December 7, 2010: Bill returns the borrowed car

On the morning of December 7, 2010, Bill returned the car he borrowed the previous afternoon. He returned it with the gas tank re-filled.  It was surprisingly clean, except for a notable amount of mud in the wheel wells.

Bill posted a note on the facebook wall of Barbara’s sister, stating that Barbara had telephoned him.  The message that Bill “relayed” is that Barbara said she was going to travel to Panama with her friend, that she didn’t have internet where she was now, but that she would email the family as soon as she got to a place where she could.  And not to worry, she was fine.

Obviously, the email they must have waited for never came.

bill and barbara

Read from other days:

December 6
December 12

December 6, 2010: Bill Ulmer borrows a board bag and a car

On December 6, 2010, Bill walked into a the surfshop where he often worked, and told the employee on duty that he needed to borrow the largest surf board bag they had. He stated that he needed to go to Junquillal to pick up a board or some things from one of Barbara’s friends. He said that Barbara left him for a new boyfriend, and that she and this new boyfriend had gone to Puerto Viejo, on the other side of the country.  Bill received, on loan, a used surfboard bag that was designed to fit 3 9-11 foot surf boards.  He left the surf shop with it on December 6 and it has never been seen again.

Bill posted something mean on his facebook page about how you never really know a girl until she leaves you, then the real person shows up.

In the afternoon, Bill borrowed a car from a friend.  He told this person that he needed it to take some of Barbara’s things to a friend of hers who would make sure she got them.  This friend was supposedly somewhere nearby like Flamingo or Avellanas.  He received the car in the late afternoon.

It is reasonable to believe that, on the night of December 6, 2010, Bill placed Barbara’s body inside the board bag that he borrowed, placed the bag either in or on the borrowed car, and took them someplace to hide.  Neither the body nor the bag have ever been discovered.  He did not take Barbara’s things anywhere–they remained in her closet.  Documents prepared by the OIJ and presented in a US court of law indicate that large amounts of blood evidence were discovered in the closet of Bill and Barbara’s bedroom.  Traces of blood evidence were also discovered in the form of drag marks that lead from the closet, through the door of the residence and then disappeared.

Read other days:

December 5
December 7


December 5, 2010: Barbara Struncova disappears

At about 1:00 AM on December 5, Barbara’s friends drove her to her home after dinner and drinks. She got out of the vehicle, and they watched her enter her residence.

Three of four roommates were in their rooms sleeping. None of them hear anything unusual during the night.

B and B hand over his mouth

In the morning, Bill told his roommates that Barbara left him.  He told them that she came home drunk from the bar and that she packed a bag and left with one of the Czech surfers who was an old boyfriend of hers.  He said that they got on the bus to San Jose, headed for the Caribbean coast.  Everyone was stunned and confused, but nobody wanted to ask nosy questions.

Barbara’s spirit was free by this time, but it is reasonable to believe that her body was in her closet with her clothes.

Bill went to work at a tour office that day. The friend who had plans to meet Barbara at the beach noticed him there. She stopped by to say hello, and mentioned to Bill that she had plans to meet Barbara later. Bill replied that she won’t be seeing Barbara, because Barbara had gotten drunk with her friends the night before, and they left  to travel to Limon (Caribbean coast).  Barbara’s friend thought this sounded odd, but hoped Barbara was having a fun, spontaneous trip.

Read about other days

December 4, 2016
December 6, 2010


December 4, 2010: The last day of Barbara Struncova’s life

Six years ago day, was the last day of Barbara Struncova’s life.

If it was a normal day, she woke up early, walked the dog, went to the beach. I hope she did all of her most favorite things. She made plans with a friend to meet the following day at the beach. (When I say “a friend,” I am not referring to myself.  I was not in Costa Rica at the time.)

Barbara and her boyfriend Bill Ulmer were hosting a group of surfers from Barbara’s native Czech Republic.  Six years ago tonight, Barbara and Bill joined them for dinner at a restaurant in their adopted hometown of Tamarindo, Costa Rica. Some of the Czech surfers were new friends and some were old friends.

Bill left the group immediately after dinner and went home. One of the 4 roommates who lived with Bill and Barbara remembers Bill being in the house by 7:30 pm.

Barbara stayed out with the group of Czech friends. After dinner, they all went to a bar.

. . .

About an hour after midnight, Barbara’s Czech friends drove her to her home. She got out of the vehicle, and they watch her enter her residence.  This is the last reported sighting of Barbara Struncova, ever.

Read other days:

December 5, 2010




Barbara Struncova, Six Years Missing

It’s December, the time of year when I hang up colorful lights, buy gifts, and feel Barbara very close.

Tomorrow, December 4, is the 6th anniversary of the last day of Barbara Struncova’s life. She was 31 years old.

This year, in honor of her life and her disappearance, I am going to share the notes on the timeline I’ve complied during the last six years. I believe this information to be correct. If anyone is aware of errors or has additional information to add, no matter how small, please click the “contact me” button.


Barbara Struncova November 7, 2010

Barbara Struncova
November 7, 2010–27 days before she vanished from her home

Albertina Talking to Jaguars

a poem for a girl who isn’t born yet about a woman who has passed on

Your bis bis abuela
knew about the danger of
jaguars at the quebrada.
She remembered when the
mapmakers came to town and
tried to change its name to
something holy like
Santa Barbara down the road, or
San Lazaro further on.
She said she told them no.

Your mamá was
too little to listen to stories back
when Albertina’s mind
was clear, and then Albertina
started seeing angels.
She walked
barefoot to Santa Cruz with
comales on her head and
sold them each for one colon
to buy sugar and
things she couldn’t grow or grind herself.
Then she walked home.

She knew the old stories
the old ways.
She had seven sons and
no husband to obey.
Me decía “mi nieta”
because she knew I belonged to her
even after she forgot my name, and
sat on the porch talking
to jaguars until
she turned one hundred.

A Lesson on Magic

All of the sudden, I’m looking for a point of reference, a place from which to start, something certain. Not to be melodramatic, but it’s been a rough week.  I don’t generally get all wound up about “politics,” but the election we all just survived was more about American morals than American “politics.”  It pulled the rug out from under me.

When I look for a place to begin, I often come back to something I read in college. I’m not going to name the book or the author because, to be entirely honest, I’m not sure how much of what I’m going to say is actually in the book and how much of it I’ve made up since then. College was a LONG time ago. I’ve lived a lot, drawn on this often, and probably molded it to fit me. In lieu of butchering someone else’s book, I’ll just say that these are not original thoughts–they’re second-hand like my clothes.

I read the book for a Women’s Studies class. The author is a Native American woman who, if I remember correctly, was an anti-nuclear power activist in the 1980s (when I was encountering algebra and learning to drive a car). She’s a witch, too–a Wicca witch, not a Halloween witch. The book is about (among other things) magic.

THIS WOULD BE A FABULOUS TIME FOR SOME MAGIC. I would like a fairy god mother to turn vegetables into vehicles, even for an evening. We could use a benevolent woman with a magic wand, a fair although angry woman with a magic wand.

We don’t have one.

But here’s what I learned from the book about how to do magic yourself:

To work magic is to change the physical manifestation of things. Anyone can do it. It takes strength and imagination, not special powers. The author tells the story of her favorite hiking trail in the forest, which people would litter with trash. Time after time she walked by the trash, disliking it and the people who left it there, until finally she decided to use her witch’s powers of changing the physical manifestation of things to make it disappear. She gathered some friends and some trash bags, and picked up the trash. What was the result? Abracadabra: a clean trail.  Just like that.

A thing like that sticks with a girl. So simple. So true.

I want to live in a world that isn’t covered in trash. I pick up what I can.
I want to live in a world that has clean air. I plant things. I ride my bicycle when I can.
I want to live in a world where people don’t walk around the grocery store with concealed weapons. I don’t own a gun.
I want to live in a world where neighbors are nice to each other. I wave and say hi.
I want to live in a world where people look me in the eyes and take me seriously. I look people in the eyes and am serious.

It doesn’t solve everything. It doesn’t solve anything, maybe. Not-owning a weapon doesn’t keep me safe. Pedaling through the rain doesn’t reverse global warming. (But ask me if suiting up for a rainy ride changes the physical manifestation of getting from place to place, as opposed to sitting in a car.) Me waving at the neighbor ladies is not going to end racism any time soon.

But I have strength. I have imagination. I have time. I can make things be different on the trail I walk on. Doing nothing gives you a feeling of helplessness, even if all you are is lazy. Doing something changes things, and that is magic. Getting the stray cat spayed changes the number of stray cats in the neighborhood, and we all know what a downer the physical manifestation of too many feral cats is.

I don’t live in the States. I’m white, straight and of Christian traditions. I’m not sitting here in fear of becoming a target of bigotry–I look too much like the bigots. Nobody is going to beat me up or insult me because of my clothes or my skin or who I’ve married. I am terrified for others, but it’s different because it’s not me. I recognize that as privilege. My greatest privilege, in my opinion, is that I am living in a country that doesn’t suffer from hate crimes and terror. Bad things happen, but the dynamics are not the same.

I don’t know how to do magic that makes hate or fear go away. I don’t know a spell to make privileges visible to those who hold them with blind eyes.  I know how to turn a dirty bathroom into a clean one, and I have the perfect spell for getting trash off the beach.  But how do I make safety appear?

I don’t know.  But I am looking for the answer.  I am trying.  I might turn some princes into frogs by accident along the way, but it’s important to start.  It’s important to try.  If the only things I can change the physical manifestation of are small and insignificant, I will do it anyway.  What is too small to matter when everything is made up of atoms?


Hold on to your hat.