Sentencing sheds new light on Pacific coast murder

Based on the amount of blood found in her Playa Langosta home,  Barbara Struncova most likely was a murder victim even though her body never was found, judicial investigators have concluded.

The conclusion by judicial investigators is included in a federal filing in a related North Carolina case. There William Albert Ulmer, the Czech woman’s live-in boyfriend, received a three-year sentence from a U.S. federal judge Wednesday. The charges were passport fraud and aggravated identity theft.

The man was sentenced on a charge of  aggravated identity theft for using his brother’s U.S. passport to travel to Costa Rica  March 11, 2009, and to return to Charlotte, North Carolina, as investigators here began a search for Ms. Struncova.

The North Carolina case in not directly related to the case of the missing woman, but federal prosecutors were able to provide details of the Costa Rican investigation in a motion to increase the penalties imposed on Ulmer. The man also faces three years of supervised release after the termination of his prison sentence.

Costa Rican authorities told federal prosecutor that they do not have enough evidence to extradite Ulmer unless a body turns up. Investigators said they learned Ulmer borrowed  a nine-foot surfboard bag and an acquaintance’s car after the woman is believed to have been murdered.

“The facts of this case clearly demonstrate that, using his brother’s identity and stolen passport, Ulmer quickly fled Costa Rica to avoid questioning by Costa Rican law enforcement authorities regarding the disappearance and suspected murder of his then live-in girlfriend Barbara Struncova,” federal officials wrote in the brief to U.S. District Judge Robert J. Conrad, Jr., according to the court filing.

The court motion outlines in detail the Costa Rica case, as told to federal prosecutors.  Friends dropped off Ms. Struncova at her home at 1 a.m. Dec. 5, 2010. Ulmer returned to the United States Dec. 23, 2010.

Later in the morning of Dec. 5 Ulmer told Ms. Struncova’s Tamarindo employer, Boos Adventures, a tour company, that she would not be returning to work, said the court filing.

Ulmer later told friends that he was throwing some of Ms. Struncova’s possessions in the Río Junquillal, the filing added.

Luminol tests on the couple’s living quarters and the car Ulmer used turned up traces of blood, said the filing.

The filing also quoted a judicial investigation report that said agents hypothesize:

“’. . . that Miss Barbara Struncova would have been assassinated, carried out by force’ based on witness interviews about her ‘sudden disappearance,’ ‘lack of communication . . . with close friends and her relatives,’ ‘luminol tests carried out in the room and the car, wherein before and after the

Barbara Struncova

Barbara Struncova

application of the luminol it was observed that the amount of stains of apparent blood
was a considerable quantity, so much so that a loss of that much blood would be important to one’s physical condition, and would probably mean that person was deceased’ and that ‘the personnel of the biochemistry department said the blood corresponded to human blood.’”

Ulmer, originally of North Dakota, left the United States in 2009 before he was to attend a court hearing on a state bad check charge. He spent about 21 months in Costa Rica. He pleaded guilty to the passport charge in September and has been in custody since, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina. Federal law does not provide for parole.

U.S. Diplomatic Service agents detained Ulmer last year in Denver. He most recently lived in Colorado and was about to leave on a honeymoon with a new wife, investigators said at the time.

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