On Friday, June 26th, the Judicial Investigation Organization (OIJ- Organismo de Investigacion Judicial) arrested four people suspected of stealing two teams of oxen. One of the teams was the team designated to transport the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe during Nicoya’s patron saint fiestas.
The team of white Brahman oxen with tall horns that weighed about 1,000 kilos (2200 pounds), owned by Jose Segundo Oconor Matarrita, who lives in La Virginia of Nicoya, often led these processions and other important cultural activities like the “Pica de Leña” traditional wood chopping event and the Yegüita festivities.
The two teams were valued at ¢6 million ($11,320).
In the early morning on May 22, 2015, Oconor received a phone call alerting him that something strange was going on with his oxen, so at 3 a.m., he went to the paddock where the animals usually grazed, but he was greatly surprised when he realized that his oxen were not there,and instead found that the wire fences had been cut.
He filed a complaint with OIJ and officers investigated to rule out robbery, but as the days passed, clues appeared one after another.
According to OIJ, the animals had been transported in a small truck from Nicoya to the area of Limonal in Abangares, where they were loaded onto a large truck in which they were taken to an auction house in Barranca, Puntarenas.
At the auction, they were sold to a businessman from Grecia whose last name is Murillo, who sent them to the El Arreo slaughterhouse in San Antonio de Belen, Heredia, where the animals were slaughtered.
After several raids, OIJ officers managed to catch a suspect whose last name is Sojo, age 55, and his son, 36, both from the area of Sardinal of Carrillo, Guanacaste. Another man by the last name of Mairena, age 37, and a fourth with the last name Mendoza, 44, were both arrested in Nicoya.
Those arrested are under three months of preventive measures while undergoing trial.
As part of the follow up, OIJ agents were able to seize the horns of the two large oxen that were slaughtered, which were recognized by Oconor.
“When I found out that they had been killed, I was speechless. I had spent 15 years with them, seeing them graze, taking care of them. They were very docile animals because they were taught this since they were little. At parades, everyone wanted to take pictures with them. Children rode them and they acted like it was nothing. The hotels hired me to exhibit them to the public because they were very beautiful animals,” Oconor said.