Minister: Tourist shouldn’t expect special treatment
Suzan Benzle Boutz
Still on the police, the family of a businesswoman from Chattanooga, Tennessee, is accusing the department of corruption. The woman came to Belize in December for a three week Christmas vacation with her family. But she is getting an extended stay because she is facing two charges following a traffic accident at the junction of the Southern Highway and the Placencia Road. Suzan Benzle Boutz’ story has been posted on the internet with her version of events which gives the police department a black eye. She owns a company that specializes in religious jewelry and textiles. News Five Delahnie Bain reports.
Delahnie Bain, Reporting
The family of sixty year old Suzan Benzle Boutz has returned to the US after a visit to the jewel. Suzan was involved in a traffic incident in the south which ash led to her detention, arrest and the surrender of her passport to prevent her from leaving Belize until the conclusion of her case for two traffic offences. Her son, Elliott Benzle, has posted a website called Belize Travel Review with a large banner at the top, saying “Warning Do Not Travel to Belize”. The site carries their version of the accident, which according to Susan and her son, was not her fault. They claim Susan was driving a rented Daihatsu Terrios at about six-forty-five on December twentieth. She stopped at the junction of the Placencia Road and the Southern Highway and that’s when, Rony Cruz, who was travelling on a motorcycle, allegedly swerved into the wrong lane, and slammed into the vehicle. The impact flung him over the SUV before he landed on the pavement. Cruz is also said to have hit his head on the windshield during the collision.
Susan’s son alleges that after the accident, Independence Police refused to take statements from willing eyewitnesses and one was later threatened. In her own statement on the website, Susan says she was held for eighteen hours at the police station before she was given any information about the charges or was allowed to contact an attorney. She further states that she slept on a bare concrete floor and was taunted by officers on duty that night. She has been charged with Negligent Grievous Harm and Driving Without Due Care and Attention. As for the website, Susan’s son says it will be removed as soon as his mother is allowed to leave the country. Delahnie Bain for News Five.
Boutz pleaded not guilty to the two charges and despite requests for a speedy trial, she goes back to court on January twenty-seventh; more than a month after the accident. Meanwhile, Rony Cruz has been treated for his injuries and released from the hospital.
We asked Minister of Police, Doug Singh, to comment on the matter and he says Boutz cannot expect special treatment just because she is a tourist.
“I am not aware of the details of the case. It is something that I am going to get up on. It is my understanding from the information I am receiving thus far; I am not getting this from official sources simply because I have not asked. It seems like this lady expects to be treated differently. She was detained and released. Her passport has been held because she is a flight risk and until the matter is dealt with by the court, because anybody who hit somebody is an illegal act in any country and she can’t expect to be treated any differently from any Belizean. In other words, she is not being treated any differently and there is no obligation to do so. It’s not just a simply matter; it is a matter of harm to somebody else. It is an accident—accidents happen.”
An American woman who is in a tourist in Belize has become the source of some controversy as her family in the states say police took her passport and don't want to give it back.
It started with a traffic accident that occurred three weeks ago on the Southern highway at the Placencia junction.
The sender of the emails, US National Elliot Boutz, son of sixty year old Suzan Benzle Boutz, who was involved in the accident has made several allegations against the police department. Elliot Boutz claimed that his mother was left to sleep on the ground after being detained. He went on to say that her passport was also taken away and they were treated unfairly by the police in Independence.
Boutz was travelling with his mother Suzan, who was driving when she crashed into thirty nine year old Rony Robert Cruz. Cruz who was unconscious at the time was transported to the hospital and Boutz was detained by the police. According to Assistant Commissioner of Police, Mike Segura, Boutz was detained and charged with "driving with due care and attention" and "negligent grievous harm" as doctor classified Cruz's injuries as maim. Because Cruz was still unconscious, when Boutz appeared in court the Magistrate ordered that she surrender her documents as per procedure.
Segura went on to say that, police investigations reveal that Boutz was at fault in the accident because she failed to give way to traffic. In responding to allegations that Boutz was left to sleep on the floor, the police deny that because they said she was allowed to sit on a detention bench and was even loaned a quilt while she had her son stay with her.
We also contacted, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and we were told that Boutz was released on the 21st when she was charged and granted bail. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs went on to say that the police report stated that she was allowed to contact her family, U.S Embassy and was also told she can get a lawyer if she wished to.
Elliot Boutz takes a different view and has started an internet campaign against Belizean authorities, claiming that they have been roughly and unjustly handed and that their case has been sabotaged.
Most serious in all this is a website with the headline, quote: " Belize Review: Warning Do Not Travel to Belize".
A note on the site states, quote: "I will take this site down as soon as Mrs. Boutz has her passport back and is safely out of the country…"
Police investigations are ongoing.