American Charged in Panama Killings Wanted in Alleged North Carolina Crimes

William Adolfo Cortez ( Winner)

RALEIGH, N.C. (CBS/AP) A man facing charges for killing at least two Americans in Panama had a promising life in North Carolina that quickly turned problematic.

In 2004, William Dathan Holbert had a successful landscaping business, a wife, three children and a beautiful home. But records reviewed Friday show that, over the next two years, Holbert went bankrupt, separated from his family, began white supremacy activities and was charged with selling a house he didn't own.

Wilmington, N.C. authorities have a warrant out for his arrest for the fraudulent home sale in 2005. Polk County also has an arrest order for failure to pay child support.

Holbert and his new wife were arrested Thursday, July 30 in Nicaragua, and deported to Panama, where they face charges of killing two Americans, and questioning in the disappearances of 5 other people.

Authorities abroad identified the suspects as William Cortez and his wife, Jane, though the male suspect claimed his name was William Dathan Holbert, which matches a suspect featured on the "America's Most Wanted" website who is reportedly wanted for the 2005 fraud case in North Carolina.

Prosecutors said the couple had apparently preyed on residents of the scenic coastal Bocas del Toro region in what Panama's President Ricardo Martinelli called "one of the first cases of serial murders" in the Central American country.

"He picked out his victims after making their acquaintance," assistant prosecutor Angel Calderon told reporters. "Knowing that nobody would ask about them, he got rid of them."

They are charged with killing Cheryl Lynn Hughes, 53, a St. Louis, Missouri native who had lived in Panama for 10 years, and Bo Icelar, who a friend described as the former owner of a Santa Fe, New Mexico, gallery.

Since investigators uncovered the bodies of Hughes and Icelar last week, buried in shallow graves behind a hotel run by Cortez in Bocas del Toro, "residents have come out and given testimony, knowing that he (Cortez) is in custody," Calderon said.

Cortez and his wife face charges for "crimes against the life and personal integrity" of the two victims, said Assistant Director of Investigations Omar Pinzon. He said they will also be questioned about the disappearance of five other people - reportedly three Americans and two Panamanian workers.

Upon arrival from Nicaragua Thursday at Panama City's Albrook airport, Cortez and his wife were bundled into a vehicle and taken to a cell at the Office of Judicial Investigation. Before entering, Cortez said to a television reporter, "The people of Panama are very friendly, and I like living here."

Asked about the two deaths, Cortez laughed and said: "I need to speak to them (authorities) about that. I just want to say, thanks for the trip."

July 27, 2010 - Cher Lynn Hughes Murder Arrest? Two Foreigners Detained at Costa Rican Border