Placerville man arrested in deadly Bolivian explosions
Associated Press Writer
LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) – Bolivian police were puzzling Thursday over the possible motives of an American accused of killing two people and wounding at least seven by setting off bombs in Bolivian hotels. He described himself as a Saudi Arabian lawyer, a pagan high priest, even a vampire, having adopted the name of the main character in Anne Rice’s dark novels.
He said he was running from the law in California, where he served time in juvenile prisons, and has tried for years to renounce his U.S. citizenship while wandering around South America on a shoestring, looking for women ” and getting into more trouble. He said he was jailed in Argentina where authorities said he tried to bomb an ATM machine.
Previously known as Triston Jay Amero, he also goes by John Scheda and Lestat Claudius de Orleans y Montevideo ” Lestat being the name of Anne Rice’s vampire, played by Tom Cruise in the movie. But this Lestat acknowledged he’s not the Hollywood type ” in a blog from Colombia two years ago, he described himself as “so repulsive in apearance and dress and religeous practice to the women of Colombia that even prostitutes wilnot take My Money.”(sic)
The 24-year-old did eventually find a woman ” Alda Ribeiro, 45, of Uruguay ” who was arrested along with him in the bombings and said Thursday that he alone was responsible.
“He has done something very bad against Bolivia and against these innocent people,” Ribeiro said in a television interview from jail. “He did all this behind my back, I didn’t know anything about this.”
The American suspect also was interviewed ” and accused the police of torture, of trying to rape Ribeiro in front of him to try to force him to confess. “I am sorry about the victims, nevertheless I’m not going to admit guilt on the advice of my attorney,” Lestat said.
The American suspect had applied for a “world passport” in 2003 under the name Amero, then applied for a new one in 2004 under the name Lestat Claudius de Orleans y Montevideo, said David Gallup, president and general counsel of the World Service Authority, a Washington D.C.-based advocacy group whose passports carry none of the privileges of a nation’s passport. The group’s Web site contends that its passport “represents the inalienable human right of freedom of travel on planet Earth.”
Details of this Lestat’s travels are documented in an extensive file kept by the World Service Authority. He regularly sent copies of visas and other state documents tracking his activities in Latin America. His visas show travel to Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina and Bolivia.
“It’s been a while that he’s been trying to get out of the U.S. system,” Gallup said. “Finally he made it to Latin America.”
La Paz district attorney Jorge Gutierrez said the couple entered Bolivia overland from Argentina and perpetrated attacks in other Bolivian cities that left no victims. They also tried to bomb an ATM machine in Jujuy, in northern Argentina, police said.
In January, he applied for Bolivian residency, according to Gallup and Isaac Pemintel, Bolivia’s national police chief.
He told Gallup he was passing the New Year in Potosi, Bolivia, a mining community where sticks of dynamite are sold out of stalls at a market open to all. And in the weeks before the blasts, his Uruguayan partner had been promoting a Bolivian business selling and exporting “explosives, fireworks and liquor.”
She was giving away promotional calendars to businesses in La Paz, with a picture of herself naked with a cardboard box of explosives perched on her knee, according to Marta Silva, who owns a corner store across from the second hotel.
The bombings killed a Bolivian man and woman and severely damaged two low budget hotels frequented by foreign tourists in La Paz’s historic city center. A U.S. citizen, identified as Jessica Wilson, was treated and released from a hospital, and the other injured people are Bolivian, police said.
Police said they managed to evacuate the second hotel before the blast hit at about 2 a.m. (0600 GMT) Wednesday, and that they thwarted the couple’s plans for a third bomb attack on the Chilean consulate here on Saturday. The pair blew up 110 dynamite cartridges in each attack and had planned to kill 150 people, police said.
Authorities were left scratching their heads as to their motive, finally saying it may have been “religious.” Police said he told them he was a practicing pagan high priest. He was conscious of his acts and hoped the bombings would get him wide media coverage to gain allies, district attorney Carlos Fiorilo Thursday.
President Evo Morales vented his anger shortly after the bombings, denouncing the crimes as an attack on Bolivia’s democracy.
“This American was putting bombs in hotels,” Morales said. “The U.S. government fights terrorism, and they send us terrorists.”
But in Lestat’s blog from Colombia and his communications to the Washington advocacy group, he repeatedly describes himself as a loner, a “political refugee” and “the Superman of Loosers” whose strongest desire is to distance himself from the United States.
“I was once a United States Citizen, but am now stateless,” he wrote in a December 2004 entry on a Yahoo users group. “You can escape from the United States very easily.”
The State Department called his mother, Dawna Scheda, in Placerville, California, to inform her about the arrest. Scheda told the AP Thursday she has not spoken with her son, and wouldn’t say more before hiring a lawyer.
“I really have no idea what’s going on,” she said. “Of course we don’t believe he would do something like this. He’s my son.”
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