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27 February 2024

Panama recaptures man convicted in murder of students


Panamanian police on Thursday recaptured a Dominican man convicted of kidnapping and murdering five young people of Chinese descent, two weeks after he escaped prison for a second time.

National Police Director Jorge Miranda told local media that Gilberto Ventura Ceballos was found in the province of Chiriquí bordering Costa Rica.

Authorities had announced Feb. 4 that Ventura Ceballos had escaped. The latest escape prompted the resignation of the country's security minister and the firing of the interior minister.

Ventura Ceballos was sentenced along with a fellow Dominican accomplice to 50 years in July 2018 for the abduction and killing of the five university students about a decade ago.

He acknowledged murdering them and burying them beneath the floor of a home in the town of La Chorrera west of Panama City, authorities say.

Investigators said at least two were buried alive. The Dominicans ran a cell phone sales business and had collected nearly a quarter-million dollars in ransom payments from relatives.

Ventura Ceballos escaped the first time in December 2016. He was recaptured the following September in Costa Rica where he had died his hair and was living under a different name, working at an auto shop.