsonists. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.
Cherie Rose was vice president of the local Belize Tourism Industry Association chapter but resigned after she and her husband were forced to leave the Toledo District following death threats by angry villagers. The B.T.I.A. today issued a press release expressing its unity with the Roses. As such, the organization has established an account at the Belize Bank to assist in providing financial support for the displaced family. Anyone wishing to make a donation can do so by making a deposit to Belize Bank account number 630-1-1-10130, the “Vince and Cherie Rose Fire Victim” account.