Reishus: Friction with police 'part of journey'

Former Craig nurse returns to U.S., denies alleged crime

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For the second time in recent months, a former Craig nurse returned to the United States after friction with local authorities in Punta Gorda, Belize.

In an e-mail this week to the Craig Daily Press, Donna Reishus said she is staying in the U.S. but will return to Belize to appear in court.

On Dec. 16, police "detain-ed" Reishus for 46 hours. She was booked on charges of "tampering with witnesses." However, when a formal complaint was filed, the charge had been amended

to "committing a mischie-

vous act."

Reishus has hired a law-

yer and she denies any

wrongdoing.

"I am not guilty of breaking any laws in Belize," Reishus wrote. "I have been fighting for the rights of children. I have been working with their moms. Some of these children and their families have been in my life for more than two years. I will continue to care about these families."

Reishus has been living and working as a volunteer nurse in the Central American country for three years. She owns a house there and she calls the country "home."

She said she will return to Belize for her March 2 court date.

In an e-mail to the Craig Daily Press, Reishus described her stay in police custody.

"My 'detainment' for 46 hours included staying in an outdoor concrete cell with no electricity or running water. I slept on the concrete floor; the stench of urine and feces was overwhelming," Reishus wrote. "We experienced a cold front during that time and the temperature dropped into the 50s; reports said it was the coldest spell we've had since 1991."

The incident doesn't appear to have shaken her commitment to her volunteer work in Belize.

"While I tried to sleep in my cell, I wondered aloud why I ever went to Belize," Reishus wrote. "Then I remembered that I was led there, in a spiritual way. Obviously, this is part of that journey."

Channel 5 News, a television station in Belize, reported that authorities brought the "mischievous act" charge "when police and prosecutors could not find a more specific charge."

In the events that lead to her arrest, Reishus was assisting Channel 5 with a investigation into alleged improprieties by police against children in Belize. Reishus said police coerced children to make accusations against three American men. Police claim Reishus coerced the children to recant their testimony.

In October, Reishus fled the Central American country, fearing for her safety, after she was interrogated in connection with the case that investigated three of her American acquaintances for alleged sexual exploitation of children.

After several weeks in Craig, Reishus returned to resume her work in Belize. She reported, "The police have decided not to hassle me anymore. All my Belizean friends and acquaintances have welcomed me home with open arms and incredible support! The women who attend my clinic are happy to have me back, and life goes on."

While staying in Craig after she fled Belize in October, Reishus told the Craig Daily Press about alleged misconduct by Belizean police, including an incident when officers allegedly threatened to beat a 10-year-old girl unless the girl made accusations against the American men.

Police in Belize have denied the allegations.

Two of the men are in jail awaiting trial. The third man, Reishus' boyfriend, Lee Jones, has not returned to Belize since the investigation began, according to police. Police in Belize say Jones will be charged if he returns to the country.

It is her relationship to one of the suspects that made Reishus' cooperation with the television station criminal, according to a Belizean police spokesperson.

Jeremy Browning can be reached at 824-7031 or jbrowning@craigdailypress.com

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