Florida couple, grandson, two others slain in attack in central Cuba
HAVANA (AP) — Attackers killed a Florida couple, their 8-year-old grandson and two others during a robbery on a central Cuban highway, official sources and family members said Tuesday.
Four were identified as members of the same family and the fifth as a family friend who was driving the car. Family members and a morgue employee said the victims were shot to death.
Multiple killings are almost unheard of, and slayings of visitors to the communist country — whose economy depends heavily on foreign tourism — are extremely rare.
Osmani Placencia of Hialeah, Fla., identified the dead as his parents, Ada Lorenzo, 52, and Celedonio Placencia, 62, both Cuba natives with legal U.S. residency; his son, Daniel Osmani Placencia, 8, of Cuba; his sister, Yailen Placencia, 28, of Cuba; and Domingo Delgado, a family friend who was driving.
The couple flew to Cuba on Sunday to deliver medicine and supplies to sick relatives in Santa Clara.
Cuba’s official media reported nothing about the killings and there was no comment Tuesday from official government spokesmen.
But several government sources privately confirmed the five were slain in an apparent robbery attempt in Matanzas province while driving east from Havana to visit relatives in Santa Clara, in Las Villas province. It wasn’t immediately clear if the killings occurred Sunday or Monday.
A woman reached later at the forensic services office — the morgue — in Matanzas said the victims had been shot. The woman also refused to give her name.
Most Cubans are not allowed to carry firearms, which are restricted to police and the military. However, criminals have been known to obtain firearms on the black market.
“It wasn’t an accident,” Placencia told Spanish language television in Miami. “They robbed them and then they killed them.”
Family and friends of the victims, gathered in Florida Tuesday to mourn and remembered their loved ones.
Yisel Placencia, the couple’s daughter, broke down as she looked at photographs of the victims. One showed her sister Yailen smiling as she hugged their parents. Another showed Daniel happily playing in front of his Santa Clara home.
Jorge Lorenzo, Ada Lorenzo’s brother, said family members had no plans to go to Cuba and that Cuban authorities assured them they were working “night and day” on the case.
Cuban exile groups in Miami who oppose leader Fidel Castro said the killings show the Caribbean island is dangerous.
The bodies were retrieved by a relative early Tuesday from the Matanzas morgue and taken to a funeral home in Santa Clara.
Officials at the U.S. Interests Section, the American mission here, said they had no information about the case but would not be contacted if no American citizens were involved.
The last known killing of a visitor to Cuba was in May, when a former Roman Catholic priest from the United States was strangled at a Havana home where he was staying. Cuban officials never commented publicly on the case and the cause of death was never given.
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