Champion Spanish golfer Celia Barquín Arozamena was found dead on Monday at a golf course in Ames, Iowa, a small mid-western city in the United States. The 22-year-old had won a scholarship to study civil engineering at Iowa State University, thousands of kilometers from her home in Puente San Miguel in the northern Spanish region of Cantabria.
Within hours of finding her body, police had arrested Collin Daniel Richards, 22, and charged him with first-degree murder. Police have not yet clarified whether the suspect, who has a criminal record, personally knew the victim.
When I think of Celia, I think of someone who always encouraged me to go further and took away any fear I might have
Petra Durán, student
Speaking at a press conference, a police spokesman explained that the young golfer died after receiving stab wounds to her head, neck and upper body. The suspect’s face showed signs of a recent struggle. An acquaintance of the suspect told police that Richards had recently said he “an urge to rape and kill a woman.”
The alarm was raised a little after 10am on Monday, when players on the Coldwater Golf Links course noticed an abandoned golf bag and contacted police. Officers found Barquín’s body in water “some distance” from the bag.
Ames police chief Geoff Huff held a press conference to identify the victim as Barquín and explained her body had been found shortly after the murder. The 22-year-old was playing golf when she was attacked. Huff said the public should “be very wary.” Hours later, Richards was arrested and bail set at $5 million.
Condolences have flooded in for the young star with an “infectious smile” and who, just two months ago, had won the European Amateur Championship. Barquín played in the youth Olympic Games in China and this year won the Big 12 Women’s Championship, a top-level tournament of university golf in the United States. She was part of the combined Spanish golf team, which came in third and second at the European championships in 2015 and 2016, respectively.
The Spanish Golf Federation described the 22-year-old as an “outstanding team player.”
Her loss has been felt intensely by the community of young sporting students who, like her, have packed their bags and left their families in Spain to pursue their education and passion for sports in the United States.
“When I think of Celia, I think of someone who always encouraged me to go further and took away any fear I might have,” says Petra Durán, 19, who recently arrived in the United States with a scholarship to study medicine and play golf.
“Celia always pushed herself forward. She told me that it would be tough, but I would feel proud of myself. She also helped me a lot with my studies. We both chose very demanding degrees. She told me it would be hard but that I should not listen to anybody who said I couldn’t do it,” continues Durán.
“I feel very lucky to have met her. She was and will always be a role model. I still can’t believe it. All golf players now know we have an angel watching over us.”
Barquín’s murder has also shaken Ames, a small city with fewer than 60,000 residents, half of whom are students at Iowa State University. “We are all devastated,” said Iowa State’s women’s golf coach, Christie Martens, in a statement from the school.
“Celia was a beautiful person who was loved by all her teammates and friends. She loved Iowa State and was an outstanding representative for our school.”
According to local police, Richards appeared at the house of a friend and asked if he could shower to wash off bloodstains. The friend, identified as J. C., said he could also wash his clothes but Richards left after showering.
Another two men were driving Richards to Jefferson when the suspect asked them to go the crime scene first to pick up a backpack he had left there. When he arrived at the golf course, he saw the police and knew he had to leave. Officers later arrested him in a nearby area.
Richards was taken down to the station for questioning, and he maintained that he had spent the day with a friend. Officers also arrested J. C. at his home. Police found blood-stained clothes and a bloody knife among his belongings. Richards has a criminal record for intimidation with a dangerous weapon after robbing a service station in 2015 and for breaking and entering a home in 2017. A tribute to Barquín will be paid this Saturday during an Iowa State University soccer game.
English version by Melissa Kitson.