Yarold Christian Leyte Quintanar was sentenced to 32 years and 6 months in prison for the first-degree murder of María Teresa González in Veracruz in 2012.
The sentence against Yarold, insists his mother Rosalinda Quintanar, was issued despite inconsistencies in the entire criminal investigation process: the defendant ‘confessed’ after being tortured, the site of the murder was not the same as declared in witness testimony, no blood or DNA evidence proved either Yarold’s presence at the crime scene or that he had been in contact with the victim, and the alleged motive — that the victim came to his house to collect a debt — does not stand up because there is no evidence that Yarold was in debt.
Yarold was arrested because the Veracruz District Attorney’s Office apparently received an anonymous tip, after which a subpoena (not a warrant) was issued for him.
Mrs. Quintanar recalls that the legal authorities went to his home, handcuffed him and took him away. Then she talks about the torture:
“After he was handcuffed, he was taken into the state criminal investigation agency building where he was blindfolded. They yelled at him: ‘You killed her, don’t play the fool’ and began throwing glasses of water at him, and he started to choke. Then they did it again, simulated drowning.
“When he still refused to confess, they tossed him to the ground and poured water on him before subjecting him to electrical shocks. Still, he would not confess, so they pointed a gun at him, cocked it and said they would kill him, that they would cut him up in little pieces and toss the parts into river inside a black plastic bag with a message suggesting say he was a member of a local drug cartel.
“My son still would not confess. They lifted him up by the hair and smashed his face against the bars and then heard his wife crying outside. They said that if he didn’t confess, they would kill one of his kids right in front of him. He immediately said ‘OK, let’s make a deal. Let them go and I will sign anything you want. I will say whatever you tell me to’.”
Yarold “confessed” that as he fought with the victim, she hit her head on a table and died, after which he dragged her body out of the house and put it in the house across the street.
Forensic examinations indicate the woman did not die in Yarold’s home, and that she was murdered with a sharp, pointed instrument in the house where her body was found, across the street. Moreover, no traces of blood were found in Yarold’s house or in the street, though there would have been evidence of blood if he had moved the body, as related in his “confession.” Forensic examinations by a doctor did not find any evidence of a struggle on Yarold’s body, no scratches or bruises from the alleged struggle.
They also could not establish a motive for the crime. The prosecution’s version of events is that he killed her because she tried to collect a bank debt. Compartamos bank, where the victim worked, denied at trial that the victim had been sent to collect debt from Yarold, while also confirming that he didn’t have any debt.
The district attorney dismissed this testimony as irrelevant and somehow the young man is still in prison.
José Alberto Mosqueda, secretary of the Supreme Court (SCJN, for its acronym in Spanish), says a critical aspect of homicide investigations begins with the arrest of a “suspect,” typically someone who has “confessed” to the crime.
Mosqueda recalled the case of Israel Arzate, a young man arrested in Ciudad Juárez after confessing to have participated in the massacre that took place in the Villas de Salvarcar neighborhood. The young man’s defense proved he had been tortured.
“We prepare cases poorly while at the same time, we use relying on arbitrary arrests and torture.” he laments. “It has become so common that police accept torture as something normal ... that’s just the way it is done.”
Carlos Sinuhé was murdered on Oct. 26, 2011 in Topilejo, in the Mexico City borough of Tlalpan. His body was riddled with 16 gunshots. He was shot on his way home from UNAM after getting off a bus.
Almost seven years since the crime it remains unsolved.
Lourdes Mejía, Carlos’ mother, says that instead of investigating, the authorities criminalized her 40-year-old son, a tutor at UNAM and an activist.
Six days after his murder, on Nov. 1, 2011, Miguel Ángel Mancera, Mexico City’s attorney general at the time, declared it a crime of passion — since some of the shots hit the groin area — and he referred to Carlos as a short-tempered man. He suggested there were possible links to drug dealers that were being investigated.
The Mexico City Criminal Code states that the public release of confidential or protected information by any public official is a crime. In addition, the Supreme Court and the Mexico City Human Rights Commission (CDHDF, for its acronym in Spanish) have ruled that human rights are violated by the disclosure of information from ongoing criminal investigations. Carlos’ family argues that Mancera’s public statements influence his subordinates and thus negatively impacted the lines of inquiry.
“I was outraged and told him so directly to his face when we met later,” said Lourdes. He said the press made him say it.”
In addition to smearing Carlos as a criminal, investigators made mistakes during the investigation, says Guillermo Naranjo, an attorney for the organization Id(h)eas and Lourdes’ legal representative.
First of all, inadequate crime scene practices (the scene was not secured or preserved); secondly, a formal inspection of the crime scene took place 10 full days after the murder. Three spent cartridges found there by forensic examiners were handed over to criminal investigators, but were never sent to the lab for analysis, Naranjo says.
Thirdly, Naranjo adds, the collection, preservation and analysis of the evidence was handled improperly. In addition to the spent cartridges, videos recovered from a security camera at a nearby Oxxo were not analyzed before they were deleted.
The search for and interview of witnesses was also conducted poorly. Naranjo explains that according to city security camera footage, a Mexico City police car was on patrol nearby, but prosecutors never tried to identify it or take statements from the policemen who were in it. In addition, the detective who arrived on scene first noticed a soldier, but didn’t ask for personal information, didn’t take a statement or ask what was he doing there at the time of the murder.
Lourdes made a promise to his son the day she entered the morgue to identify his body. “I went in and saw my son naked, with so many gunshots, his clothes on the floor. He was on a metal table in a pool of blood and I noticed all the gunshots, his eyes were like flecked with something, no sparkle in them. I hugged him, I kissed him, I caressed his face and told him I loved him, that if a part of him could still hear me, he should know I would always be with him and that I would never rest until justice done and the murderers are found.”
Nearly 7 years later, the crime remains unsolved, passing through the hands of 5 criminal investigators, but she is determined to keep her promise.
Just as Carlos Sinuhé was smeared by the authorities, the victims of the notorious Narvarte neighborhood murders on July 15, 2015 — Nadia Vera, Yesenia Quiroz, Nicole, Alejandra and Rubén Espinosa — were also criminalized. Karla Micheel Salas, the attorney who represents the families, complains that the Mexico City District Attorney’s Office leaked information to the media to spin the blame onto the victims themselves.
“The authorities undetrook a smear campaign to discredit the victims,” says Micheel Salas. “Right from the start, the district attorney started constructing the narrative, saying ‘Nadia and Rubén were doing drugs.’ This supposedly ‘fit with’ the fact that one of the victims was a Colombian and since she was a woman, they declared she must have been a prostitute linked to the drug cartels. That’s seems to be accepted practice in this country, smear the victims. They wanted to reduce the social outcry and the clamor for justice.”
On the morning of Oct. 28, 2012, 22-year-old Karla Pontigo Lucciotto was taken to the Central Ignacio Morones Hospital in San Luis Potosí. She was severely injured, bleeding profusely from her right leg. The incident occurred at her work place, the Play Club disco, where she worked as a hostess. She died soon thereafter.
Just under a year later, prosecutors arrested Karla’s employer, the owner of the discotheque, Jorge Vasilakos, charging him with manslaughter.
An investigation found that as Karla was checking out for the night, she went up to the third floor to get her backpack. But since she was allegedly drunk, she stumbled and fell through the glass door, causing the injury that led to her death. The criminal investigators came to this conclusion after interviewing four employees and the suspect.
But Sandra Salinas, the attorney for Karla’s family and a member of the Foundation for Justice and the Democratic Rule of Law, insists the investigators ignored evidence indicating Karla’s death was a femicide.
During the first autopsy, the forensic pathologist conducted an examination to determine if Karla had been a victim of sexual abuse. The results of the exam disappeared from the case folder controlled by lead criminal investigator. This violation was confirmed by the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH, for its acronym in Spanish) in its recommendation 55/2015 based on its investigation of the case.
Furthermore, Salinas says, the investigator failed to analyze the fingers and nails of the young woman for trace evidence that might have been left behind in the event she tried to defend herself. Karla’s body also had bruises on her neck and physical trauma to her genitals that were not included in the case file.
The agent also ignored the statements given by Mrs. Esperanza Lucciotto and Karla’s boyfriend, who said that the employer used to harass the young woman.
Based on this evidence, Karla’s family requested a new autopsy and the second one was performed by the Federal Police’s Forensic Sciences Department. They found injuries that would inconsistent with injuries that would have been caused by crashing through a door. The autopsy also found 40 bruises on her face, neck, lips, arms, wrists, abdomen, as well as the pelvic and genital areas, all injuries unlikely to have been caused by the accident as described in the final case report.
Karla’s family has had to defend themselves from the San Luis Potosí District Attorney’s Office, an institution supposedly dedicated to searching for truth and carrying out justice, Salinas laments.
Salinas was forced to file suit to gain access to the case file, because the DA refused to hand it over. A year later, they were awarded access to Karla’s file whereupon they learned her boss had been charged with manslaughter and he was free on bail pending a trial.
The family filed then filed an injunction demanding that the case be reopened and labeled a femicide, not an accident. They have appealed and now are waiting to see if the Supreme Court – which accepted to hear the case – issues a ruling this year. Should the Court rule that the case be investigated as a femicide, the family deserves all the credit for fighting for justice for Karla.
The transgressions committed by the San Luis Potosí District Attorney’s Office were so horrific that the CNDH has asked that criminal charges be brought against eight public criminal investigators and forensics specialists for violating the victim’s rights and “failing to act appropriately in carrying out their officials duties to prove a crime took place.”