Marine’s murder in Belize remains unsolved one year later

Published: Monday, May 28, 2018 @ 3:08 AM

(Via The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
(Via The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Brandon Barfield has kept his best friend’s room just the way he left it. Drew DeVoursney’s black suit still hangs in the closet of the West Palm Beach home they shared. And his guitar — the one he used to perform Lynyrd Skynyrd and Allman Brothers songs while they were both deployed in Iraq — rests beside the bed he slept in. To Barfield, it feels fitting to keep everything in place, including DeVoursney’s poster of “Jeremiah Johnson,” their favorite movie.

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The two became fast friends serving alongside one another with the U.S. Marine Corps in Fallujah in 2004, then a dark and violent battleground where both men narrowly survived rocket-propelled grenade attacks. When they returned home from the war, they bought five acres near Corozal Bay, planning to develop a vacation home on it.

And then Drew disappeared.

A year ago this month in a remote sugar cane field near the Mexican border, a farmer found the bodies of Drew, 36, and his Canadian girlfriend, Francesca Matus, 52, a mother of two. They had been missing for nearly a week. Both had been strangled. Tape was found on their wrists. The killings — which have drawn international media attention — remain unsolved.

“He was my brother,” said Barfield, 36, a commercial fisherman who, like DeVoursney, once lived in Georgia and still has family in the Peach State. “I think about him every day.”

The U.S. State Department referred questions about the investigation to Belizean authorities. Belize’s police department and the prime minister’s office did not respond to repeated requests for comment. The FBI confirmed it is still assisting with the investigation, but declined to comment further.

‘No closure for the families’

The same week they recovered the bodies, Belize police confirmed they had detained a Canadian man, John Deshaies, calling him a person of interest in the double-murder investigation. He was accused of stealing from a local casino but has not been charged in connection with the killings.

Deshaies, who rented space on the ground floor of Matus’ seaside home in Belize, denied involvement in the murders, telling local television reporters, “Not at all. She is a very good friend of mine. Absolutely not.” Deshaies pleaded not guilty to the theft and handling stolen goods charges and was released on bail the same month he was arrested. Reached by email this month, his attorney, Estevan Perera, said there were no new developments in Deshaies’ legal case.

Meanwhile, DeVoursney’s mother, Char, said her family has not heard any news from the U.S. government about the hunt for her son’s killers over the past few months.

“It’s been real, real quiet and frustrating,” said the divorcée, who lives in the Atlanta area.

Colin McGowan, a Scottish expatriate who helped coordinate an extensive search for DeVoursney and Matus before their bodies were found north of Corozal, is also frustrated.

“It is a year later,” said McGowan, co-owner of Scotty’s Bar and Grill, where the couple were last seen before they disappeared. “There has been nothing — no closure for the families.”

Bringing Drew home

Barfield remembers the day he met DeVoursney in Fallujah in late 2004, when U.S. troops were battling a robust insurgency in the city. DeVoursney walked into the communication shop where Barfield worked and asked for help with an equipment repair job. Striking up a conversation, they realized they were both Southerners and huge Florida State University football fans.

The oldest of two sons, DeVoursney was born in Thomasville, Ga., less than 40 miles north of Tallahassee, where Barfield grew up. They also had their differences. Barfield is extremely outgoing, while DeVoursney could enjoy spending time by himself. And while Barfield plays golf, DeVoursney was into soccer.

“Totally opposite of me,” Barfield said. “We battled all the time about soccer and golf. I thought soccer was stupid. He thought golf was stupid.”

Last year, Barfield sprang into action after learning DeVoursney was missing in Belize. Barfield alerted the FBI. He started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for hiring a private investigator. And he traveled to Belize, transforming himself into an amateur detective and interviewing dozens of people about what happened.

Those in Corozal who knew of DeVoursney and his bigheartedness went out of their way to help him, Barfield said, generously discounting Barfield’s hotel room and loaning him a truck while he was in town. Barfield found himself enjoying the benefits of the goodwill DeVoursney had sowed in Corozal.

“When we went there to try to get answers, the town was nothing but helpful,” Barfield said.

Barfield returned with DeVoursney’s remains to the United States, calling the experience “crushing.” He later shared his notes with the FBI.

Barfield is now engaged to be married and hopes to one day start a family. If that happens, Barfield said, he will keep DeVoursney’s memory alive by telling his children about him — about his kindness, his generosity, his genuineness.

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Teen girl helps blind, deaf man by signing into his hands on Alaska Air flight

Published: Saturday, June 23, 2018 @ 3:44 PM

Clara Daly, 15, helped a blind and deaf man communicate during an Alaska Airlines flight from Boston to Portland.
Alaska Airlines
Clara Daly, 15, helped a blind and deaf man communicate during an Alaska Airlines flight from Boston to Portland.(Alaska Airlines)

A teen girl helped a blind, deaf man communicate on a recent Alaska Airlines flight, according to KIRO.

Dianne McGinness with Alaska Airlines shared the heartwarming story after a passenger on the flight wrote a post this week about the interaction that was shared over 400,000 times.

The passenger, Lynette Scribner, was traveling on the same flight as the teen and man, and was moved to write a post on the touching encounter. 

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Scribner said the man, Tim Cook, was traveling home to Portland after visiting his sister. Cook lives at Portland's Brookdale Senior Living. 

When passengers of the flight realized Cook was blind and deaf, many helped ensure he was comfortable. A man sitting next to Cook gave him the aisle seat and helped with little tasks like opening his coffee creamer and pouring it into his coffee, Scribner shared.

A flight attendant made an announcement asking if a passenger on board knew American Sign Language. Fifteen-year-old Clara Daly, who has studied ASL for the last year, rang her call button.

When Daly learned the man could communicate only if someone signed into his hand, she immediately went to help.

Cook asked Daly questions and she patiently sign-spelled answers into his hand.

Scribner said Daly learned ASL because she has dyslexia, and it was the easiest foreign language for her to learn.

“Clara was amazing,” an Alaska Airlines flight attendant said in the news release. “You could tell Tim was very excited to have someone he could speak to -- and she was such an angel.”

“When (Cook) asked (Daly) if she was pretty, she blushed and laughed as the seat mate, who had learned a few signs, communicated an enthusiastic yes to Tim,” Scribner shared. “I don't know when I've ever seen so many people rally to take care of another human being. All of us in the immediate rows were laughing and smiling and enjoying his obvious delight in having someone to talk to.”

Clara Daly, 15, helped a blind and deaf man communicate during an Alaska Airlines flight from Boston to Portland.(Alaska Airlines)

After the flight, McGinness said Cook met a service provider from Brookdale Senior Living at the gate.

Cook said the flight was the best trip he's ever taken.

Daly told her mom she thought the encounter was "meant to be," since her original flight was canceled and she was redirected to Cook's flight.

On Thursday, Scribner added a note on her beloved post: “We are all starving for good news and this was just what we needed.”

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Senior citizens earn thousands by sharing their homes, says Airbnb

Published: Saturday, June 23, 2018 @ 3:50 PM

Senior citizens across the U.S. are earning an extra $7,000 per year on average by opening up their homes on Airbnb.
Michael Steele
Senior citizens across the U.S. are earning an extra $7,000 per year on average by opening up their homes on Airbnb.(Michael Steele)

Thousands of senior citizens across the United States are finding a profitable side hustle --- opening up their homes to strangers on Airbnb.

Nearly 78,000 seniors (ages 60 and up) across the U.S. shared their homes on Airbnb in 2017 -- accounting for $700 million in earnings, the company reports.

The typical host earned an extra $7,000 in income a year -- a positive boost for people living on fixed incomes.

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Airbnb is a website that allows people to open up their homes for vacation rentals or short-term leasing. There are over 5 million homes listed on Airbnb in over 81,000 cities.

According to Airbnb’s annual survey, 41 percent of seniors reported that hosting their home has helped them afford to stay in their homes -- places they’ve often lived most of their lives. 

Airbnb states that 45 percent of senior hosts rely on that extra income to make ends meet and spend it on important costs of living. 

Senior hosts are beloved on Airbnb, the company said.

88 percent of trips hosted by seniors last year resulted in 5-star reviews.

Percentage of active listings with senior Airbnb hosts 

New Mexico34%
Maine32%
Vermont28%
Hawaii26%
Delaware26%

 

Typical host earnings for seniors by state 

Hawaii$14,000
California$11,700
Washington, D.C.$10,500
Washington$8,700
Rhode Island$8,500

Percentage of senior host reviews with 5-stars 

Nebraska93%
North Dakota93%
Kansas93%
South Dakota92%
Indiana91%

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Sarah Huckabee Sanders kicked out of Red Hen restaurant in Virginia on ‘moral’ grounds

Published: Saturday, June 23, 2018 @ 12:52 PM

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed that her family was kicked out of a Virginia restaurant on Friday by the owner, who cited
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed that her family was kicked out of a Virginia restaurant on Friday by the owner, who cited "moral conviction."(Win McNamee/Getty Images)

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she and seven members of her family were kicked out of The Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia on Friday night.

TMZ first reported that the restaurant’s owner kicked out Sanders and her family out of “moral conviction.” 

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A waiter posted on Facebook that Sanders was in the restaurant for “a total of two minutes” before being asked to leave.

 

Sanders confirmed the incident on Twitter.

“Last night I was told by the owner of Red Hen in Lexington, VA to leave because I work for @POTUS and I politely left,” Sanders tweeted Saturday. “Her actions say far more about her than about me. I always do my best to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so.”

 

Sanders’ father, former Gov. Mike Huckabee, tweeted his support, saying it was an act of “bigotry.”

 

The Red Hen’s Facebook and Yelp pages were bombarded with reviews from people from both sides.

While some praised the restaurant, many others said the owner was being “intolerant.”

This comes after Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen bolted from a Washington, D.C. Mexican restaurant after protesters confronted her at her table -- with the blessing of the manager.

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Anthony Bourdain toxicology report released

Published: Friday, June 22, 2018 @ 2:58 PM

Remembering Anthony Bourdain

Chef and author Anthony Bourdain did not have narcotics in his body when he died on June 8, a French judicial official told The New York Times.

Bourdain, 61, was found dead in a hotel in a small village in France on June 8.

He was staying in Kaysersberg, a small village in the Alsace region of France, filming a new episode of his CNN show “Parts Unknown.”

Police ruled his death as suicide by hanging.

Local prosecutors say Bourdain, who was open about his lifelong struggle with drugs and alcohol, was not intoxicated when he died.

“No trace of narcotics, no trace of any toxic products, no trace of medicines, no trace of alcohol,” prosecutor Christian de Rocquigny told Reuters.

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Bourdain skipped dinner the night before his body was discovered, The New York Times reports

When he did not arrive for breakfast with Eric Ripert, Bourdain’s close friend and chef of Le Bernardin in New York, a hotel receptionist went to his room to check on him and found his body.

Bourdain was cremated in France.

His remains and travel belongings have been sent to his younger brother, Christopher.

Gladys Bourdain, Anthony Bourdain’s mother, told the New York Times that the family will likely hold “a small, private ceremony of some kind.”

Italian actress Asia Argento remembered her boyfriend Anthony Bourdain on Twitter Friday, marking two weeks since his death.

“Two weeks without you,” she tweeted, along with a smiling photo of them together.
 

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