There was a vicious murder on the island of San Pedro, Ambergris Caye in the early hours of Saturday morning. Twenty-five year old Byron Estrada was stabbed multiple times as he socialized at a local club; he succumbed to his injuries soon after. At first glance it would appear to be a random murder unconnected to the criminal underworld of gangs and drugs in Belize, but we found out, there might be much more going on than what meets the eye. Carla Bradley has that story from San Pedro.
Carla Bradley, Reporting
Twenty-five year old Byron Estrada spent the last few hours of his life hanging out with friends here at Daddy Rock Night Club, a popular after hours spot in San Pedro. There are no reports of any altercation or bar fight inside, but still the boat captain was the victim of a vicious attack as he used the bathroom at the club just after three-thirty that morning.
Supt. Luis Castellanos, O.C., San Pedro Police
“We received information that apparently the person entered…the victim entered into the bathroom and while inside the bathroom he was stabbed. He came out while the disco was still in function and ran toward the bar where he collapsed. There persons assisted him and took him downstairs. So it happened very quickly and so it doesn’t reveal like it’s a fight. Apparently he just entered and he was stabbed inside the bathroom.”
Pricilla Espat, Mother of Murder Victim
“In the morning my sister-in-law, Juaquina Santoya, told me that a thin woman who sells food near Big Daddy’s told her to call me because my son had been stabbed and that he was badly injured. She said that the police weren’t coming fast enough and that they arrived an hour after. My son was covered in blood. And they told me that when the police got there they just picked up his body and threw it in the back of the truck. They had no compassion.”
When Police responded they found Estrada bleeding badly from the neck, chest and back. He was transported to the San Pedro Polyclinic but was pronounced dead at four-thirty-two. Superintendent Castellanos says he personally counted at least twenty-two stab wounds on the body. The location chosen for the killing, the fact that there was no altercation in the club prior to the attack and the degree of viciousness seem to point to premeditation, which is an angle being pursued by the Police.
“They are saying that my son was involved with drugs. And I told them to go and check the room where he lives because my son is no drug dealer. Because they have been saying that since I got there. That is not the case, he is not like that. My son worked, my son was threatened that same day he was killed. My son declared everything.”
Supt. Luis Castellanos
“The family of Estrada is alleging that there was some confrontation earlier the morning, however they did not make an official report. It’s after the fact that we understand there was some threat or some altercation between some persons. Officially she mentioned it afterwards. They didn’t make an official report to that effect.”
“When I went to speak with the inspector, you know what he said to me? He said that we were living off drug money. My sons worked; if my sons go fishing, the police want to hurt them, the other fishermen, everyone wants to hurt them. My sons took care of me financially. My sons never went out; they couldn’t go out because their lives were threatened by that man.”
Supt. Luis Castellanos
“We brought a person for questioning, and like I said the person who would have been the virtual complainant is now deceased so to verify his version…it would be difficult for us to say…he would have been the one to say yes this person threatened me. So it would be difficult for us to confirm that the person we detained, a minor, indeed carried out that threat.”
San Pedro Police have some persons detained, one of them with what appears to be blood on his clothing, but are awaiting the results of a forensic examination to determine if it is indeed blood. But all that is little comfort to the mother of Byron Estrada, who has lost two sons to violence. On June eight, twenty-twelve the decomposed body of her younger son, eighteen year old Charlie Espat, was found buried in the village of Santa Martha on the old Northern Highway.
“I cannot bear with this pain they have caused on me. This will make two sons that they have killed. Charlie Espat and Byron and you know? It is not fair, because the law does nothing.”
And while Police continue to investigate the gruesome murder, this mother prepares to bury her second son lost to violence. Carla Bradley for News Five.
The official release from the Police Department states that Estrada was killed by a dark-complexioned man who followed him into the bathroom. This evening, thirty-three year old Edward Barahona of the Escalante Area of San Pedro was charged for the murder of Estrada.
A Swan song for a beleaguered family
The murder of twenty-five year old boat captain Byron Estrada came as a shock to his mother, but she is certainly no stranger to tragedy and no stranger to violent death and allegations that those deaths are drug related. When the dots are connected, a picture emerges linking the touristy tropical island of San Pedro to the gang underworld of Belize City. This story takes us back to June 2012, when the bodies of two young men were found in shallow graves. Charlie Espat is Estrada’s younger brother who along with his cousin Edwardo Alamilla were murdered and buried in the grave. Carla Bradley reports.
Carla Bradley, Reporting
On June eighth, twenty twelve the decomposed bodies of eighteen year old Charlie Espat and his seventeen year old cousin Edwardo Daniel Alamilla were found buried in a shallow grave in the village of Santa Martha off the old Northern Highway. Reports are that the duo had come in from San Ignacio en route to their home in San Pedro, but never reached. Instead, they allegedly visited a home on George Street and that is where communications ceased. A younger brother of deceased, Charlie Espat, told the media that he was with his brother and cousin when they started receiving texts from somebody who told them to come to a residence on the Northern Highway where they would be given some money. According to the younger brother, he told them not to go and when they wouldn’t listen he jumped out the vehicle. That was the last time he saw his brother and cousin alive.
Voice of: Brother of Charlie Espat (File: June 11th, 2012)
“They mi di plan fi go yonder dah Patrick Swan house weh Eric Swan mi deh. And they mi gwen meet wah friend dah the boat terminal too weh gone missing. And the bredda dehn mi di try find dehn, but dehn neva find them, they only find my two bredda dah Santa Marta. But dehn mi di plan fi go yonder dah fi dehn house. And then I jump off of the vehicle and then I gone dah di boat terminal and right there so I gone fi go dah San Pedro and then I tell my parents that my bredda and my cousin dehn gone dah Patrick Swan house. My pa get worried and then ih start call my cousin and then my cousin tell ahn dehn okay. But I know dehn neva okay because dehn mi done threaten fi kill dehn. That’s why I exit the vehicle or not I mi wah deh right pan the graveyard with them right now. None ah we neva mi deh di talk, we just mi di go along di follow the road. But after that when we done di reach around Belmopan, I start tell my bredda why he gwen deh so when dehn done threaten he. And then he tell me mek I noh worry because everything straight with he and this and that. And I just left them. I think ina my mind that Eric Swan sweet up my cousin and then my cousin sweet up my bredda and then dehn get along fu go dah Belize City. But I done know the report weh my pa give to the police dehn; that can’t go missing like that.”
In her interview after the murder of Byron Estrada, Pricilla Espat alleges that she and her family have been threatened by a man she identified as Eric Swan. She wants to see him face to face.
Pricilla Espat, Mother of Deceased
“That man wants my sons. He wants me and my children and said that one by one we will die. That is what he said. And you know I can assure you here, because that was what he said. I don’t know what he has against us, but in reality—I don’t know. I noh owe he nothing.”
John Paul Saldivar
Eric Swan is no stranger to the Police. In early February, 2009, he was arrested following reports of shots fired on the north end of San Pedro. Shortly after, he was arrested and charged for murder. Police recovered the body of John Paul Saldivar who had been tortured and shot multiple times. Authorities believed that Saldivar had been murdered in retaliation for the killing of James Swan, brother of Eric, and Edward Gutierrez who were found in a shallow grave in the area. Also charged along with Eric Swan for that murder were notorious George Street dons Shelton ‘Pinky’ Tillett, and Micah Thompson. Reporting for News Five, Carla Bradley.
It was believed that the three murders were the result of a drug deal gone sour after reports of a ‘wet drop’ in the area. All three were later released after the Director of Public Prosecutions dropped the case for lack of evidence. Police have not released the names of the men presently detained for questioning, and our news team was unable to determine if Eric Swan has been questioned.