Costa Rica News – I am the first person to say that I was wrong if the truth starts to come out but it seems like the truth behind the murder of a US man in Costa Rica could be connected to the fact that he was supposed to be a witness in the trial of Michael “Murder” Hoffler. Or was it something else?
For the second time in 10 years, a witness against drug dealer Michael “Murder” Hoffler has been shot to death before he could testify for prosecutors.
This time, investigators do not suspect any connection between the killing and Hoffler.
Stephen Rutkiewicz, 52, of Ravena was mysteriously gunned down Dec. 21 in Costa Rica while sitting in a car outside a bar in the seaside village of Brasilito. He had been slated to testify against Hoffler, who faces retrial for the Dec. 30, 2003 execution of Christopher Drabik, 31, of Watervliet.
Meanwhile, Hoffler is serving up to 30 years in state prison on drug charges.
Rutkiewicz was sitting outside the Kokomo Bar on Dec. 21 when he was shot around 3:30 a.m. He drove to another bar and bled to death waiting for an ambulance to arrive, a bouncer at the bar told a local Costa Rican newspaper.
It was reported a woman was in Rutkiewicz’s car — and that a man jumped out of the back seat and ran after the shooting.
In 2003 Drabik, a police informant, was lured to a house on Sixth Avenue in Lansingburgh on the pretext of construction work. He was shot to death by Gregory “G” Heckstall, a boyhood friend of Hoffler.
At the time, Hoffler faced an upcoming drug trial in Albany; Drabik was to be the prosecution’s star witness. Ten years later, Rutkiewicz — another witness poised to testify against Hoffler — is dead. But a person with knowledge of the situation said investigators do not suspect any link to the Hoffler trial. An investigator in the Hoffler case spoke to police in Costa Rica, and no one has connected the killing to the case, the person noted.
“It’s two separate events,” the person told the Times Union. “It’s not like he was a key witness to the Hoffler murder trial who was eliminated and you’ve got to wonder if it was related. My understanding is it was nothing like that.”
Rutkiewicz testified against Hoffler at his first trial when he was convicted
“I would not characterize him as a major witness,” the person said, explaining Rutkiewicz was to provide background information.
In 2005, a Rensselaer County jury convicted Hoffler of first-degree murder in the killing of Drabik. He was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. The Appellate Division of state Supreme Court reversed the conviction in 2008 and ordered a new trial. The mid-level appeals court found that potential jurors at the start of jury selection were not given the “oath of truthfulness” by the county commissioner of jurors.
No retrial date has been set. Hoffler’s defense attorney, Ray Kelly, has argued in federal court that the double-jeopardy clause prevents his client from being tried twice on the same evidence. The case is being prosecuted by attorney Michael McDermott, the former Albany County chief assistant district attorney who was named as a special prosecutor.
And we wonder why people do not fight against drug cartels…….
By Robert Gavin, timesunion.com, edited by Dan Stevens