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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Monett woman's sister murdered in Honduras

Thursday, June 30, 2011

This is the last photo taken of all five of Neyda Holmes' sisters at Christmas. Her sister, Amanda, was killed in June in Honduras. From left, are: Blanca Matamoro, of Florida; Annie Osorto, of Honduras; the late Amanda Landa, of Honduras; Julie Landa and Delmy Landa both of Honduras; and Neyda Holmes, of Monett. Amanda Landa leaves behind a husband and two small daughters.
When I first heard that Neyda Holmes' sister was gunned down in a "drug war in Honduras," I immediately assumed that the reference was in connection to the illegal drug trade that flows through that area and into the United States with impunity.

Little did I know that Holmes' story was rife with government corruption, conspiracy, and finally, murder.

"My sister, Amanda, was a chemical pharmacist for the government," said Holmes, who lives and works in Monett. "The medicines came in to her office and were distributed to all the health centers in Honduras."

Many times American companies will ship medicine into poorer regions around the world to be dispensed to those in need. But the company Holmes was referring to is a Honduran pharmaceutical manufacturer.

"Amanda's boss forced her to do things that weren't right," Holmes said. "These companies would ship too much. My sister ordered 120 doses of a drug, and she received 7,000. She refused to sign for them.

"Many times she would return the unordered supplies to the company, but sometimes she would take samples into the lab to test them," Holmes continued. "Her boss did not agree with that. She got very angry and threw the papers down on Amanda's desk. She did not want my sister to test these drugs."

Amanda started communicating to her family members, many of which are employed by the military or other government agencies, that she was in fear that "something would happen to her."

"The pharmaceutical companies offered Amanda gifts, which she refused," Holmes said. "She would not compromise herself or the people of Honduras."

Threats were made, Amanda was intimidated at work, and she started searching for a new job in another office.

As a last resort, Amanda wrote to the Office of Corruption, explaining her boss' behavior, noting that some of the drugs were "watered down" and asking for an investigation. That letter was signed as being received by the Office of Corruption on May 31.

By June 9, Amanda was dead, shot and killed by two men on a motorcycle.

"She called her husband, Max, to tell him she was on her way and to meet her," Holmes said. "Normally, the taxi ride would have taken about 15 minutes. He waited, and she didn't arrive.

"Max called our sister, Julie, to tell her that Amanda hadn't arrived, and he said he would wait another 15 minutes," Holmes continued. "The family knew she had been threatened. He was very worried."

After Amanda still did not appear at their designated meeting place, Max took off to try and find his missing wife. What he found turned his entire world, and that of Amanda's family, upside down.

"There were five people in the taxi," Holmes explained. "There were two men on a motorcycle behind them. They shot through the back windshield, and the bullet went through Amanda and into the passenger in the front seat. He was killed. The two other people in the back seat ducked when they heard the noise. Amanda turned her head, and they shot her in the head. She was shot three times."

According to Holmes, the taxi driver reported that Amanda was clearly the target of the fatal shooting.

"Our whole family came to the hospital where they had taken Amanda," Holmes said. "Max said, 'The bastards killed my wife.' He never thought that they would go that far."

Max, a military lawyer, and Amanda shared every detail of their lives, so he was aware of Amanda's fears and the danger his family faced.

"He knows, the whole family knows, we are all in danger," Holmes said. "They don't know how much we know."

Other family members, high-ranking officials in the military and government, want to employ the services of the elite F1 military, a branch of the Honduran armed services. The incident is also under investigation by the Honduran Police and Secret Service.

"The family now has armed guards wherever they go and when they are at home," Holmes said. "Every time they leave their homes, their stress levels go way up. They fear seeing two men on one motorcycle. That's how they killed my sister. One man was driving and the other shot her."

As with any high profile crime, the Honduran media was immediately on the scene.

"They took pictures of my beautiful sister just lying there," Holmes cried. "It was horrible, just horrible."

While the family gathered at the hospital to mourn their lost loved one, Amanda's boss came to see if she was really dead.

"No one called her, no one told her about it, yet there she was," Holmes said. "I think her boss silenced her, because she was a threat to their business. You can't buy the fancy cars like she has on a salary you get from the government. And [her boss] was not working alone."

"Amanda's oldest daughter, Vivian Amanda, is 12," Holmes said, "and her eyes are empty. The youngest daughter, Alaina, is only 8. She says, 'I am too young to be without a mother.'"

Max and the children have yet to return to their family home, purchased a mere three months before his wife was killed.

"Max, he is devastated," Holmes said. "He does not want to live. We tell him he has to live for his daughters. The girls say they can't go back to that house without their mother, so Max is staying with family members. They are helping him, but he knows his life is in danger. It's no way to live."

Holmes is realistic about the magnitude of corruption that pervades every aspect of Honduras.

"Corruption had infiltrated down to every corner of society," Holmes said. "The letter to the Office of Corruption was leaked.

"We know that Amanda's boss did not act alone," she continued. "Max is angry. He lost his wife of 14 years. He said 'These people stole a life,' and talks of the many years they still had to share.

"Amanda said she prayed every night to be able to raise her girls," Holmes said, "to see them through school and to marry and have families of their own. That wish got cut short."

While Holmes talks of trying to forgive her sister's killers, she is hoping a conviction of both the killer and the people who perpetrated the crime will bring closure.

"We have to forgive them," Holmes said. "They didn't know what they were doing.

"But God is the only one who has the right to take a life," she said. "For someone to do it because of money -- we just can't conceive it."

In the meantime, the investigation into the corruption that eventually brought about the death of her sister is still underway.

"We just want justice for Amanda," Holmes said.

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