Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The real-life 'Hostel' murders

The real-life 'Hostel' murders

William Holbert and Laura Reese
William Holbert and Laura Reese

Like many people, William Dathan Holbert dreamed of moving to a tropical paradise. He went further than dreaming, though, leaving behind his family and his old life as a landscaper and gym manager in North Carolina—as well a fraud charge that had kept him fleeing from state to state—and headed with Laura Michelle Reese to the beaches of Panama's Bocas del Toro.

Life was easy where the jungle met the sea. Bocas del Toro, on Panama's border with Costa Rica, is a laid-back, fairly undeveloped Caribbean resort area. The waves draw an international surfing crowd, and the coral reefs seduce scuba divers, but there are still beaches often empty of anything but palm trees and mangroves.

Bocas del Toro, Panama
Bocas del Toro, Panama

The couple took over a hostel. And then, as in the chilling movie of the same name, people went missing.

"Wild Bill" Holbert, 31, and Reese, 27, are alleged to have killed seven or more people as part of a plot to steal their property and money.

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