How I Tried (and Failed) To Believe That Barbara Was Murdered By A Drug Cartel

Let’s begin with a review:

When Barbara Struncova disappeared, her boyfriend Bill Ulmer , who is the last one to have seen her alive, told us:

First, that she left to travel to the Caribbean with friends.
Second, that she left to travel to the Caribbean with an ex-boyfriend.
Third, that she left to travel in Panama, saying she was in Bocas del Toro.
Fourth, that she was a closet drug addict and had gone to rehab in Czech Republic.
Fifth, that she was a secret drug smuggler who had lots of trouble brewing.
And sixth, that she was murdered by angry drug dealers to whom she owed money.

These stories do not make any sense put together and not one single soul has, thus far, stepped forward to corroborate any of them.  Not. One.

So let’s talk about something I don’t know a lot about: the shady world of drug dealing and whether or not drug dealers (cartels?!) murdered Barbara Struncova.

What happens in the real world when you owe money to drug dealers?

I don’t know about Medellin. I don’t know about Rio de Janeiro. I don’t know about Ciudad Juarez. But were’ talking about Tamarindo, here, and I do know what happens in Tamarindo when a person owes money to drug dealers. They stop you on the street and ask you where their money is. They come up to you on the beach in broad daylight. They follow you home from the bar. They knock on the door of your house during dinner and they don’t care if your housemates are home or if you have guests. If they get really pissed off, they might break into your house and take what they feel is rightfully theirs.  They don’t hide. They don’t sneak. Everybody sees you talking to them and you might be mortified, but they don’t care. People near you know perfectly well what’s going on.  Trust me. I did not just roll off the turnip truck.

You know those terrifying Costa Rican drug cartels you hear about on the news every night? What? You haven’t heard about the Costa Rican drug cartels? Don’t you have a TV? You know—the ones mailing bushels of cocaine to Czech Republic? Come on. Try a little harder. Google the Costa Rican drug cartels. What do you mean there are no Costa Rican drug cartels? Oh damn. Another one bites the dust.

I Googled Costa Rican drug cartels/trafficking/violence. Studies and news reports indicate that in recent years, the Mexican Sinaloa cartel has been more active inside of Costa Rica. San Jose’s sketchy barrios are getting sketchier.  But this is Tamarindo we are talking about, and in 2010. Tamarindo doesn’t even have street gangs. Everybody who can attest to the presence of the Sinaloa cartel in Tamarindo in 2010, please raise your hand.

What?  Nobody?

I heard that the bad-news Columbians in Tamarindo killed a guy a few years after we left. (Sorry, nice Columbians!) Maybe the guys who killed him weren’t even Columbian—maybe they were something else and I’m blaming the innocent.  For sure, somebody got into a fight with drug dealers and he ended up dead.  There.  That’s the history Tamarindo drug killing. And he didn’t disappear. He was just dead.

Think about it. “Drug dealers,” if I may lump an enormous variety of people into one pile, would terrorize you to get their money. They would terrorize the people close to you. They might kill your dog. They might break somebody’s legs. But how are you going to pay them if you’re dead? And if they do kill you, your boyfriend is probably going too.

* * * * *

Let’s circle back around to what we know.  The CSI that took place a few days after Barbara disappeared, demonstrates clear evidence of foul play IN BILL AND BARBARA’S BEDROOM, according to the OIJ.  Everyone knows he was at home on the night she disappeared.  He has never tried to say that he wasn’t.  So if a drug cartel/dealer killed Barbara, they did it in her bedroom while he was right there.

I fail to see how this scenario, in any way, solves his problem.

He is trying to use the smoke screen of drugs to confuse and silence us.  Drugs? we are supposed to say, as we suck in our breath. Oh! Well.  Yes, we all know lots of very bad things that we don’t really understand happen behind closed doors when people are involved in drugs. It’s secret. It’s scandalous. It’s morally wrong. What a shame.  

Bill wants us to believe that Barbara got what she had coming to her.



So try again to tell us:

This fall, Crime Watch Daily plans to address Barbara’s disappearance.  I will spread the word as soon as I know which day the story will air.

How I Also Tried (and Failed) to Believe That Barbara Was Trafficking Drugs

As Bill’s story about Barbara Struncova being in drug rehab came to an end, a new story evolved. In this one, Barbara was buying “tons of coke” and sending it “back home in the mail.” Home? His home in North Carolina, or her home in Czech Republic? I assume he is referring to Czech Republic, because there is no one here from Czech to argue for her.  He named a Czech friend as her accomplice.

What did I do? I looked the guy up.

Hell yes I did.  I can’t exactly ask Barbara about it, so I asked him.  It was a little awkward. Did you ever have to say to complete stranger, “Hi. Sorry—you don’t know me and please don’t think I’m a psychopath, but have you, by any chance, ever been a truck trafficker?”

He was amazingly nice about it. He said no. He said he has never sold any drug to anyone in his life. He said Bill would have witnessed him use drugs occasionally while he was on vacation, and that is probably how his name got attached. I said, “Thanks for being so kind. Pardon the stupid question. That’s what I thought.” So now it’s one guy’s word against the other. Pick the one you think is telling the truth:  the Czech guy you don’t know, or the guy in jail that you do know.

But again, since I’m exploring all possibilities, I attempted to figure out how drug smuggling could be a truth I never saw.

So many problems with that supposition leap out at me. We won’t discuss, until next week, Bill’s suggestion that Barbara was murdered by the people who procured her these drugs, but keep it in mind because :

(A)  That is a crap-load of a lot of coke. I’ve never been a drug dealer, so this is not the voice of experience speaking—but, how much money to you have to owe a drug dealer IN TAMARINDO before they kill you? This cocaine-mailing-to-Europe operation that supposedly existed is not some funny-tasting baking soda tucked inside a birthday card. We are talking about A LOT of cocaine that someone gave up all hope of ever being paid for.

(Honestly, you lost me right there. But I press on…)

(B)   Sending it through the mail? What—Correos de Costa Rica? UPS? Mailboxes Etc? DHL in Liberia?  I’m not saying it can’t be done, but a trans-Atlantic drug smuggling operation moving enough merchandise to end in a murder? Through the mail from Costa Rica? Successfully, let me add, because Barbara and her supposed accomplice were never suspected by the authorities.  Amazing.

(In my estimation, a woman as smart as Barbara, if she had gotten it right that far, would have paid the guys she owed.  She was an accountant.  She knew how this works.)

(C)   Mailing things is an enormous pain in Tamarindo.  Or it was when Barbara and I lived there. I’m just saying. If you’re mailing drugs, you need to package them and take the packages to the place from which you will mail them. Which would be mighty hard if you, like Barbara,  had no car. Not impossible–just hard. And you’d think someone would have noticed her pedaling down the street piled with packages, or taking a lot of mysterious trips to Liberia on the bus.


(D)   Remember last week’s discussion of whether or not Barbara was a drug addict?  In my understanding, people who successfully coordinate international drug trafficking operations large enough to put their lives in danger are not also addicts in need of rehab. They are smart, savvy business people who can afford cars. Generally speaking, of course. The addicts in need of rehab are at the other end of the food chain.  The people who are both addicts and dealers are the ones hanging around the corner with pockets full of little white baggies, which not even Bill has the nerve to suggest about her.

I will always say in conclusion: I could be wrong.  I don’t see how, but if you know something I don’t, feel free to speak up.

I am, however, willing to stick my neck out and say that, based on my own experiences with Barbara and in Tamarindo—I don’t believe it.

Next Monday in my last (I think) post in the series, I will explain why—even if I am wrong about everything I have said so far—I still don’t think a Costa Rican drug cartel killed Barbara.


Barbara Struncova
November 7, 2012

How I Tried (and Failed) to Believe that Barbara Was a Drug Addict

When Barbara Struncova disappeared, all of her boyfriend’s initial statements about where she went involved her leaving in the middle of the night to travel—to the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica and/or Panama—either with some Czech friends who were finishing a surf trip or with an ex-boyfriend named Martin. We know that these stories are false because none of the Czech surfers took a trip to the Caribbean at that time, and Barbara’s ex-boyfriend Martin has never been to Costa Rica.

His first attempt to blame Barbara’s disappearance on drugs, as far as I know, came in early 2011. He claimed that (attempt #1) her family quietly shuffled her off to a rehab program in Czech Republic. It wasn’t a very good story, though, because rehab programs do eventually end, and people reappear from them. And where is Barbara?

Sometime in 2013, he began to admit that Barbara is dead. And I would like to thank him for letting her rest, for managing to say something true. Good job.

His claim (attempt #2), which I believe that he holds to even now, is that Barbara was murdered by drug dealers to whom she owed enormous amounts of money for her own drug habit and for drugs that she was trafficking to Europe.

Let’s talk about that.

Could Barbara have used drugs that I don’t know about? Of course. Lots of people do lots of things I don’t know about.

Could Barbara have suffered from an out-of-control drug addiction? That’s a different type of question. I tried to construct it as a possibility, because it’s important to be open-minded, but it keeps falling apart on me. Nothing fits. Maybe that story works better on people who haven’t lived in Tamarindo. Or who didn’t know Barbara. It falls wildly short for those of us who did both.

In Tamarindo, the two common street drugs are marijuana and cocaine, so we can assume he is accusing her of abusing those. Indeed, Bill spelled it out clearly in a 2012 written conversation (not with me) where he called Barbara a “coke head”. It makes my blood boil to even write that. I don’t need Barbara to have been a saint, but this is beyond preposterous.

Have you known anyone who does a lot of drugs? Smokes a lot of pot? Consumes a lot of cocaine? I mean A LOT of cocaine? As in, they have lost it and really need to be in rehab right now?

I have.

Barbara didn’t look like them. She didn’t act like them.  She didn’t hang out with them. She didn’t even know them. I try to think of one thing Barbara had in common with them, but nothing comes to mind.

Let’s review what we all know. When a person is using enough cocaine to need rehab, they most likely:
–Have unusual/irregular sleep patterns
–Express volatile emotions
–Exhibit erratic behavior
–Suffer from a chronically runny nose
–They’ve probably tried to stop on their own, and failed
–They hang out with other people who do a lot of cocaine

Barbara did not have or do any of these things.  She was clear-minded, reliable, and even-tempered.

And then there’s this. During the entire two years that Bill and Barbara lived in Costa Rica, they had housemates—other people who lived with them and observed Barbara’s behavior, sleep patterns and emotional fluctuations much more closely than I was able to. I have talked with eight of these individuals. Not one of them witnessed her exhibiting behaviors that suggest she regularly consumed large amounts of cocaine.

For these reasons, I don’t buy it. She could certainly have used drugs and I would never have known it. Big deal. But a drug trafficker? And an addict? In need of rehab? Organized by her family in Czech? And eight housemates never noticed anything? Please.

Could I be wrong? I could.  But me, you, eight housemates and dozens of friends?  Or could it be the guy who’s in jail for what amounts to being a liar?  Draw your own conclusion.

Next week let’s put the next piece of the story on the table under a bright light: The one about Barbara buying huge amounts of coke and smuggling it into Europe–with such success that, even now, it has never been investigated or even suspected by the authorities.

Today CrimeWatchDaily airs its premier episode.  If you live in the USA, this link will tell you when you will be able to see it.

Barbara and Bill: CrimeWatchDaily Investigates

For the last 3 months, a guy who used to be my friend has been sitting in jail. Or whatever people in jail do—maybe a lot of pacing. He his name is Bill Ulmer, and he was the boyfriend of my friend Barbara Struncova, who disappeared in Costa Rica at the end of 2010. I don’t know what happened to her, but I do believe that Bill does and I do not believe that she is alive. Bill is not facing any charges related to Barbara, although her name was mentioned in court at the time of his arraignment. The charges he faces are:

(1) Misuse of passport
(2) Possession of identification document with intent to defraud
(3) Possession of a stolen identification document
(4) Possession and use of means of identification
(5) Aggravated identity theft.

All of these charges stem from the fact that he left Costa Rica on or around Dec 23, 2010 (18 days after Barbara was last seen) using his brother Wayne Ulmer’s passport. We could discuss how Bill came to be in Costa Rica with a passport that didn’t belong to him, but that’s another story.

Since Bill has been back in the USA, he has told anyone who will listen that Barbara had a raging drug addiction and that she was trafficking drugs to Europe. I find these claims so ridiculous on so many levels that until now, I have refused to even address them. But as Barbara’s 36th birthday  approaches, and as CrimeWatchDaily prepares to air their investigations into this case, later in the month, I am feeling bold. And honestly? Really pissed.

So let’s go there.

Drugs?  Are you kidding me?  Before we delve into all the reasons why that is ludicrous, let’s examine why it is inappropriate.

It is inappropriate because engaging in illegal/immoral behavior is NOT a justification for a disappearance.  Even if Barbara was a drug addict (like he says) and even if Barbara was a drug trafficker (like he says), she still vanished from the face of the earth one night and THAT IS STILL NOT OKAY.

Can I get an amen?
Thank you.

Who the hell cares what her imperfections were?  Medical/personal/moral issues are ENTIRELY BESIDE THE POINT.

Even if she was a criminal (which she wasn’t), something terrible still happened to her, and Bill’s stories still don’t add up.  And he seems to come up with a new one every few years.

I’m sorry, people-who-love-Bill-so-much-that-you-are-still-trying-to-believe-him.  I am truly sorry.  I pray for you.  It must be a nightmare to have someone you love in the position he is in.  But use your brain, for the love of God.  If Bill isn’t lying, then everyone else in the world is.  And if you think by “everyone else in the world” I am referring to myself and my imaginary friends, wait until you see what CrimeWatchDaily has put together.

I’m just saying.  Prepare yourself.

In my next post, I will briefly (because it doesn’t take long!) examine why it is ludicrous to believe that Barbara was a drug addict.  Next, I will (again, briefly) examine why it is ludicrous to believe that she was trafficking drugs across the Atlantic–especially using the method Bill named.  Then we will move on to the question of how likely/unlikely it is that she was murdered (Oh!  So I guess she didn’t run off with Martin after all, or go to Czech for rehab?  Oops!) by a Costa Rican drug cartel.

bill and barbara

Reading #4 from “When the Roll is Called a Pyonder: Tales from a Mennonite Childhood”

In this final reading from “When the Roll is Called a Pyonder,” learn about Mother Zimmerman’s foray in to swimsuit design, discover how to catch a snapping turtle without a trap, and ponder the pros/cons of culotte skirts with “flaps.”

Lastly and perhaps most importantly, find out what on earth prompts little pig-tailed Mennonite girls to begin writing things in notebooks.

Here’s to little Mennonite girls!  Cheers!


Reading #3 from “When The Roll is Called a Pyonder: Tales from a Mennonite Childhood”

Birthday month rolls on, and here’s another short reading to celebrate!  In this segment, learn about the danger that geese pose to little girls, discover my brief drumming career and find out how I resolve the dilemma of which is worse:  risking going to hell for having stolen something, or getting spanked for confessing it.