» Murder in Belize: How a reporter found the tragic scene
» From 2017: Mystery surrounds death of Atlanta Marine, girlfriend
“He was my brother,” said Barfield, 36, a commercial fisherman who, like DeVoursney, once lived in Georgia and still has family in the Peach State. “I think about him every day.”
The U.S. State Department referred questions about the investigation to Belizean authorities. Belize’s police department and the prime minister’s office did not respond to repeated requests for comment. The FBI confirmed it is still assisting with the investigation, but declined to comment further.
‘No closure for the families’
The same week they recovered the bodies, Belize police confirmed they had detained a Canadian man, John Deshaies, calling him a person of interest in the double-murder investigation. He was accused of stealing from a local casino but has not been charged in connection with the killings.
Brandon Barfield, left, with his best friend, Drew DeVoursney, whose murder last year in Belize remains unsolved. “He was my brother,” Barfield said. “I think about him every day.”
Deshaies, who rented space on the ground floor of Matus’ seaside home in Belize, denied involvement in the murders, telling local television reporters, “Not at all. She is a very good friend of mine. Absolutely not.” Deshaies pleaded not guilty to the theft and handling stolen goods charges and was released on bail the same month he was arrested. Reached by email this month, his attorney, Estevan Perera, said there were no new developments in Deshaies’ legal case.
Meanwhile, DeVoursney’s mother, Char, said her family has not heard any news from the U.S. government about the hunt for her son’s killers over the past few months.
“It’s been real, real quiet and frustrating,” said the divorcée, who lives in the Atlanta area.
Colin McGowan, a Scottish expatriate who helped coordinate an extensive search for DeVoursney and Matus before their bodies were found north of Corozal, is also frustrated.
“It is a year later,” said McGowan, co-owner of Scotty’s Bar and Grill, where the couple were last seen before they disappeared. “There has been nothing — no closure for the families.”
Bringing Drew home
Barfield remembers the day he met DeVoursney in Fallujah in late 2004, when U.S. troops were battling a robust insurgency in the city. DeVoursney walked into the communication shop where Barfield worked and asked for help with an equipment repair job. Striking up a conversation, they realized they were both Southerners and huge Florida State University football fans.
Drew DeVoursney of Georgia and his Canadian girlfriend, Francesca Matus, were killed in Belize last year. Their murders remain unsolved.
The oldest of two sons, DeVoursney was born in Thomasville, Ga., less than 40 miles north of Tallahassee, where Barfield grew up. They also had their differences. Barfield is extremely outgoing, while DeVoursney could enjoy spending time by himself. And while Barfield plays golf, DeVoursney was into soccer.
“Totally opposite of me,” Barfield said. “We battled all the time about soccer and golf. I thought soccer was stupid. He thought golf was stupid.”
Last year, Barfield sprang into action after learning DeVoursney was missing in Belize. Barfield alerted the FBI. He started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for hiring a private investigator. And he traveled to Belize, transforming himself into an amateur detective and interviewing dozens of people about what happened.
Those in Corozal who knew of DeVoursney and his bigheartedness went out of their way to help him, Barfield said, generously discounting Barfield’s hotel room and loaning him a truck while he was in town. Barfield found himself enjoying the benefits of the goodwill DeVoursney had sowed in Corozal.
“When we went there to try to get answers, the town was nothing but helpful,” Barfield said.
Barfield returned with DeVoursney's remains to the United States, calling the experience "crushing." He later shared his notes with the FBI.
Barfield is now engaged to be married and hopes to one day start a family. If that happens, Barfield said, he will keep DeVoursney’s memory alive by telling his children about him — about his kindness, his generosity, his genuineness.
One year later AJC reporter, Jeremy Redmon reflects on his trip to Belize to report on the murder of Atlantan Drew DeVoursney and his Canadian girlfriend Francesca Matus. He shares his personal photos experiences of walking through the remote sugar can with the local man who found DeVoursney and Matus’ bodies.