American lawyer slain, companion wounded in Caracas home

AP News
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Posted: Aug 10, 2015 7:07 PM
American lawyer slain, companion wounded in Caracas home

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — A prominent American expatriate lawyer was slain and his companion was wounded in an attack at their home in the Venezuelan capital, authorities and family members said Monday.

John Ralston Pate, 70, was found stabbed to death Sunday in a well-to-do neighborhood of eastern Caracas, the South American country's public prosecutor said. He had lived in Venezuela since the 1970s and helped build up a once-thriving expat community.

Prosecutors identified the second victim as 67-year-old Sally Elizabeth Evans. Pate's son described her as his father's girlfriend and said she had been stabbed in what appeared to be a robbery or kidnapping attempt gone wrong at the elegant apartment building overlooking the city.

Venezuela is the second most violent country in the world after Honduras, according to U.N. statistics. Crime has risen steadily for years, and streets generally empty as night falls. The wealthy live in fortress-like compounds with security guards and surveillance systems, and even apartments in poorer neighborhoods often feature heavy doors with three locks.

The Caracas expat community has shrunk as homicide rates rise and foreign companies pull out of Venezuela citing economic difficulties.

Pate moved to Caracas in the 1970s after studying at Brown and Boston Universities, and helped found the locally-based law firm De Sola Pate & Brown. He was active in the schools, industry groups and other institutions that grounded the expat community here.

"He never wanted to leave. His outlook was Venezuela was a great place and was the land of opportunity," said son Thomas Pate, who works as a lawyer in Miami. "His family, we were always nervous. He told us that he couldn't stop living, but he was being careful."

Friends and co-workers recalled Pate's calm, patrician demeanor, and his love for Venezuela's tropical climate.

He used to caution others to look out for their safety in this country where 90 percent of murder cases go unsolved, said friend Russ Dallen, a Miami-based partner at brokerage Caracas Capital Markets.

"I think it broke his heart, the last five or 10 years, watching Caracas return to its jungle state of law," Dallen said.

Pate's primary business was in representing multinational companies doing business in Venezuela, and he was sometimes critical of the country's 16-year-old socialist revolution.

In 2005 he told the Christian Science Monitor he had lost half his international clients in the six years since the now-deceased President Hugo Chavez came to power.

Two years later he said he was seriously considering returning to the United States, where he was a member of the Massachusetts bar.

"Many of this country's successful people — and not just foreigners like us — have already left," he said in an interview published on the website of the nonprofit organization Global Exchange.

But Thomas Pate, 33, said his father remained deeply engaged with the country, and barely slowed down as he reached retirement age.

"He was happy in Venezuela despite everything," the younger Pate said, "and he enjoyed it until the last minute."

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