A U.S. tourist might have become disoriented when he ended up having a fatal encounter in a dangerous Desamparados neighborhood.
As A.M. Costa Rica reported in an update Tuesday afternoon, the tourist, Steve Flesch, 31, died in Hospital San Juan de Dios. as a result of a bullet wound to the head administered by a robber. He had been hospitalized since the crime April 2.
Still uncertain is why the Wisconsin man ended up in Torremolinos in Desamparados during the mid-afternoon. That is a neighborhood where most Costa Ricans will not go.
Expats have suggested that the man was in search of cheap drugs or that he had been lured there on some pretext. Another possibility is that he got his direction confused, something that is typical when someone from the United States visits Costa Rica. The location of the sun in the sky frequently provides confusion for months when expats arrive. The middle of the United States is about 39 degrees latitude. The Central Valley is about 9 degrees.
Torremolinos is within walking distance of Parque de la Paz and the Circunvalación highway in southern San José. The area is in exactly the opposite direction from the park as is downtown San José.
Torremolinos is rife with gangs and controlled by older criminals, residents say.
Judicial agents reported that April 30 they detained five persons, two 19-year-olds and three minors, for the crime. Without Flesch to testify, convictions may be difficult.
That section of Desamparados has seen a wave of robberies, including one in which a taxi driver killed one assailant and wounded another. At one time the police station came under fire.
For the casual tourist there is no easy reference for highly dangerous neighborhoods in Costa Rica. Sometimes taxi drivers will give an alert.
An additional problem is that dangerous areas can be adjacent to upscale neighborhoods,. that is the case with Los Anonos and Bello Horizonte in Escazú.
Los Guidos and La Caprí, other dangerous Desamparados neighborhoods, are indistinguishable from Rohrmoser and Sabana Norte to the casual tourist. León XIII and La Carpio are other dangerous areas but they are close to middle-class residential neighborhoods.
Another possibility is that Flesch simply received bad directions from persons with whom he was living in a backpacker hotel in the downtown.