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Costa Rica police say suspect in murder of US volunteer worker was romantic partner

A 24-year-old Costa Rican man who police say was in a two-year “informal romantic relationship” with Sondra Elizondo has been arrested as the primary suspect in the murder of the 45-year-old U.S. aid worker, according to a Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) spokesman. Elizondo’s body was found on Dec. 9 in a bed at Casa 69 hotel in the popular neighborhood Barrio La California, just east of downtown San José. She had multiple stab wounds to the neck and body.

Police arrested the suspect, surnamed Obando Vega, at a supermarket in the San José suburb of Guadalupe on Thursday at 2 p.m., some 24 hours after the murder was believed to have happened. Investigators then raided the suspect’s house in Coronado, located northeast of the capital, where they found items that belonged to Elizondo, the spokesman told The Tico Times.

Obando Vega was sent to preventive prison on Thursday, a spokeswoman from the Chief Prosecutor’s Office said, where he could remain until June 2016 while the investigation into Elizondo’s murder continues.

Elizondo entered the country on Dec. 5 to attend meetings on behalf of Vida Volunteer, the nonprofit organization she co-founded, which sets up mobile medical clinics in needy communities in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Guatemala. She was then scheduled to travel to Nicaragua, Vida Volunteer communications manager Ana Salas told The Tico Times.

Elizondo’s brother Gregg Payne told The Tico Times that a memorial service is planned for Sunday in Elizondo’s home of Merritt Island, Florida. Elizondo leaves behind two teenage children.

“I couldn’t believe it when I heard the news,” Payne said. “She was just a great person.”

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