Man questioned in Belize double murder had argued with victim, neighbor says

Francesca Matus rented the ground floor of her home north of Corozal to John Deshaies, who police have identified as a person of interest in Matus’ and Drew DeVoursney’s murders. JEREMY REDMON/jredmon@ajc.com
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Francesca Matus rented the ground floor of her home north of Corozal to John Deshaies, who police have identified as a person of interest in Matus’ and Drew DeVoursney’s murders. JEREMY REDMON/jredmon@ajc.com

Canadian suspect denies involvement

The investigation into the killings of a Marine veteran from Georgia and his girlfriend entered its second week here Monday as police continued to question a Canadian national they have identified as a person of interest.

John Jeffrey Deshaies, 54, appeared briefly in the lobby of the bright yellow and green Corozal police station on Monday, calmly answering a police officer’s questions and filling out paperwork. Moments later, he was escorted to a private room. Wearing a dark T-Shirt, jeans and black work boots with no shoelaces, he is being held in a temporary cell in the aging building.

MURDER IN BELIZE: Mystery surrounds death of Atlanta Marine, girlfriend

Deshaies has not been charged in connection with the killings of Drew DeVoursney, 36, of Atlanta, and Francesca Matus, 52, a property manager and mother of two from Canada. Police are holding him on unrelated theft and handling stolen property charges. Deshaies has told his attorney he is not connected to the murders.

"He said he doesn't think he will be charged since he had nothing to do with that," his attorney, Estevan Perera, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Meanwhile, a complicated portrait of Deshaies has begun to emerge. Friends described him as a close friend of Matus’ and incapable of such a violent act. But one neighbor told The AJC he had heard the two arguing loudly over money.

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John Jeffrey Deshaies, shown here at the Corozal police station, has been identified as a person of interest in the case. Deshaies has denied involvement in the killings, telling local television reporters, “Not at all; she is a very good friend of mine. Absolutely not.” JEREMY REDMON/jredmon@ajc.com

John Jeffrey Deshaies, shown here at the Corozal police station, has been identified as a person of interest in the case. Deshaies has denied involvement in the killings, telling local television reporters, “Not at all; she is a very good friend of mine. Absolutely not.” JEREMY REDMON/jredmon@ajc.com
Caption
John Jeffrey Deshaies, shown here at the Corozal police station, has been identified as a person of interest in the case. Deshaies has denied involvement in the killings, telling local television reporters, “Not at all; she is a very good friend of mine. Absolutely not.” JEREMY REDMON/jredmon@ajc.com

Police have not explained why they have identified Deshaies as a person of interest. Deshaies, who has worked in the construction industry, paid Matus rent to live on the ground floor of her spacious, seaside home in northern Corozal.

DeVoursney and Matus were missing for almost a week here before a farmer found their bodies in his sugar cane field on May 1. Police found them with tape on their wrists. The FBI has been assisting with the investigation. Authorities have ruled out theft as a motive.

Caption
The bodies of Drew DeVoursney and girlfriend Francesca Matus were found May 1. (Credit: Channel 2 Action News)

The bodies of Drew DeVoursney and girlfriend Francesca Matus were found May 1. (Credit: Channel 2 Action News)
Caption
The bodies of Drew DeVoursney and girlfriend Francesca Matus were found May 1. (Credit: Channel 2 Action News)

Deshaies’ girlfriend, Jasmine Lizarraga, waited outside the Corozal police station for him Monday, hoping he would be released from custody. Police, however, said he would soon be transferred to a prison southwest of Belize City on the theft-related charges. Lizarraga denied her boyfriend was involved in the killings.

“John is a very cool guy,” said Lizarraga, who stayed with Deshaies at Matus’ home. “He would never do something like that. He was very close to Francesca.”

Lizarraga and Perera also said Deshaies is not guilty of the theft-related charges. Police have accused him of stealing tens of thousands of Belizean dollars worth of computer equipment, gambling chips and other items from a casino in Belize. Lizarraga said her boyfriend was hired to move that equipment to another casino.

“He was just doing his job,” she said.

As word spread that Deshaies was being questioned in the connection with the double murder, a family friend told the Toronto Sun police have the wrong guy.

“It’s a terrible misunderstanding,” the family friend, who did not want to be identified, told The Sun. “Francesca was his best friend. He’s a really good guy.”

Deshaies came under suspicion because he disappeared four days into the search for Matus and DeVoursney, the family friend told The Sun.

“His family just wants him to come home,” the friend said. “He’s 5-foot-8. Even if he had a harmful bone in his body, he couldn’t have done it.”

But Don Richardson, a California native who is building a home across from Matus’ property, had a different impression. He said he witnessed Matus and Deshaies loudly arguing the day before she was reported missing. Deshaies owed Matus months of rent, Richardson said, and she was telling him to get out. Lizarraga denied Deshaies had fallen behind in his payments to Matus. A Belize police spokesman said he could not confirm Richardson’s account.

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Francesca Matus’ Isuzu Rodeo was discovered abandoned in a sugar cane field near Corozal, Belize, after she and Drew DeVoursney were reported missing. The Isuzu has been relocated to a lot adjacent to the Corozal police station. JEREMY REDMON/jredmon@ajc.com

Francesca Matus’ Isuzu Rodeo was discovered abandoned in a sugar cane field near Corozal, Belize, after she and Drew DeVoursney were reported missing. The Isuzu has been relocated to a lot adjacent to the Corozal police station. JEREMY REDMON/jredmon@ajc.com
Caption
Francesca Matus’ Isuzu Rodeo was discovered abandoned in a sugar cane field near Corozal, Belize, after she and Drew DeVoursney were reported missing. The Isuzu has been relocated to a lot adjacent to the Corozal police station. JEREMY REDMON/jredmon@ajc.com

Richardson also said he and Deshaies got into a physical altercation at Scotty’s Bar & Grill in Corozal in March. Richardson said Deshaies pressed charges against him after the incident. Richardson and another neighbor, Dr. Pat King, said Deshaies nearly ran over them with his truck last month as they stood on the side of the road near King’s home.

The AJC could not independently confirm their account. Lizarraga said she witnessed the episode and denied Deshaies was trying to harm them. Instead, Lizarraga said, Deshaies was fearful of Richardson and was seeking to avoid him.

Richardson said Deshaies was helping build his home before Richardson fired him. His property sits across from Matus’ home, a white stucco house with a red-tiled roof that looks out onto the Caribbean Sea. A pair of Matus’ close friends said she was preparing to sell the property in the next few months.

King, a retired dentist who lives next door, said the murders have put her on edge. She moved there from California for peace and quiet.

“Now I’m applying for a gun license,” she said as she stood outside her home. “I’m not going to go down easy.”

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