American Owner of Thai Gibbon Sanctuary Killed, Police Say
The Associated Press
Published: May 11, 2002

MAE SOT, Thailand (AP) - An American man who ran a private animal sanctuary in remote northern Thailand was fatally shot by assailants who also killed a 3-year-old girl and three sanctuary employees, police said Saturday. William Deters, 63, and the other victims, all Thai, were killed late Friday at Deters' Highland Farm and Wildlife Refuge, police said, citing a Dutch visitor who said he hid from the attackers. They said the victims had bullet wounds in their foreheads, suggesting execution-style slayings.

The 35-acre farm is 27 miles south of Mae Sot, a major trading post town on Thailand's border with Myanmar. The sanctuary was founded in 1991 and became a refuge for abandoned, mistreated or injured gibbons. The border area has security problems because of guerrillas who cross over from Myanmar, but police speculated a personal dispute may have been the motive.

Deters had quarreled with neighbors some time ago about the use of electricity and water from a local stream, police Lt. Col. Siriwat Kumsumthia said.

The Dutch man, Abraham Wilhelm Everardus Osterloh, 24, said Deters told him someone had tossed a homemade firebomb at the farm week ago and that someone had cut the electricity lines to the property three days ago, according to police. He said Deters reported the incidents to police. Osterloh told police he had been in a kitchen talking to Deters when he heard gunshots. He said he went outside, saw the gunmen, then went back inside and hid in a bathroom after hearing a gunman say in English, "I will kill you."

Police said they believed there were two gunmen. They said they found spent shells from .357-caliber and .45-caliber handguns and an M-16 assault rifle.

Police did not know Deters' hometown. He was a longtime resident in Thailand and was married to a Thai woman who was not at the refuge at the time of the killings.

An official at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok said Saturday that the embassy had no knowledge of the incident.

The other victims were two men and a woman who worked at the farm and the child of one of the victims, police said.

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