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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Thai police officer
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: January 6, 2008 / September 18, 2010
Date of birth: 1971
Victims profile: Leo Del Pinto, 24 (Canadian backpacker) / Wanta Dechawiwat, 18 (his pregnant bride)
Method of murder: Shooting / Hitting with a piece of wood
Location: Pai, Mae Hong Son province, Thailand
Status: Sentenced to 25 years in prison on January 27, 2011. Sentenced to 37½ years in prison on August 20, 2013
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Policeman who killed Calgarian sentenced to 37 years in prison

By Andrew Drummond, For the Calgary Herald

August 20, 2013

CHIANG MAI, THAILAND — A Thai policeman who killed Calgary backpacker Leo Del Pinto in January 2008 has been sentenced to 37½ years in prison for murder.

Former sergeant Uthai Dechachiwat was told his sentence would run consecutive to a 25-year sentence he received for murdering his 18-year-old Thai bride by clubbing her to death while he was out on bail.

In a case beset with controversy and claims of coverups, Dechachiwat did not look at Del Pinto’s father, who went to Chiang Mai provincial court in northern Thailand for the sentencing.

“This man pleaded guilty at the last minute to avoid the death sentence, just as he did when he murdered his wife,” said Ernie Del Pinto, who travelled with his wife Clara and sister Madeline.

“But I have some satisfaction of knowing that now aged 43 he stands a good chance of dying in jail.”

Leo was 24 when he was gunned down by Dechachiwat in the village of Pai in Thailand’s Mae Hong Son Province. He was with fellow Canadian Carly Reisig from Chilliwack, B.C., who was also shot but survived.

Dechachiwat said he was acting in self defence against an attack from tourists who were having an argument he was trying to break up.

No locals would give evidence against the police until the Thai National Human Rights Commission stepped in. Its investigation showed police were deliberately trying to cover up for Dechachiwat. The commission found its own witnesses and gave them protection.

It also ordered separate forensic tests that showed Dechachiwat shot down at Leo as he was falling, while the former officer had said it was he who was falling.

Dr. Surasee Kosolnavin, the head of the Thai Human Rights Commission who launched the investigation and took inquiry out of police hands, expressed satisfaction with the outcome.

“We went in and gave the witnesses protection and made sure the forensics were done right,” Kosolnavin said.

“What we found out was not good, but I am pleased for the father that we have been able to help, although there is no way we can compensate for this young man’s death.”

Indeed, it was an emotional day for the Calgary family.

Ernie Del Pinto sat less than two metres from the man who killed his son while he listened to the trial verdict.

“I would not have been unhappy if he had been given the death penalty. He has stolen my son, and has stolen my son’s hopes and ambitions and future,” Ernie Del Pinto said after the verdict.

“I am unhappy with a society that would have allowed the killer to go free had it not been for the intervention of the Thailand Human Rights Commission, and to them I am entirely grateful.”

Ernie and Clara now plan to visit the place where Leo was gunned down. A ceremony will be conducted there by Buddhist monks.


Four Years On Policeman Finally Puts In Self Defence Claim

Bangkok, March 8 2012

Police Sergeant Uthai Dechachiwat has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Canadian tourist Leo Del Pinto in the village of Pai, Mae Hong Son, province in January 2008.

At Chiang Mai court this week Sergeant Dechachiwat admitted that he was the same person who had been convicted in another murder case - the murder of Wanta Dechachiwat, his 18-yr-old wife of two weeks, by clubbing her to death with a piece of wood.

He said he was not guilty of murder in the case of backpacker Leo.

The court agreed to a special hearing of the case in Pai in July and three consecutive days in Chiang Mai at the request of the Canadian Embassy. Uthai said that he would be calling police two witnesses among five witnesses in his defence.

Prosecutor Poonbsil Intachai is calling eleven witnesses. Carly Reisig, a fellow Canadian who was shot at the same time but survived has already given evidence at the court in Mae Hong Son. Two Thai witnesses have had police protection, following an investigation by the Thai National Human Rights Committee.

Among the witnesses will two expert witnesses, Ms. Duangjai Jipipob to report on alcohol levels and Police Colonel Boonrak Gowsombat to report on gunpowder residue.

The murder of Leo Del Pinto is controversial not least because of the reported attempts by Thai police to protect their own. The Thai National Human Rights Commission uncovered intimidation of witnesses by the head of police in Pai who were encouraged to support the view that Sergeant Dechachiwat was acting in self defence.

Forensic reports however showed that Leo was lower than the level of the gun and appeared to be falling down when he was shot.

Leo's friend Carly Reising was also shot in her side, but recovered and has now returned to Canada.

In Calgary, Canada, Leo's father Ernie campaigned for justice for his son, and even the local buses carried poster adverts calling for Thai justice.

Sergeant Uthai is currently serving 25 years.


Thai officer jailed for killing his wife

Calgary resident 'pushes harder' for justice for slain son

Eva Ferguson, Calgary Herald

Friday, January 28, 2011

The family of a Calgary man killed in Thailand three years ago plans to push even harder for justice after the officer charged with his shooting was jailed for another killing.

Thai police Sgt. Uthai Dechachiwat was sentenced to 25 years in prison this week after pleading guilty to the clubbing death of his 18-year-old pregnant wife.

Dechachiwat is also charged with the shooting death of Leo Del Pinto. The 25-year-old Calgarian was gunned down Jan. 6, 2008, outside a restaurant in the Thai village of Pai. His friend Carly Reisig was also shot, but survived.

The accused had at one time said he was acting in self-defence, but he has since been charged with first-degree murder in Del Pinto's death.

Amid a slow, pre-trial process for the Del Pinto death, Dechachiwat was charged, and later pleaded guilty to the murder of his young, pregnant wife last fall.

Del Pinto's father Ernie says because Dechachiwat didn't get life in prison or the death penalty for that crime, he will continue to pursue a sentence for his son's death.

"I'm pushing even harder for justice now," said Ernie Del Pinto in Calgary.

"This man didn't just kill his wife, he killed a small child, because she was pregnant."

The pre-trial process for the Del Pinto death is expected to continue into late spring.

Ernie hopes a trial date will be set for late summer or early fall in either the capital of Bangkok, or the smaller town of Mae Hong Son, located further north near Pai where the shooting took place.

Ernie plans to go with his wife to Thailand to attend either the trial or the sentencing.

"I'd like to go out for Leo's trial, although it will be hard, and really emotional."

It would be the first time Ernie will travel to Thailand since the death of his son. He hopes to find the location of the shooting and say a prayer to capture Leo's spirit.

"I know his spirit is there. And I want to go there where he lay dead, and say a prayer, so I can bring his spirit back home, to my country."

Ernie says the slow pace of the Thai justice system, particularly the lengthy pre-trial process, has left his family with a lot of pain, frustration and little closure.

"My boy was a good man. Whenever I asked him to do anything, he would do it. He was always kind to everyone, never mean. I still miss him so much, his smile, his laughter and his voice."


Killer Thai Policeman 'Kills Again'

September 20, 2010

A Thai policeman who gunned down two Canadian backpackers in northern Thailand has killed again.

Police Sergeant Uthai Dechawiwat, 39, who killed 25-yr-old backpacker Leo Del Pinto and seriously injured his companion Carly Reisig, has now been accused of clubbing his pregnant teenage bride to death.

The latest incident also happened in the small picturesque northern Thai town of Pai in Thailand's Mae Hong Son province where the Canadians were gunned down n January 2008.

A Thai police spokesman confirmed today that Sergeant Dechawiwat was being held for the murder of Wanta Dechawiwat at the police married quarters in Pai on Saturday last week.
He had only been married to his 18-yr-old bride for two weeks. She was reported to be four months pregnant.

'She had been hit about the head with a piece of wood. Neighbours heard an argument at about the time of the incidident. Wants Dechawiwat's body was found by Sergeant Uthai's 10 year old daughter from his previous marriage.'

Police Sergeant Dechachiwat fled the scene just as he did in 2008. But he was later admitted to hospital after crashing his car into a tree and subsequently arrested.

The Department of Special Investigations was put in charge of the original murder investigation of Leo Del Pinto after local police tried to interfere with the investigation and concoct a story that the two tourists had attacked the Sergeant and that he had acted only in self defence.

He claimed he shot upwards at Del Pinto as the young Canadian attacked him knocking him to the ground. The Thai National Human Rights Commission conducted its own investigation and found its own evidence conflicted completely with local police.

Tests conducted by Thailand's Forensic Pathologist Dr. Porthip Rojanasund showed that the Sergeant was standing over Del Pinto when he shot him in the head.

Del Pinto was shot three times. Reisig was shot in her side but later made a full recovery and testified before returning to Canada.

Del Pinto, from Calgary, had gone to the aid of Canadian Carly Reisig, from Chilliwack, B.C., after Uthai had pulled a gun on her when she was having a row in the street with her Thai boyfriend.


New charges for Thai officer accused of Calgarian's murder

CBC News

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Thai police officer accused of killing a Calgary man is again facing murder charges.

Leo Del Pinto, 25, was shot twice while visiting northern Thailand in January 2008.

An off-duty Thai police officer, Sgt. Uthai Dechawiwat, was charged with his murder.

Those charges are still in court.

On Monday morning, Del Pinto's father received a call from a government official and was told that Dechawiwat has now been arrested for allegedly killing his pregnant wife.

Ernie Del Pinto said he's angry and frustrated.

"They wouldn't put this man in jail when he killed my son, but now apparently he's in jail because he killed his wife and his child," Del Pinto told CBC News.

"That doesn't make sense to me. If they would have put him in jail the first time, I would assume that these people could have saved these two lives."

Thai police initially reported that Leo and Chilliwack, B.C., resident Carly Reisig had a fight while drinking at a bar. The fight escalated outside and turned physical when a police officer tried to intervene, said Col. Sombat Panya of Pai district in northern Mae Hong Son.

Dechawiwat told Thai investigators the pair attacked him when he tried to intervene, and that his gun "accidentally went off" three times as he tried to defend himself.

Shooting victim tells a different story

But Reisig, who was wounded in the shooting, denied there was any fight. She said she was talking to Del Pinto when a man punched her in the forehead.

She said Del Pinto defended her by shoving the man, who got a gun from his motorcycle.

The two men struggled for control of the gun before the man shot them both, she said.

Since his son's death, Ernie del Pinto has headed a campaign called "Justice for Leo."

It involved billboards and buttons asking for help in making sure the person responsible is put in jail.

"How many more does this man have to kill for him to be punished and prosecuted in a timely manner," Del Pinto said. "It's taken two and a half years for me to get him through pre-trial, where it should have taken six months. Not even."

He said he hopes the new charges will help speed up his son's murder trial.

Leo had only been in Thailand for a week before he was killed. He had spent almost six months in the country the previous year, working as a translator in a tattoo shop and trying to find a job teaching English.


Thai villagers contradict story told after Calgarian killed

CBC News

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

People in a northern Thai village are disputing a Canadian woman's version of what led to the death of Calgarian Leo Del Pinto.

Carly Reisig, who has been moved out of intensive care in a Chiang Mai hospital, said she and Del Pinto were walking in Pai, Thailand, on Sunday when a man hit her on the forehead for no apparent reason.

Del Pinto, 25, shoved the man back in her defence and was fatally shot in the face and torso, said Reisig, who was then shot in the chest.

But Andrew Drummond, a journalist based in Bangkok, reports villagers have a different story.

"There are witnesses in Pai today saying, 'No, it wasn't the policeman who struck the first blow. It was Carly, that Carly and Leo were having a fight in the street and the policeman was summoned to calm them down and Carly attacked him.'

"Of course you have to take this all with a little bit of a pinch of salt. Nobody in Pai is going to give evidence against their local policeman," said Drummond, explaining that residents are afraid of the local police.

A Thai police officer has been charged with premeditated murder in Del Pinto's death and with "intent to kill" in Reisig's shooting. Reports indicate he is free on bail.

Police had earlier reported the pair had a fight while drinking at a bar. The fight escalated outside and turned physical when a police officer tried to intervene, according to Col. Sombat Panya of Pai district in northern Mae Hong Son.

Villagers told Drummond that Reisig, originally from Chilliwack, B.C., was a troublemaker in Pai.

Drummond said that they alleged she had a month earlier hit a policeman in a bar after a fight, reportedly started by an Israeli tourist.

"[Villagers] said she was involved in a fight at a party somewhere else.

"It's difficult to find somebody to say something on her behalf in the village of Pai at the moment."

Meanwhile, Del Pinto's family said they expect to have his body back in Calgary by Saturday but they still have not received a formal written report on the shooting.


Thai police officer charged in Calgarian's death

CBC News

Monday, January 7, 2008

A Calgary man who was shot to death in Thailand was defending her, a B.C. woman said from her hospital bed as Thai police charged one of their own in the incident.

The officer was charged Monday with premeditated murder in the shooting death of Leo Del Pinto, 25, and the wounding of Carly Reisig, who is from Chilliwack, B.C.

Police said Del Pinto died early Sunday of two gunshot wounds — one to the face and one to the torso.

Police reported the pair had a fight while drinking at a bar. The fight escalated outside and turned physical when a police officer tried to intervene, said Col. Sombat Panya of Pai district in northern Mae Hong Son.

The officer involved, Sgt. Uthai Dechawiwat, told Thai investigators the pair attacked him when he tried to intervene, and that his gun "accidentally went off" three times as he tried to defend himself.

Victim says attack unprovoked

But in an interview with the Canadian Press on Monday, Reisig, 24, contradicted the official police version of events and also denied earlier reports that she was pregnant.

From her hospital bed in northern Thailand, Reisig denied there was any fight. She said she was talking to Del Pinto when a man punched her in the forehead.

She said Del Pinto defended her by shoving the man, who got a gun from his motorcycle. The two men struggled for control of the gun before the man shot them both, she said.

Reisig told a local reporter that she was visiting Del Pinto in Thailand, whom she called a good friend.

She added she believes the fact she was wearing face paint may have angered the man who attacked them.

Reisig is in stable condition with a bullet wound to her chest.

Del Pinto wanted to teach

"I think it is very frustrating because there is always the implications that Leo or any Canadians there are boorish tourists and that they are the ones that did something wrong but Leo loved that country," said Ross Fortune, who is engaged to one of Del Pinto's sisters.

"He was enchanted by Thailand," Fortune told CBC News.

Del Pinto spent almost six months in Thailand before returning to Calgary in September. He spent Christmas with his family and returned to Thailand just last week.

Del Pinto worked in a tattoo shop as a translator and wanted to teach English in the country, said Fortune.

Del Pinto's father, Ernie, said he's upset at reports the accused officer is not in custody and frustrated by the lack of detail in the case.

Foreign Affairs in Ottawa has released few details but said it has been in touch with Thai authorities.



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