American ex-pats living on the island of Bocas del Toro were pretty concerned when Bo Islar went missing in December 2009. However, it stopped feeling like a coincidence when another ex-pat, Cher Lynn Hughes, disappeared from the same island about four months later. ‘Dateline: Stealing Paradise’ chronicles the shocking incident and portrays how Bo and Cher’s bodies were discovered buried in a nearby property. Let’s delve into the details surrounding the homicide and find out more, shall we?
How Did Bo Islar and Cher Lynn Hughes Die?
Bo Islar and Cher Lynn Hughes were American ex-pats who built a comfortable life for themselves on the island of Bocas del Toro in Panama. Although the two weren’t related, they were a part of the same friend circle and knew each other pretty well. Moreover, while Bo preferred to live a quiet life and kept mostly to himself, Cher adored company and loved mixing with others on the island. She even arranged movie screenings, picnics, and boat trips for local school students and was widely loved in the community.
Moreover, Cher, along with her husband, Keith Werle, owned a picturesque hotel on the island, and they looked forward to a wonderful life together. Yet, her marriage soon faced a hiccup, and the American ex-pat was living alone at the time of her disappearance. When Bo Islar went missing in December of 2009, most people on the island believed he sold off his property and left to build a life elsewhere. It wasn’t unusual for Bo to move away independently, and some sources even claimed he was spending his days in Argentina.
However, while Bo’s property was taken over shortly after his disappearance, people became even more concerned when they learned that the ex-pat was not paying his bills. In the meantime, the police realized that there were no activities on his credit cards, although they were unable to figure out his whereabouts. Interestingly, the investigation into Bo Islar’s disappearance was still ongoing when Cher Lynn Hughes went missing in March 2010.
Cher’s disappearance was way more concerning for all, as she had built up a wonderful relationship with the community, and it was uncharacteristic of her to leave without a single word. On top of it, her friends and family members insisted that Cher was enjoying her life on the island, although no one knew why she would be made the target of possible foul play.
Additionally, it was also pretty strange to witness Cher’s property being taken over after her death, and once people noticed the similarities between the two incidents, they began suspecting something sinister. Much later, the police dug up both Bo and Cher’s bodies from a nearby property, and an autopsy determined that they were shot to death.
Who Killed Bo Islar and Cher Lynn Hughes?
The initial investigation into Bo Islar and Cher Lun Hughes’ disappearances was quite challenging as the police did not have any leads or witnesses to follow. On top of it, law enforcement officials initially believed there was no connection between the incidents, even though they suspected foul play regarding Cher’s disappearance. Besides, Cher’s acquaintances and family members insisted that she had no known enemies, which left detectives without an immediate suspect.
Meanwhile, when Cher’s loved ones realized that the investigation was going nowhere, they employed the services of Don Winner, another American ex-pat who ran Panama Guide, a news website for foreigners living in Panama. Don took the investigation into his own hands and noticed that Cher’s friends, William “Wild Bill” Adolfo Cortez and his wife, Jane Cortez, appeared interested in the missing woman’s property.
William, who ran a bar on the island and was known for throwing loud parties, even took over Cher’s house without warning and used it as a place for hosting events. However, even though such a development was pretty suspicious, William insisted on his innocence, and the police had no evidence which tied him to the crime. Incidentally, reports claimed that Cher had a faithful dog who remained in her house after her sudden disappearance.
However, a few months into the investigation, the police, as well as Don Winner, noticed how the dog would often escape Cher’s home before making his way to William’s property. Realizing that something was suspicious about the bartender, Don approached the police and asked them to arrest William, as he owned a firearm, which is illegal in Panama. Nevertheless, when officers went over to William’s property with a search warrant, they found Cher’s dog, who appeared to be leading them to a specific spot in the backyard. That was when the case took a surprising turn.
Officers dug up the location specified by the dog, only to find Cher and Bo Islar’s bodies buried in the ground. However, William and his wife were nowhere to be found, and officers soon put the word out to other stations, complete with a picture of the suspect. Shortly after, an informant noticed the two in Costa Rica and informed authorities, who wasted no time in apprehending them.
When questioned, William confessed to the murders of Bo Islar and Cher Lynn Hughes and claimed he killed them for their properties. William subsequently admitted to killing four other individuals and even led the police to their remains. Besides, readers would also be surprised to know that the ensuing investigation revealed William’s real name as William Dathan Holbert, while his wife was called Laura Michelle Reese.
Nevertheless, in 2017, the country of Panama found William guilty of the robbery and homicide of 5 people, and he was sentenced to 47 years in prison. On the other hand, William’s wife, Laura Michelle Reese, was sentenced to 26 years for her role in the crimes. At present, William still remains behind bars at a Panama prison, although reports state that he chairs a syndicated Christian inmate organization called Los Reos Unificados.
Read More: William Holbert: Where is the Killer Now?