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Belizean authorities reportedly release main suspect in Roanoke doctor's murder

More officers deployed to city for crime fighting efforts

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SAN PEDRO, BELIZE – Authorities have released the main suspect in the murder of Dr. Gary Swank and his tour guide, Mario Graniel, according to 7 News Belize

The suspect, Christian Espat, reportedly turned himself in on Thursday but was released Tuesday after police questioning. 

The San Pedro Sun reports that other people were also detained by police for questioning in regard to the double murder. 

In the wake of the murders, additional officers have been stationed in San Pedro in an effort to fight crime, the deputy commissioner of police, Edward Broaster, told Channel 5 Belize. The move reportedly comes after the National Security Council of Belize held an emergency meeting due to Swank and Graniel's deaths. 

As a result of the increased presence, officers seized a cache of guns and drugs on the island, Broaster told Channel 5. 

Authorities tell the San Pedro Sun that they believe Graniel was the target of the shooting because officers were called to his home Saturday after an unknown gunman fired shots outside his apartment complex. 

According to Breaking Belize News, authorities believe that Swank was murdered because he was a witness to the murder of his tour guide. 

Swank, 53, was a cardiologist at Carilion Clinic and was on a fly fishing expedition. He had recently been promoted to associate professor at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.

A service for Swank will be held Tuesday at 7 p.m. at St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church on Brambleton Avenue. 

About the Author:

Samantha Smith joined WSLS 10’s award-winning digital team as a digital content producer in July 2018.