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Widow Wants Justice

August 27, 2004

TEN months after the killing of 76-yearoldhotel owner and retired U.S. MerchantMarine Percy Lee Wilhelm Jr., known to hisfriends as “Lucky,” one suspect remains inpreventive detention and police maintainrobbery was the most likely motive.According to Wilhelm’s widow Aggie,the trial for the case is set to begin Sept. 1.Wilhelm’s widow said she has been runningthe Hotel Oasis del Pacífico, in PlayaNaranjo, on the southeast tip of the NicoyaPeninsula, ever since her husband’s death,and said it’s been “very difficult” without hercompanion of 32 years. She said she hasbeen trying to sell the hotel and has been frugalto keep it open. She said it’s valued at $3million, but she’s dropped the price to $1.5million in hopes of speeding its sale.“I want peace of mind. I want justicedone. The way he was so cruelly murdered,”she said.WILHELM’S body was found Oct. 26of last year, according to the JudicialInvestigative Police (OIJ), after he waschoked to death in his home in PlayaNaranjo. His face had been beaten severely,and officials reported lacerations on his neck(TT, Oct 31, 2003).The primary suspect in the killing, 44-year-old Jorge Martín Gutiérrez, facescharges of qualified homicide for the crime,said Nicoya OIJ Chief José Maleaño in astatement written in July. Gutiérrez wasarrested Nov. 5, 2003, according to the statement,and remains in preventive detention atthe request of the Nicoya Prosecutor’sOffice.According to Maleaño’s statement, OIJagents traced the sale of a cell phone stolenfrom Wilhelm at the time of the killing toGutiérrez, who has a criminal record includingconvictions for aggravated robbery anddrug crimes.AGENTS first contacted the purchaserof the phone, who described Gutiérrez’sappearance, Maleaño said, then showed asketch based on the description to other witnesses,who eventually led them to the suspect.Some witnesses told agents thatGutiérrez had arrived at Playa Naranjo byferry several days before the killing.Maleaño said agents are still awaitinglab results from evidence obtained duringthe investigation, but he did not specifywhat that evidence is.WILHELM, a native of Punta Gorda,Florida, owned the Hotel Oasis delPacífico at Playa Naranjo and the PianoBar in the Balmoral Hotel in San José, andwas described by those who knew him as“mellow” and “warm-hearted.” He spentsome 44 years traveling the world as aMerchant Marine captain, spending considerabletime in Saudi Arabia andSingapore. He moved to Costa Rica withhis wife Aggie in 1982.He is survived by his widow and his29-year-old son Piet Wilhelm, a U.S.Marine Corps Drill Instructor.

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