Beaverton, Ore. (KATU/CNN) — John Ekman kissed the carpet at Portland International Airport on Thursday after finally returning home from a nightmare. Ekman, who was jailed in Dominican Republic said, “I feel incredibly lucky to live in the United States of America.”
Ekman, a retired electrician, traveled to the Dominican Republic last November with his girlfriend, Lori Breeden. It was their third trip to the country in about a year and they say it’s certainly their last. Lori Breeden, John Ekman’s girlfriend said, “We didn’t have a choice. Everybody else was making decisions for us and we were voiceless.”
In November, Ekman said he was driving a rental car with Breeden late at night down a busy freeway when they hit a motorcycle that was lying in the middle of the street. Ekman, said, “The motorcycle just appeared out of nowhere, like, instantly. I had zero time to react.”
Ekman said the driver of that motorcycle was also in the street, but they didn’t hit him and they believe he was already dead. “People were saying – I speak fluent Spanish – and they were saying that this man had been hit by a truck,” said Ekman.
Ekman and Breeden said they pulled off to the side of the road immediately, but when police arrived, they arrested Ekman. He said, “They threw me in a jail that was like a 16 by 20 concrete hole with couple of gritty alcoves with wet garbage.”
He got out in a couple of days, but the government took his passport. They gave it back three weeks later but put a hold on it. Ekman said, “I had my passport, but I was not able to leave the country.”
Although police could find no evidence of blood or tissue on the rental car, Ekman says he was forced to stay in the country while he got the run-around from officers and the prosecutor. Ekman said, “One delay after the other, and 10 days always turned into 20, and a week turns into a month.”
Ekman said after the government brought in a new prosecutor, the U.S. Embassy got more deeply involved and he finally got the okay to leave. “Even at the airport they were checking and re-checking my papers,” said Ekman.
Breeden, who works as a psychotherapist, said she was able to Skype with patients while she was there but she lost two-thirds of her clients. “It would ruin another person,” said Breeden. “It would ruin another person that was in that had to go, say, they’d come on a two week vacation,” added Ekman.
The Dominican Republic government did not respond to requests for comments on this story.
Ekman and Breeden said they’re still willing to travel abroad in the future, but if they visit certain less developed countries, they’re not going to drive.
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