A Minnesota native and University of St. Thomas graduate who arranged medical missions in Central America was found stabbed to death in a Costa Rican hotel room this week, officials said Friday.
Sondra Lynn Elizondo, 45, was visiting the capital city of San Jose for business when police found her body Wednesday in the room, university officials wrote in a statement on its website. She would have turned 46 on Friday.
A motive for the killing remains unclear. Her death is under investigation by the Judicial Investigation Police in Costa Rica.
Elizondo, most recently of Merritt Island, Fla., was the director and co-founder of Vida Volunteer, a nonprofit that sets up mobile medical, dental and veterinary clinics in impoverished communities in Latin America. In 2014, she received the University of St. Thomas’ Humanitarian Award for her life’s work.
A Stewartville, Minn., native, Elizondo earned a bachelor’s in social work from St. Thomas in 1992. After graduation, she moved to Costa Rica while serving in the Peace Corps from 1994 to 1996, according to the university.
She returned to the United States for a time but moved back to Costa Rica. With a $5,000 loan, Elizondo and a teacher friend founded Vida to help address health issues throughout Costa Rica in 2007. The program allowed precollege students interested in pursuing medicine to work with local doctors, translators and guides in underserved remote areas of Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Guatemala. It also provides “free care to people and, for a small fee, their farm animals and pets,” according to the website.
Elizondo lived in Costa Rica for 10 years before moving to Florida in 2014 to oversee Vida. In a statement released by St. Thomas, a Vida co-worker described Elizondo as “a devoted mother, loyal friend and caring daughter.”
“She was a great inspiration and always passionate about helping others and making a positive difference. Vida Volunteer is the legacy Sondra leaves behind and we are more committed than ever to keeping her dream alive. She will be deeply missed.”
She is survived by two children, a brother and her parents.