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Murder of Spanish golfer Celia Barquín “random act of violence”

Prosecutors say the alleged killer, who lived in a makeshift homeless settlement, did not know the 22-year-old victim

Celia Barquin
Murder suspect Collin Daniel Richards. AP

A young woman from Puente San Miguel in Spain’s northern Cantabria region discovers she has a remarkable talent for golf, one that takes her across the world to Ames, Iowa in the United States. One morning, like so many others, she goes to the course to practice. Then, out of nowhere, a man appears from the woods and stabs her to death. Like her, he is 22 years old. He, however, has a very different story.

The suspect had been living on a makeshift settlement for homeless people

According to police, Spanish golf champion Celia Barquín Arozamena had probably never before seen her accused killer, Collin Daniel Richards. She was there to play golf; he was there to kill. It was an “act of random violence,” according to Jessica Reynolds, the prosecutor from the county of Story.

It says a lot about Barquín that she was able to transform a small mid-western city into her home despite not speaking any English. She arrived in Ames four years ago to study civil engineering at Iowa State University. It was a typical American town, with the sprawling urban areas that are rarely found in Europe.

Her university campus bordered Lincoln Avenue, a road where pickups and four-wheel drives frequently pass. Then suddenly the road breaks into open space and there is nothing but a few abandoned caravans and a trailer. Further south there is a small wood and the Squaw stream.

Celia Barquín Arozamena.
Celia Barquín Arozamena.

It is here where homeless people have set up a makeshift settlement, put together from a handful of tents. “They don’t mix a lot, they don’t want any problems,” says Steve, a resident who is not eager to talk about the subject. According to local press, there have not been any problems at the site save for a brawl between two homeless people in 2008, which ended in one death.

At the site on Tuesday, a day after the murder, a few bags with cleaning rags, empty bottles of beer and energy drinks and a burned plate lie among the weeds. The remains of a miserable home, abandoned after police raided the place with dogs.

Police have not revealed whether Richards was raped

This is where Collin Richards had been living. And it was just near the settlement where he was arrested for first-degree murder.

On Monday, on the other side of the stream, golf players had spotted an abandoned golf bag at hole number 9 and warned the police. At 11.03am, officers found Barquín’s body in a lake at the golf course. She had stab wounds to the head, neck and upper body.

At 1.35pm, officers saw a man leave for the path that bordered the golf course. “What has he done?” he asked, when the officers approached him. Later, under interrogation, the man explained that Richards, who has a record of domestic violence, assault and robbery, had moved into the makeshift campground. One day as the two were walking the path next to the course, Richards told him he felt the “urge to rape and kill a woman.”

Possible rape

Police have not revealed whether Richards is accused of raping the young golf player. Officers said the suspect had “fresh scratches on his face” and a “deep cut on his left hand,” indicating Barquín put up a fight.

At the station, Richards told police he had been with someone the day of the murder. When police found the man at his home close to the golf course and interrogated him, he revealed that Richards had appeared at his house, disheveled, wet and covered with sand and water. The suspect then showered and put his clothes in a black backpack.

Two other witnesses say they were driving Richards toward Jefferson, 70 kilometers away, when he asked them to go back to the campground to pick up his belongings. But the police were already there when he arrived. He was arrested shortly after. Officers found blood-stained clothes in his backpack and a knife he had given to two friends.

Richards is accused of first-degree murder. On Tuesday he was placed into custody. He has invoked his right to remain silent. His lawyer says he plans to plead innocence. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for September 28. If found guilty, he will face life in prison.

“She was at the best moment of her life”

J. R.

Celia Barquín was clear about her goals. “You could see in her eyes she was going to go far,” said Nacho Gervás, technical director of the Spanish Golf Federation. “She was a very clever player and she worked harder than anybody,” he adds. According to the Gervás, Barquín “was at the best moment of her life,” having scooped up a series of championships including the European Amateur title.

Back in her hometown of San Miguel Arcángel, her loss has shocked the small community of just 3,000 residents. City Hall has declared three days of official mourning. “We are all very hurt, we are destroyed,” Barquín’s brother Andrés says from the door of her home.

Meanwhile locals lament the murder of the “poor girl.” “You go to the United States, you think it’s the best, it seems amazing and then at 22 a crazy person kills you,” said one.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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