(QCOSTARICA) Following accusations by the family of Luany Valeria Salazar for mishandling of the case, Walter Espinoza, director of the Organisno de Investigacion Judicial (OIJ) was compelled to appear before a legislative commission and had a lot to say.
The 23-year-old young woman was stabbed seven times and buried in the patio of a nearby house in La Unión de Cartago, on June 15. The body was found by her brother after tips to her last been seen in a house not far from where she lived with her family.
The fresh earth led Luany’s brother to the gruesome find and unleashed a media smear of the OIJ, accusations of mishandling, incompetence and not taking the case seriously, filing a complaint against the OIJ director in the Tres Rios prosecutor’s office. The family also threatened to sue. The legislative commission on Security and Drug Trafficking wanted details.
On Thursday, Espinoza came out against criticism of the agency he has had led for years, shedding light on the investigation and that Luany was not the “angel” her mother pointed out to the media.
The OIJ director revealed that the victim was the girlfriend of a hitman for the narco gang led by Luis Ángel Fajardo Martínez, alias Pollo and who is imprisoned in Nicaragua.
The last time the family saw 23-year-old Luant was seen alive was on Tuesday, June 9, when she left his home in Linda Vista de Río Azul de La Unión, but it was not until Thursday, June 11 – 48 hours later – that the family alerted Police on the situation.
Based on this scarce information, the OIJchief explained that they carried out an investigation, and developing a profile of the victim, learning that the missing girl had ties to a man surnamed Romero, alias Cachetón, who has been under investigation since 2018.
“At that time (2018) we made raids to arrest him. We managed to arrest his brother, but not Romero. This involved doing investigative activities and allowed verifying that this young woman was related to Cachetón,” said the OIJ chief.
Likewise, judicial agents were able to determine that the girl had nine months of working at the El Rey hotel, located in downtown San José. The director did not say if she was an employee of the hotel or one of the many prostitutes who frequent the hotel for clients.
“She had nine notations on her file,” Espinoza emphasized. One of them was of a confusing situation in which two men and another woman had a confrontation inside a motel in Paso Ancho, San José.
“That fact concluded with a shooting and with the opening of an investigation in which the young Luany was listed as a victim of the crime,” he said.
Espinoza also clarified her relationship with drug use, as well as a trip he made to the United Kingdom, at a time not disclosed.
For Luany’s death, the Prosecutor’s Office has the only suspect in custory, a man with last name Mejía and alias Hippie, after the corpse appeared in the house in which he lived. He is currently under a six-month preventive detention (remand) order.
Handling of the complaint
Wálter Espinoza made it clear that, when it comes to a disappearance, the first hours are vital.
In the case of Luany Salazar, they received the alert from the family almost 48 hours after they had the last contact with her.
According to Espinoza, the last message Salazar sent to her mother was at 6:30 pm on Tuesday, June 9; The complaint was filed on Thursday, June 11 at 5:55 pm at the OIJ main offices in San Jose.
In the mother’s statement, there were no details: She did not even indicate that she suspected someone, or any other information that could help the investigation, said the OIJ chief.
“She was asked for photographs to be circulated on social networks and in the media,” he said.
On Friday, June 12, in the morning, the complaint is assigned to the Tres Ríos delegation in Cartago, and that is where all the victimology is carried out.
In parallel, he said, he contacts the Prosecutor’s Office to update on their case so far.
“We were looking for a missing person, whose mother only told us he is missing. She did not speak to us of any aggression, or enemies, or problems of any nature, or kidnappings,” he lamented.
The OIJ director continued that Luany’s mother called 911 with a lead, with few details, a lead that turned out to be false. As the investigation continues into the girl’s disappearance, they were led to the person who was finally arrested the following day after the body was found.
‘The OIJ is not a police organization that invents or lies’
As a fundamental part of his presentation to legislators, Espinoza assured that the OIJ “is not a police that invents or lies, that goes out foolishly and crazily to look for people.”
He added: “It (the OIJ) is not a vagrant Police; it is a technical and professional police. These issues irritate me a lot for one reason only: because they attack the image of a police force that has been working for 46 years, that is part of a democratic system and that brings hope to people. When the OIJ is attacked in invalid circumstances, part of the State is attacked.”
Espinoza indicated that this does not mean that they do not receive comments or complaints on their work; on the contrary “we are open to listen to suggestions and advice”.
He admitted: “People can get mad at us and we like it because it allows us to grow and improve, but when it becomes a show it is really painful because there is not the possibility of defense.”