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Jul 30, 2007

Shotgun ambush kills St. Margaret’s farmer

Story PictureThey say that if somebody really wants to kill you, at some point they are going to succeed. That’s what seems to have been the case over the weekend when the quiet of a country lane was shattered by the blast of a shotgun. News Five’s Janelle Chanona has the story.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting
Around eight-thirty on Sunday morning, fifty-four year old Isabel “Chabelo” Sandoval was shot in the face and right shoulder at close range. He died before reaching the Western Regional Hospital in Belmopan.

Sandoval was a citrus and cattle farmer in Santa Martha Village (also known as St. Margaret’s Village) and at the time of the shooting, he was heading to his ranch located near the Five Blues National Park.

Today Belmopan police returned to the scene to search for more clues. According to lead investigator Sgt. Sinquest Martinez, so far his team has uncovered more questions than answers.

Sergeant Sinquest Martinez, Lead Investigator
“It’s pretty young. Information has been coming, but not as much as we expected so we need to go back into the village, do some further interviews and then from there we could work from.”

Janelle Chanona
“Have you been able to determine if there were any threats against Mr. Sandoval?”

Sgt. Sinquest Martinez
“Well what has been mentioned to us is one threat and we are working on that likewise.”

But what officers have learnt is that the attacker was intimately aware of their victim’s movements. Instead of ambushing Sandoval along the overgrown road, the gunman positioned himself opposite the farm’s cement loading bin and used a tree branch to block the entrance. When the green pickup truck approached the scene, Sandoval was sitting in the front passenger seat with the window down. Two workers in the pan of the vehicle jumped out to clear the debris from the road, but the shooter had already taken aim with a shotgun. The first shots found their mark, but some of the pellets also hit Sandoval’s driver. Realizing they were under the attack, the driver sped further up the road, made a quick U-turn, and headed to the hospital. Griselia Majelia Castro, who was sitting in the back seat escaped unhurt. This morning, she told us she has no idea who would want her common-law husband dead.

Griselia Majelia Castro, Victim’s Common-Law Wife [Translated from Spanish]
“The truth is that I don’t know if he had any enemies or friends. Whenever we spoke we talked about work, he never told me if he had any friends or enemies.”

Janelle Chanona
“Did he say anything after the incident?”

Griselia Majelia Castro
“No, he didn’t say anything after the incident occurred. We just turned around and headed to the hospital. We didn’t talk at all.”

While Sandoval was being rushed to hospital, it is believed the gunman used this picado to disappear into the bush.

John Bustillos, Former Village Chairman
“Mr. Sandoval death will not come to light…will not. But people know who killed him, people know who killed him.”

According to Juan Bustillos, Santa Martha’s former village chairman, who also happens to be a former police officer, the contract killer who murdered Isabel Sandoval will never be caught because none of the villagers will tell investigators what they know.

John Bustillos
“If they hurt them, they stay with it. They will not talk.”

Janelle Chanona
“Because they are afraid of what?”

John Bustillos
“No, no, that is their mind…in born. They are just like that. If they kill you now, they will just go about their business and it done. They will not talk, they will not tell the police nothing. That is their mind.”

Bustillos says he has conducted his own investigation into the killing and claims that the general consensus is that the violence was caused by a dispute over money between Sandoval and a former employee.

John Bustillos
“People are saying it’s because Mr. Sandoval is the guy that ill-treat workers; that’s what they are saying, but I cannot believe that. Mr. Sandoval was the guy who have money, treat people alike, it’s just envy. They kill Mr. Sandoval for envy, envy. He was a guy that really put effort in his work.”

Isabel Sandoval’s body remains at the Western Regional hospital pending a post mortem examination. Reporting for News Five, I am Janelle Chanona.

Other unsolved murders that have occurred in Santa Martha village include Roy Reid, who was killed as he slept in his hammock outside the Over the Top restaurant and bar. Approximately ten years ago, Vicente Munejia and his son were also shot and killed as they drove their motorcycle towards Five Blues Lake.

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