In 2014, Dutch natives Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon headed out for a hike in Panama and disappeared. Their remains were found months later, but their deaths remain a mystery.
The Disappearances of Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon
Kris Kremers, 21, and Lisanne Froon, 22, arrived in Boquete, Panama, for a six-week stay to learn Spanish and work with local children. They stayed with a local host family.
On April 1, 2014, the girls ventured out on a hiking trail known as Sendero El Pianista (The Piano Player) with their host family’s dog. Later that night, the dog returned home without Kris and Lisanne.
Since their arrival in Panama, the girls regularly sent text messages to their families daily. Lisanne’s parents stopped receiving them on April 1.
When the girls missed an appointment with a local guide on April 2, the guide called the police, who conducted aerial searches of the area. Additionally, residents searched for the girls as well.
On April 6, the girls’ parents arrived in Boquete. Police, dog units, and detectives from the Netherlands to conduct a full-scale, 10-day search of the jungle. The parents offered a 30,000 USD reward for information.
Ten weeks later, a local tribal woman found Lisanne’s blue backpack in a rice paddy by a riverbank near her village of Alto Romero in the Bocas del Toro region and turned it into police. The woman claimed it had not been there the day before.
Inside contained Lisanne’s camera, two bras, the women’s cell phones – Kris’ Apple iPhone and Lisanne’s Samsung Galaxy – two pairs of sunglasses, 83 USD, and a water bottle. All the items were dry and in good condition.
The Phone Calls
The girls dialed 112, the emergency number in the Netherlands, and 911, the emergency number in Panama, numerous times starting at 16:39 on April 1. The calls did not go through due to no reception, except for one attempt at 911 on April 3. That call lasted a little over a second before breaking up.
After April 5, Lisanne’s battery died sometime after 5:00 and was never used again.
Someone attempted several times to enter an incorrect PIN code on the iPhone; it never received the correct PIN again. Finally, on April 11, someone turned the phone on at 10:51 and turned it off for the last time at 11:56.
During the investigation, the Dutch Forensic Medical Institute retrieved pictures from the girls’ cameras. None of the images showed the girls under any distress. They seemed to be enjoying their hike.
One week after the women vanished, someone took 90 pictures between 1:00 and 4:00 a.m. Only three images were clear; the others were hard to make out due to the forest’s darkness.
Discovery and Identification of Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon
After discovering the backpack, new searches began along the Culebra (Serpent) river, a 12-hour hike from Sendero El Pianista. Two Ngobe women from a search party found Kris’ jean shorts on top of a rock on the opposite bank of the tributary, a few kilometers away from where Lisanne’s backpack was found. The shorts were zipped and neatly folded.
The discovery of the shorts prompted a new search along the Culebra river. Searchers found a hiking boot with a foot, femur, and tibia still inside, along with part of a pelvis and rib bone behind a tree near the backpack location. DNA testing confirmed the bones belonged to Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon.
The boot and partial leg/foot belonged to Lisanne; the pelvis and rib belonged to Kris. Lisanne’s remains still had some skin attached to the bones. However, Kris’s remains were bleached, possibly due to sunlight or phosphorus, a substance absent from the local non-volcanic soil.
A medical examiner never determined the cause of death. However, the official report says the girls were dragged by the river.
There are a couple of theories in this case.
The girls lost their way, could not escape the harsh conditions, and somehow fell into the river. The river dragged the girls, and they drowned. One got hurt or died first, followed by the other.
Kris or Lisanne might have already been dead when someone took the 90 photos. Experts believe this may have been a way for one of the girls to let loved ones know what happened to them, a record of events if you will. I don’t believe this theory, although it cannot be ruled out, of course.
The circumstances behind the deaths and the evaluation of the bones suggest the girls were murdered. In addition, local law enforcement did not conduct a serious investigation for fear of hurting tourism.
A member of Panama’s Institue of Legal Medicine and Forensic Science (IMELCF) told Daily Beast that “total fragmentation of two human bodies is unlikely within such a short time frame. Especially in the cool, high-elevation environment where the bone fragments were found.”
Another expert, Dr. Georgina Pacheco, also told Daily Beast, “There shouldn’t be bleaching on these bones.”
Famous expert Kathy Reichs agreed with Pacheco and also found it odd “that there was no evidence of animal scavenging observed.” She continued her analysis by saying, “given the transport and exposure in a forest-riverine micro-climate, I would expect to see scoring, abrasion, or scavenging.”
The same IMELCF expert mentioned above also said, “The low number of bones, the lack of marks on them, and the presence of bleaching – all of those could suggest the use of lime, or a similar chemical, to speed up decomposition.”
This method is how Mexican cartels dispose of their victims. The expert says the girls’ remains have similar characteristics.
It is also possible that a serial killer is roaming the Boquete area.
More than two dozen other unsolved killings and disappearances in this same, primarily rural region of Panama over the last eight years—with more than two-thirds coming since 2014 when Kris and Lisanne went missing (Kryt, 2017).
The case remains unsolved. Daily Beast wrote very in-depth articles (see links below) about Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon you should read. Jeremy Kyrt visited Boquete and investigated the case. He also interviewed locals and was able to obtain more pictures from the camera as well.
Kryt, J. (2017). Did a Serial Killer Stalk the Lost Girls of Panama?. [online] Daily Beast. Available at: https://www.thedailybeast.com/did-a-serial-killer-stalk-the-lost-girls-of-panama [Accessed 5 Feb. 2018].
Kryt, J. (2016). The Lost Girls of Panama: The Full Story. [online] Daily Beast. Available at: https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-lost-girls-of-panama-the-full-story [Accessed 3 Feb. 2018].
True Crime Diva’s Thoughts
Honestly, I have no clue what happened to Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon, but I do tend to lean towards murder. Regardless, it truly is a classic case of bizarre.
Signs leading to accidental death theory:
- No sign of distress on the girls faces in several of the pictures.
- The emergency calls suggest they were in dire need of help.
- The calls with the wrong pin used could have been made by the other girl, not the owner of the phone. She did not know the pin but was trying different ones in an attempt to unlock the phone.
- The photos taken between 1:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. suggest that one of the girls was deceased and the other was leaving a record of their fate for family and friends. In one photo on Daily Beast, it does appear that one of them attempted to spell something out with toilet paper, maybe SOS.
- The 90 photos were taken in the same location.
- No items were stolen, including cash and the camera.
Signs leading to murder theory:
- People believe the girls would never venture off the trail because they were unfamiliar with the area and not experienced hikers.
- The murderer attempted to enter the PIN code on the phone, not one of the girls.
- The killer took the photos taken between 1:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. as a way to deceive police. Or whoever took the pictures had no clue how to use a camera. 90 photos seems to be extreme no matter who took them, IMO.
- The backpack was placed in the location it was found by the killer. The local woman who found it claimed it was not there the day before.
- Murder was sexually-motivated which is why the killer or killers did not steal any of the personal belongings. Perhaps, he or they thought the backpack would not be found.
- What happened to the rest of the girls’ remains? Experts said there was no evidence of animals scavenging the bones.
- No marks on the bones indicated they had been broken up on river rocks.
- The remains were found a long distance from the girls’ location.
The location of the remains discovered on the banks of the Rio Culebre in the sparsely populated area of Altos Romeros was a full day’s walk from Boquete across three swollen rivers and snake infested territory, according to MostlyMystery.com (The author resided in Pananma at the time of the girls’ deaths). How the hell did they end up so far away from the trail?
The killer knew the jungle extremely well, so maybe it was a local tour guide.
Kris Kremers’ and Lisanne Froon’s Clothing
One thing I found a little strange, and really has no relevance, is the fact that both girls wore shorts and tank tops on a hike in the jungle. Why on earth would you wear those instead of pants and a T-shirt or long sleeve shirt? Pants protect your legs from branch scratches, insect bites, etc. I realize it was warm, but no way would I have worn a tank top and shorts on a hike into the jungle. I don’t know, I found it weird. Granted, I’m not a hiker but I have gone on trails in wooded areas before, and I always wore jeans and a long sleeve shirt or T-shirt.
I also noticed the women did not wear hats to protect their heads from the sun. Honestly, in my opinion, Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon did not prepare well for this hike. Here’s an article on what is suggested you wear hiking. And here are The 10 Essentials of Hiking.
On Sendero El Pianista, the weather conditions can change at any moment. Sunny one minute, then raining hard the next. So, the clothes the girls choice of clothing is odd, which makes me wonder if they only intended to hike part of the trail, but something happened along the way.
The bra found in the backpack (the black multi-color one) looks like the same one Lisanne is wearing under her tank top in the pictures. That’s what it looks like to me, anyway. So, why did she take it off? For that matter, why were there bras in the backpack at all? It takes about 5 hours to hike all the way to the top and back down, so I don’t see a need to take undergarments off or even to change clothes. You’d be foolish, IMO, to try and swim in any body of water in a jungle. Did someone force them to undress?
Why was Kris’ shorts folded neatly and placed on a rock? Why did she take them off? I feel like someone else placed them there to be found. Where was her tank top? What about Lisanne’s clothes? Kris’s hiking boots?
I wonder a little about the tribe members who found the shorts. The Ngobe live on land that encompasses almost 2,700 square miles in Panama. Part of this land falls near Boquete and Sendero El Pianista. I don’t know what kind of people they are, but maybe they had something to do with the deaths. I read they are shy people, but maybe there are a few bad seeds in the bunch.
More About the Trail
It is highly suggested that newcomers hire a trained guide when hiking this trail because it is not marked well for tourists and can be dangerous. So, why didn’t the girls use a guide? From what I understand, they did hire a guide but failed to meet up with him. I think that was the following morning, though. They also did not tell anyone where they were going. Why did they decide to hike unknown and dangerous territory alone? And why on earth did they not tell anyone where they were going? It just doesn’t make sense to me.
Did the girls take only one backpack? You see Kris wearing a backpack in one picture. This looks like the one that was found. Each hiker usually takes a backpack on a hike, so this is another thing I found strange. Maybe they only felt the need for one backpack.
More About the Pictures
We see a few pics of Kris later on the hike but why are there no pictures of Lisanne? We only see her at the beginning of the hike. I find this a little interesting because maybe someone else took the pictures of Kris. In a couple of them, she looks distressed. Maybe she knew they were lost or someone other than Lisanne took the picture. Or police never released all the pics of Lisanne, I don’t know.
Final thought: in one of the photos of Kris, her hands are behind her back and she is standing near what looks like some sort of opening, like an entrance to a small cave. I found this picture very strange and my first thought was someone tied Kris’ hands behind her back. Why are her hands behind her back? It’s probably nothing, but it’s a super creepy pic and a weird spot to take a picture. It’s obvious she was not on the trail in this pic.
I could easily spend more time on this case, but I’ve said enough! I don’t want to bore you!
What do you think happened to Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon?