EXCLUSIVE: Parents of missing B.C. mom travel to Peru to find justice

Al and Kathy Kasatkin have not heard from their daughter Kimberlee in two years. They have journeyed from Abbotsford, B.C. to Lima, Peru with two intentions: bring their grandchildren home and get justice for Kimberlee.

“I don’t know where she is,” said Kimberlee’s dad Al. “When I say she’s here, it’s in a spiritual sense.”

Kimberlee’s parents believe she has been murdered.

“We just want Kim to have her day in court. Christopher should be having his day in court. It’s the only way to get to the truth,” Kimberlee’s mother Kathy told Global News.

Kimberlee Kasatkin was fiercely in love. She met Christopher Franz Bettocchi, a Peruvian citizen, on Vancouver Island while studying acupuncture. After spending time together in Africa, the couple settled in Miraflores, an affluent district of Lima, about five years ago. They had two children, a five-year-old girl and eight-year-old boy.

Their relationship was volatile. Shocking allegations of abuse surfaced on Peruvian television this year.

“She told me they fought a lot. She was very unhappy,” Rachael Fois, one of Kimberlee’s best friends, told Global News in her first interview. Fois lived in the same building as the couple and their children.

“She would have never left those kids. Never! There’s no way, no way! She stayed there for them,” Fois said with conviction.

“She wanted to get out. She did try going to the Canadian embassy for advice of what she could do because she felt so incredibly helpless.”

Emotional appeal: Best friend of Kimberlee Kasatkin has a message for children of missing B.C. woman

The Canadian embassy in Lima refused to answer specific questions from Global News, citing privacy issues. An interview request was also denied.

In a statement, Global Affairs Canada said consular officials urged the Peruvian government to ensure those responsible are held accountable.

“For us it’s not disappeared, for us, she has been murdered,” alleged Julio A. Rodríguez Delgado, Kimberlee’s lawyer in Peru.

He confirmed chilling details in the case:

• Nov. 26, 2016: Surveillance footage showed Kimberlee entering her building but never coming out.
• Nov. 27, 2016: Franz Bettocchi was captured on camera in a parking garage, moving a heavy suitcase he could barely lift — Kimberlee’s body suspected to be inside. Franz Bettocchi denies it, claiming it was camping gear.
• Jan. 2017: DNA analysis by Peruvian police reveals Kimberlee’s blood on a column in the same parking garage.

Extortionists demanded US$5,000 from the Kasatkins for a piece of Kimberlee’s body, claiming she was buried in Chilca, a city 90 minutes outside of Lima. Franz Bettocchi has property in the area. Police searched, but Kimberlee’s body has never been found.

Franz Bettocchi is facing a charge of femicide, a charge in Peruvian law for the killing of a woman. After two judges denied his release, a third judge in another jurisdiction let him out of custody in June, citing insufficient grounds for detention. The prosecutor is seeking a 17-year sentence.

“I know in the North American system there is a phrase I heard – no body, no crime – but in our system it’s not, because if we have enough evidence we can use that evidence to sentence him for femicide,” Rodríguez Delgado told Global News.

In a letter to Global News, Franz Bettocchi maintained his innocence and said he is in Peru, but where? He has not responded to emails from Global News. The high court in Lima issued an arrest warrant more than two months ago.

Rodríguez Delgado is confident the criminal trial will start before the end of the year, with or without Franz Bettocchi.

Kimberlee’s mother has given up. She used to believe her daughter will get justice but not anymore.

“I just miss her so much. It’s just taking so long. It’s not fair,” Kathy said with tears in her eyes. “I imagine what she must have been going through the last few minutes of her life and I’m just having a hard time holding it together.”

It was a blunt acknowledgement, one Al was not prepared for. Their focus is now on the custody of their grandchildren.

“She may be gone but there’s still a lot of her that’s here,” Al said, “She has her legacy here. She’s got her children. I’ve got a lot of hope.”

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