Expatriate’s slaying in Mexico stuns friends back in Seattle
SEATTLE — On vacation trips over the years, Ronald Bentley Main fell in love with Mexico’s Puerto Vallarta, discovering new friends among Seattle expatriates who are part of a vibrant gay scene there.
So it wasn’t surprising when the real estate agent and former president of the Greater Seattle Business Association built a home and eventually settled there. Later, in part to escape the touristy spot, Main moved inland, to the lake town of Chapala, popular among Americans and Canadians looking to retire in perpetual summer.
It was there after midday on Feb. 24 that police discovered a semiconscious Main, suffering multiple stab wounds, on the kitchen floor of his home. The 66-year-old was transferred to a hospital in Guadalajara, where he died last week.
His housemate of many years, Martin Orozco Gutierrez, 48, was found stabbed and bludgeoned in a hallway. He died at the scene.
Their deaths and the viciousness of the attacks stunned Main’s wide circle of friends and acquaintances in Seattle. And the crime adds to a growing tide of violence in the seemingly idyllic communities that ring Mexico’s largest lake and are home to more than 20,000 foreigners, including U.S. citizens.
It is estimated that more than 1 million Americans live in Mexico, and increasingly in recent years, many have fallen victim to the gang- and drug-related violence gripping the country.
Main’s Seattle-area friends and acquaintances, with whom he remained in contact, said he had not expressed concerns about his safety.
They recall a kind and generous man who moved easily among circles of friends in various chapters of his life - in real estate, the restaurant business, home decorating and design, and working within the gay community.
His son, Todd Schwarzenbach, of Bellevue, Wash., described his father as “debonair. Very classy. He had a presence when he walked into a room.”
Main grew up in the small Eastern Washington town of Cowiche, north of Yakima, and attended Northwest Nazarene University, a Christian school, in Idaho.
Seattle Councilwoman Sally Clark remembers him as “a kind and gregarious personality in the greater LGBT community.”
Later, as an agent for ReMax Northwest, he pulled long hours to “ensure his clients were always satisfied,” said Brian Lavery, a managing broker.
Many friends say Main had an eye for decorating and design and worked the same magic on their homes and gardens as he did on his own.
Lisa Dupar was sous-chef at The Palm Court at the Westin Hotel when Main was restaurant manager there in the early 1980s. Later, when she opened her own restaurant, he helped her set up the dining room, Dupar recalled.
In 2001, as his wedding present to her, she and Main swapped houses — he stayed at her home in Bellevue while she and her new husband spent their honeymoon at his home in Puerto Vallarta.
“Puerto Vallarta was his dream place,” she said.
Heather Kelly-Webb, an agent at ReMax, said Main had been going back and forth between Seattle and Puerto Vallarta before moving there permanently about 10 years ago.
He continued to return to Seattle at least three times a year and was just here in January, his son said.
Schwarzenbach said he was contacted by the U.S. Embassy shortly after the attack and spent the last days of his father’s life at his bedside in the hospital.