Minnesota native found stabbed to death in Costa Rica


An American woman originally from Minnesota was found stabbed to death in the Costa Rican capital of San Jose.

The Associated Press reports 45-year-old Sondra Lynn (Payne) Elizondo, originally from Stewartville, Minnesota, was in the Central American country on business.

Her body was found in her hotel room. Local police so far have no motive.

She was a graduate of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, which posted a tribute to her on its website on Friday.

It notes that Elizondo was director and co-founder of Vida Volunteer, which sets up mobile medical, dental and veterinary clinics in needy Latin America communities.

The university honored her last year with its 2014 Humanitarian Award.

"Sondra was a devoted mother, loyal friend and caring daughter," a Vida colleague told the university. "She was a great inspiration and always passionate about helping others and making a positive difference. Vida Volunteer is the legacy Sondra leaves behind and we are more committed than ever to keeping her dream alive. She will be deeply missed."


Elizondo earned a B.A. in social work at the university and is said to have "fell in love with Costa Rica while serving in the Peace Corps from 1994 to 1996."

She married her husband Richard and moved back to the United States, before returning to Costa Rica when their children were 2 and 4. While there she was inspired to set up her volunteer network.

She lived in Central America for 10 years before moving to Florida last year to continue fundraising and overseeing the organization, which cared for 10,977 medical, 4,619 dental, and 11,101 animal patients in 2014.

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