Motive unclear in ex-Limón businessman’s killing

Perry Edwards and his boy, James Lee

A former Limón businessman who still had interests here has been gunned down in Colombia by hit men.

The dead man is James Perry Edwards, a former resident of that Caribbean community. At the time of his death he was the operator of Industrial Maintenance Divers, a professional diving firm that repaired undersea cables and pipelines and did general diving work. He had operated a shipping business there.

Ironically Edwards, who went by his second name of Perry, complained about thefts and criminality in Limón and said several months ago he was going to move the diving operation to Colombia. He, himself, had lived in Colombia for several years.

Family members from the United States confirmed the death. The murder took place Dec. 13, but news of the crime only reached Costa Rica late last week. Edwards was in the Troncal del Caribe on the outskirts of Santa Marta near his office, in the process of negotiating a real estate transaction when gunmen arrived on a motorcycle, according to a local report. He operated a separate business in Colombia, and owned several properties. The area is on the northern Atlantic coast of Colombia.

He suffered three bullet wounds, and the fatal shot struck him in the chest. A stray shot wounded a passerby in the foot.

Investigators are working on two motives. The first, advanced by the mother of Edwards’ 5-year-old child, is that he was engaged in a business activity and the shooting was designed to prevent him from completing a sale, according to the nearby Barranaquilla newspaper el Heraldo. She is Claudia Patricia Mantilla Hernández.

Family members of Edwards say that another possible motive might stem from the prolonged legal battle that placed the child in the custody of the North American. The child, James Lee Edwards Mantilla, is the product of a short-term romance, they said. They said the woman is facing a domestic violence trial Feb. 25.

The Limón firm operated by Edwards was in the news frequently as the repair agency for Costa Rica’s internet connections. Both the ARCOS and the MAYA undersea cables are vulnerable to anchors of fishing boats, and the firm has been called on frequently to make repairs.

What irked Edwards the most was when crooks stole one of his firm’s boats out from under the guards at the port of Limón last June. The $30,000 boat was taken up the Río Cieneguita, and when employees of the firm went to find it, they came under fire from presumed drug gang members.

Police and members of the Servicio Nacional de Guardacosta also were greeted by gunfire on a second trip upriver in search of the boat, and they withdrew and did not return, Edwards said. That was when he threatened to move the $1.5 million firm from Limón.

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