Gringo Murdered in Algarrobos

The most information on the incident comes from Don Winner’s Panama Guide.

I will paste his post here.

By DON WINNER for – Paul Roger Nunes, a US citizen who recently moved to Panama, was killed this morning in the house he was renting in the Alta Mar #2 development of the Los Algarrobos neighborhood in the town of Dolega of the Chiriquí province, Republic of Panama. Paul Nunes was approximately 65 years old, according to neighbors, and he had been living in the area for only two months. There was a young Panamanian couple living in the same house with Paul Nunes. According to reports, the robbers forced the young Panamanian woman into a back room and locked her in with her baby. The woman’s husband was not home at the time of the incident. The attack apparently occurred in the early morning hours, today. Area residents suspect the robbers might have had keys or some other way to gain access to the house, because apparently there were no signs of forced entry.

Americans in Panama Participant: Paul Roger Nunes, the CEO of Stonecastle Homes Inc, was a frequent participant on the Americans in Panama Yahoo Email Group. Ironically, in a recent discussion about crime and violence in Panama, Paul wrote:

  • “thats all fine and dandy, but some people prefer to live free, not locked behind bars in a private prison (for protection?)…if thats what was required to feels safe, I would definately move to a different location, even a different country. Some people here have compared the crime threat to being less than the average american city. Possibly true. I will not live in any city for many reasons, crime being one of them. Life is much different in rural farm country or mountains. here i do not expect thieves and muggers. Neighbors help each other and doors are unlocked. Obviously, latin countries seem to have a problem that is much reduced in other cultures. This is a morale issue of society that does not respect or value other people. It is the sad dark side of a culture that is otherwise very warm giving to others, even if a gringo is viewed as a private atm machine by many locals. This problem will not go away quickly and will hinder future growth. Panama has much to offer to outsiders, but this ugly problem needs to be addressed by both the government and society as a whole. Armed police is not the answer. Educating people and instilling basic values of honesty in the schools and at home will be a start. Paul Nunes []”

Police Are Investigating: Police are apparently anxious to talk to the husband of the woman who lived with Paul, and according to neighbors they have not yet been able to locate or talk to him. More details as they become available.

Copyright 2009 by Don Winner for Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

It is still too early to conclude much, but several things stand out. No forced entry definitely implies an inside job. It is worth pointing out that it is not a bad idea to replace the external locks on houses you rent when you move in. Having a young couple living with you, sounds problematic to me.

When single gringos move to Panama, they seem to think they are invincible. It sounds like this is another case where a gringo was not cautious enough in who he allowed to have access to his house.

44 thoughts on “Gringo Murdered in Algarrobos

  1. “There was a young Panamanian couple living in the same house with Paul Nunes.”

    When I got this far the fist thing that came to mind is inside job. Hope I am wrong but…. 9 out of 10 times I hear something like this it is some sort of inside job. While I have friends here I would be very weary about having people I do not know for a very long time live in my, here or even the U.S.

    I wonder how well he could have known these people being here just two months.

  2. Hi Scott. It is very dangerous.

    If the woman saw the bandits, why was she allowed to live. Could she not identify them? Doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

    The sad thing is that Panama is small. Chiriqui is smaller. Everyone knows everyone and I would bet that the guilty parties are well known by the police.

    Why these cases go unsolved does not speak well of the efforts the police are putting in.

  3. Although this is alarming to everyone especially North Americans it is not an isolated incident in that just yesterday another American man was murdered in the Panama City area. If you think that you are insulated from all that living out in the country as Mr. Nunes suggested I will have to disagree.

    I don’t care where I am on the planet I rarely let my guard down. 23 years in the US Military and 4 years of Law Enforcement has left me with several life times worth of Situational Awareness that has proven invaluable many times.

    When you live outside your realm you need to be abundantly caucus and not get caught up in how wonderful the clouds look on a given day.

    My advice to any interested parties is to get serious about personal protection or deal with the alternatives or worse make the news like our friend Paul.

  4. I do agree totally with AJ. You should be extremely careful and dont let your guard down. Also I have manage to be always “low profile”. Not becoming a target for a crime.

    Living with people you dont know very well in your house is not advisable either.

  5. bad bad bad… the people doesn’t have the respect…. this notice put me sad…. we have a lot of bad people around….

  6. Wow!! I have to re-check, but I am 99% sure this is the fellow that was going to start renting my house starting on the 6th of next month. IF so, it really sounds like an inside job for sure. Maybe they wanted money for him leaving or something and he wouldn’t give it to them? Sure sounds fishy…

  7. As I a Panamanian I truly apologize for this and any other event that clouds what should be a good life in Panama. It is a very horrible event and it is true that many of my countrymen view non Panamanians as extremely rich, well, for some it is a truth.
    Chiriqui is small and I sincerely do hope that the police will do what is right. My experience of police efficiency in the US is poor but you (retirees) represent something that the authorities value; I am sorry for my pragmatism. I do hope that that means ACTION from the authorities.
    Please, keep putting pressure whenever possible and necessary. I want my country to be better and put faith that your presence and intervention will be baby steps towards that goal.
    Be careful of my countrymen; most are great, hard working people but there are a few…

  8. Living or not-living in Los Algarrobos scares the hell out of me. The news reported that 6 women were raped in Datona Beach, FL. Murders in where our “brilliant students” go for Spring Break just to have a “good time” and have armed guards for protection with AK-47’s. Where are there brains? What ever happened to ‘PARENTING” If I had a kid in college my child would not go there. We have lost the parenting. I would like to get back to the 60’s — RIGHT…..We are getting old and maybe just don’t understand.. God Bless US All.

  9. Yesterday I stopped to get an ice cream cone and got talking to a young man who lived in the neighborhood where the murder occured. He told me about the incident and was shaken up by it. What he also said was telling. The man had recently gotten a container which he had empted. Appartently not everything would fit into the house so he had lined up lots of valuable items (eg. big screen TV) on the terrace. He also left his gate open all the time. Talk about an open invitation. “Look at me, I´m rich and not very smart” . What happened to common sense?
    When I arrived in Panama a friend who is Panimanian sat me down and had a long discourse about safety. She told me that in this culture a number of folks believe if you can not look after and protect your things you do not deserve them. It is an invitation for theives. So you see bars on windows and doors, and folks live behind gates, walls and fences. Sadly many folks here think that if you are a gringo you are rich. We may not be in the society we have left. But in the eyes of our new neighbors we are. As gringos we are hung up on our stuff, the more the better. We come in with containers full of it. So if you were a member of a different culture and were watching this, what would you think? There is no excuse for taking a life.

  10. There is no need for any Panamanian to apologize for what happened in this case. The world is full of bad people in all countries, including mine and I am not going to apologize for them. The fact is many of us know what we are getting into here and if not, then that is their fault.

    The fact that we and other English sites are talking a lot about this shows that it is a rare occurrence. If this was Costa Rica, we would talk about it for a day or till till the next murder of a foreigner. I have lived in and written about Costa Rica and Nicaragua here, I will say it again, this place is light years ahead of them. The law is much better, the police are much better and we don’t have an idiot like Ortega, taking bad and promoting violence against Americans, as the president.

    I take some issue against what some feel as a lack of “trying” on the part of the police here. I find many of them take their job serious and would be more than happy to find these killers. They are doing that from a station with broken floor tile, no ac, and ceiling tiles with mold growing on them. How they don’t get sick all the time from this is beyond me.

    When I go to Rey on a Sunday afternoon and see all kinds of new Government SUV’s pull up and a guy his wife and two kids get out to go shopping in Do-It center, IT makes me SICK. The SUV clearly states “for official use only” what a joke. At the same time, Lince, the fast response team here of the police have ONLY 2 half working motorcycles. They have no lights or siren and the rest of the regular police have old broken down cars.

    Yet in front of Banco National and every other Government ministry they are a ton of new cars. These are the things that need to be addressed here. It is a no cost solution, take the “private” new SUV’s from these government thieves and let the police use them to make us safer.

    These are the things that drag an otherwise nice country down. I will put the first $100 down if others want to kick in to buy a new moto for Lince. They when we give it to them, we invite the local press and tell them if the government can’t take of the problem then we will. Maybe a little shame is needed to get them off their asses. (and yes I am serious about kicking in maybe more if needed)

    RIP Paul

  11. Scott,
    why stop there I have been floating around the idea for some time about donating $500 and up per gringo house hold to get them a new 4 door truck. I will be the first to pony up and I’m competent I can sweet talk a local dealership into giving us a steel of a deal considering its for our friends at the Dolega Station. I was able to get Dominos Pizza in David to donate several pizzas the other day so I think I can work a dealer ship. Count me in on any support for the Dolega Cops.

  12. I’m confused, is Sally saying its Pauls’ fault he got murdered? If they had keys to his house as is being reported and they attacked him early in the morning, I just don’t see it that way, or see what he could have done to avoid what happened.

  13. Hi Mox. No one is saying that he deserved to be killed. However, there is no question that he was using bad judgment in the actions he was taking. I think that was Sally’s point.

  14. UPDATE:

    Today I was at the Dolega Police Station providing a variety of support including Spanish interpreting services and other supportive functions. While there I received the latest information on the murder case. The Shift Commander advised me that they have one individual in custody. The suspect was described as a dark skinned male in his late 20’s. He is charged with conspiring and arraigning the robbery of Mr. Nunes. The Subtenant said that the investigation was ongoing and that the suspect admitted his involvement in case. He indicated that they were searching for 2 additional suspects who were believed to be responsible for committing the strong armed robbery and murder.

    Sgt Surrano also assigned to the Dolega PD added that this was most defiantly an inside job and that it appears to have started as a home invasion that ended in murder. Additionally they indicated that the whereabouts of the other suspects they were searching for were unknown as of 15:30 local.

    My 2 cents,
    The Dolega Police Department is working as hard as they can to resolve this case and many others. They are undermanned and understaffed. The Department needs all the support the community can give them so I respectfully ask that you help them out. I personally provided a variety of support on several levels and I recognize the need to help them out. Please stop by there office and tell them you appreciate their service and perhaps donate a few cold Gatorades or a pizza. All the officers work an 8 day shift and are on duty 24/7 with no brake. They are away from their homes and family and sleep at the station when they can fit rest time in but are still responsible for any calls that come in to the station at all times day or night.

  15. i am pauls son and i live in the states. i just found out this morning of my fathers death and the embassy knows basically nothing. i would like to collect his belongings if theres anything left. i have no way of knowing anything about the investigation. if anyone has any phone numbers of the authorities or any other way i can gather information i would really appreciate it thank you.

  16. AJ:

    Thanks for your updates. I have forwarded the information to a relative of Paul’s.
    Paul and I were friends. I just learned of this a few hours ago and I am still in shock.

    Paul had only been in Panama about 5-6 weeks and was looking forward to a new life,
    and to his retirement. We corresponded nearly every day. I have forwarded the content
    of your email to his relative,

    We need to get in touch off this site. Any ideas on how to accomplish this under the circumstances?


  17. Hi tetsunosuke. I have sent you an email. If you email me back with your contact information, I will have the US Embassy in Panama City contact you.

  18. Hi R.A.N – Thanks for your assistance. The last I talked to the Embassy in PC, they were still searching for a good contact. If they drop me an email, via the Contact, I can forward it to you. However, I think the person you referred to, may have left his email address.

  19. AJ — can you help me get in touch w/the police station that is handling my father’s case? The embassy didnt have any contact info to give me. We have info from phone convo’s my dad had w/his ex wife last week that will assist the police w/their investigation.

    I cant begin to express how very thankful my brother and I are for all of your concern and information.
    Aline Nunes

  20. Don–We’ve spoken w/the embassy in panama and like my brother mentioned they know basically nothing. Would you happen to know any numbers of the local authorities?
    Thank you very much in advance

  21. R.A.N,

    I went again back to the Dolega PD and was following up on a lead I received. I also found out that the City Administrators for Dolega are planning on conducting an inventory of the continence of Paul’s residence. It is sealed off as a crime scene. The City personnel office located next door to the PD has a cell phone number of #6515-9944. You will note that there is an extra digit on the number, don’t worry that’s the way things are done here.

    I am one of several appointed American Representative known as a Warden for the Provence of Chiriqui. I was invited to attend the inspection of Paul’s residence on this coming Monday 9 March with the intent to try to locate information on Paul’s next of kin however it seems that contact has already been established. I don’t know what the protocol is for this type of case but it is possible that Paul’s personal property will become the property of the state however don’t consider that suggestion as fact it’s just my observation.

    If you need to communicate with the police authorities in charge of Paul’s case the number is (Office: 507- 775-2081) Spanish is recommended to communicate with them. I can be reached at my private e mail if you need any additional help or have questions, DON RAY IS AUTHORIZED TO RELIECE MY CONTACT INFORMATION PRIVETLY TO YOU. AJ

  22. AJ’s email has been forwarded. AJ and I are both available to assist you in any way we can. The US Embassy in Panama City will need and should be involved continually.

  23. RAN, AJ, Don
    Having jus spoken w/my brother moments ago we are unclear as to whom info was given… as we two are the only next of kin and neither of us has received anything up to this moment. My brother and I have been contacted by the embassy of course but have received more information thankfully thru the power of the internet networking w/all of you. again thank you

  24. Hi Aline. I think you and your brother both have my and AJ’s email addresses now. Maybe it would be better to take the rest of the communication offline and off the blog.

  25. Don Ray, AJ:

    I agree this thing is heating up. Need to get this stuff off the blog.
    I have spoken with Aline today-others are now involved.
    Aline is currently busy but I will try to contact her for your emails and correspond
    directly through email.


  26. On or off the blog……………I hope they throw the people that did this , UNDER THE JAIL.

    Same thing happened to another gringo last year…………………this is just plain nonsense.

  27. Mox, the facts are way different than what happened last year. The other guy was plain assassinated, nothing was taken from the house or his person. He was shot in the head and they left.

    Now I know this is second hand info, but several people told me he had bragged about being with children under the age of 18. I could be wrong as I said it is second hand info and I was not there but if you put the two together it sort of makes sense.

    What happened in this case is a couple of low lives wanted to steal and they have no respect for life. That is a problem in Latin America that is growing, it also affects first world counties like the US. Having lived in other places I can tell you it is much less of a problem in Panama than most countries down here.

    If this problem is not looked at seriously here in Panama and the police are not given the resources to fight this, then we will be in the same condition as EL Salvidor and Costa Rica. By the time they even decided there was a problem it was too late to fix it because it had grown out of control. I hope that will not be the case and that something good may come of Paul’s tragic death.

  28. Perhaps it’s time to get back to Scott and AJ’s suggestion about collecting contributions for a vehicle for the Dolega police. I don’t have much, but would donate what I can. Is there anyone there who could set up and administer a fund? If not, I’d be happy to try to help out when I get down there is another few weeks.

  29. Actually, I feel that you have to be careful about giving $ for this sort of thing. It becomes very easy for corrupt governmental officials to look at gringos as an easy touch and find excuses why the city, state, country can’t pay to keep equipment running. They will be happy to just sit back and let the foreigners do it. Where did the money go that was budgeted for that. If it wasn’t budgeted, then why not.

    Taxi drivers manage to keep their cars running and I will bet you money that they don’t take much home at the end of the month.

    Somehow I think you have to figure out a way to have a city, state, country to start taking pride in the quality of life that its citizens deserve and want to make things better.

    The gringos of Boquete have dumped a lot of coins into fixing up equipment and buying equipment and I don’t see that it has helped. The local community has to want things to change and start applying pressure to get changes put into place.

    Money is not necessarily the solution. It may be part of the problem. Inspiring pride in a country to not become a Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Honduras, Mexico, etc. could be done by the citizens desire and pressure more than money.

    With the greed in many of the officials in government, flashing money and saying “What can we Gringos do to help” may make you feel better, but I question the positive effect.

  30. That’s the best thing I’ve hear in a while. My thinking is that we can establish an account directly with a local dealership and all interested parties can contribute directly to the purchase of a new 4 door truck, ho say a (standard no frills) Ford ranger similar to all the new trucks that the other Government departments have like Banco National and several others.

    I know the general manager at the Ford Dealership in David quite well, his name is Jose and I’m competent that he would get us a deal at cost considering that this would be a donation to local law enforcement.

    I hope this communication serve as a public notice to rally “US” into action to do our part and make it safer for all. Perhaps Don would be so kind to post this at the top of his CC bill board. I pledge $500, who’s next …

  31. Scott:

    No offense intended and my words are not directed towards you, but are made in general; but even if the guy from last year did have intercourse with a minor, he was in his late 60’s………….and I’m sure that a good ole country A** Whippin’ would have served much better, if that’s the reason he was murdered.

    Or an irate mother or father could have called the cop’s on him and let the cards land where they will. But to kill an elderly man? I certainly don’t see the point.

    Same with Paul Nunes………….if he had something others see, as only rich folks havin’, there was not a need to kill the guy, just “rob” it and off you go, you’ll probably never be caught, because after all, all gringos are rich and they can just go out and buy another cool toy, right? I am not saying you think that way, I am saying this is what I’ve been told by local yokels.

    I feel that the general population has come to the following conclusion:

    IN CASE NUMBER 1 FROM LAST YEAR: I also heard about this gentlemen’s alleged sexual prowess, which does surprise me, that a 69 year old man was some type of local David City, Chiquiri Province porno King or sex machine; but it’s basically: “well gee whiz, the guy was pickin’ up chics left and right, and if you pick up chics, you’ll wind up dead.”

    I say, fine, maybe he was picking up chics, but no right to kill him. The justification is: had he stayed away from the chics, he might be alive.

    Well, I happen to know a couple of gringos that are big eaters, maybe they should not vist PRICE SMART for hot dog’s and endless refills, you might piss someone off waiting to get a refill.

    I know other gringos that are movie buffs, LORD forbid, you might buy some popcorn, smile at her and wind up dead.

    COME ON GRINGOS OF CHIQUIRI………………………..There is no JUSTIFICATION for what happened, PERIOD. When the cards are down, who is moving to help you? EASY. OTHER GRINGOS ARE FROM THIS SAME COMMUNITY.

    IN CASE NUMBER 2 : Say Paul did have some cool toys laying around in a container, or had it unloaded in front of his house, on his porch. A man can’t own cool things after working all his life?!!? He needs to get whacked cause some local low life can’t afford to buy those same things? NO WAY.

    Please tell me the gringo community has not come down to this??!!?? Hell , then half of the gringo community needs to move away from Boquete and move into some shacks in a newly created Shanty Town someplace.

    The local panamaenians that live in nice areas of town have the same or more toys. They don’t hide what they have. Why should we?

  32. Back to donating a truck, etc. I see both points of view. But, from what’s been said about the Dolega police–it doesn’t appear they are either corrupt or lacking in patriotic pride. They are just regular people trying to make due with what they have to work with. And willing to admit it falls short of what’s needed. It doesn’t have to be all about gringos giving the city a gift. Why can’t it be about the community getting together, fund raising, and collecting little bits from everyone to reach a common goal? For the interest and safety of everyone? It’s for a patrol vehicle, not something an administrator will park in his driveway. Right now, in California for example, things are so dire due to budget shortfalls, that the only way schools and other public entities are managing to maintain services is by going to the private sector and to groups for help. On one hand everyone rages on about how they don’t want government so involved in our private lives, and on the other hand, there’s the demand that government protect us from ourselves. I don’t want to be one of a small group of gringos who buy the police a truck. But I am willing to contribute my share to a community effort to raise funds to get the police a necessary piece of equipment that’s needed to help them do their jobs better. The key is to have a community leader with integrity spearhead the whole thing and get satellite groups to join in. I’d pledge
    $ 100. and translation services to such a cause.

  33. I would donate too, but I’m learning towards Don Rays observations, if the donations become counterproductive………. then it’s best to leave Pandora’s box closed.

    Will the gringo community be “expected” to provide resources every time something happens? The next thing you know, you get provided a list of things they need and it becomes hard to say NO.


  34. All good points of view.

    The thing to remember and its known around the world and that is that America, Americans are some of the most generous people around. America has provided solid leadership, done what was right and have always donated to worthy causes worldwide including Panama. I have worked on several Humanitarian projects here in the mid 1980’s. We were not taken advantaged of rather the pueblo was exstordinarlly grateful.

    I was employed with the US GOV working and living in over 39 countries before my retirement and experienced this first hand. So if a problem is identified and we the friendly and generous “Vested” North American Community steps in and lend a hand that is not the same as becoming a sucker and fix or finance every ones problems.

    We are just as affected as anyone living here however the difference is that we or perhaps most of us are willing to accommodate requests for donations especially if the effects are immediate felt. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

    It boiled down to true interest in solving problems not just sitting on the side lines and harping about the lack of local leadership, something that is deeply ingrained in this particular culture. Boquete residence stepped up and now enjoys a better safer environment to live in.

  35. Hi AJ.

    I agree with you about the typical American spirit being one of giving to support those in need. I further applaud your service in the things you have done around the world.

    My words of caution should not be take as advice not to contribute and be a part of the community, but to expect to see evidence of change of attitude in crime and punishment of crime in Panama.

    You say that Boquete is enjoying a safer community because of their donations. I am not sure what evidence there is to back that up. I do feel that Boquete has done a good job in educating the gringos of their risks and how to unite to mitigate them. That may have been more important that any money spent.

    Dolega is often spoken of as having a few known gangs that are responsible for crime in the area. I often hear the statement made, that “they know who they are”, but for some reason arrests and prosecution does not seem to happen.

    To me that is an attitudinal problem and not a financial problem. While money can help in some things, it does not solve all things.

  36. In this particular case were the Police called and unable to respond due to lack of transportation?

    PS I always made it a point during avalanche awareness training to point out to folks “Don’t go for help…you are the help!” Developing this same philosophy for possible urgent situations and having the tools on hand (and I am not talking about transceivers, probe poles or shovels here) to deal with the circumstances will most likely result in the least number of situational casualties.

  37. Well, Don, you/ve made a convincing argument regarding Dolega. Maybe it’s better to take a wait and see approach on this one….

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