SANTIAGO — On Monday, Aug. 10, pre-trial detention was ordered for Hugo Bustamante, accused of raping, murdering and burying 16-year-old Ámbar Cornejo. The defendant had been convicted of two murders in 2005 but his sentence was reduced for good behavior. Cornejo’s death prompted the Chilean government to rush a bill that seeks to prevent sex offenders from receiving reduced sentences.
Pre-trial detention for Hugo Bustamante was ordered on Monday, Aug. 10. Bustamante is charged with rape, femicide and illegal burial of 16-year-old Ámbar Cornejo. The minor had been missing since Jul. 29 and was found dead inside Bustamante’s house on Aug. 6. Even though the house was shared by the accused and the teenager’s mother, Bustamante is so far the only suspect in the case.
A week after Cornejo’s disappearance, police found her body buried in Bustamante’s backyard. Denisse Llanos, mother of the minor, confessed that her partner had killed Cornjeo on Jul. 29, when Cornejo went to collect the pension money her biological father had sent her.
Although both Bustamante and Llanos were detained the day Cornejo’s body was found, only Bustamante has been charged with Cornejo’s murder. The first hearing in the case took place on Monday, Aug. 10 and it was broadcast online. During the hearing, prosecutors asserted that the accused not only killed the minor, but also raped her and then dismembered her body to bury it under the house.
Additional evidence discussed at the hearing indicates that Bustamante planned the crime days before he committed it. The Prosecutor’s Office explained that the defendant “acquired wood boards and nails prior to the crime, in order to be able to properly hide the body.”
Bustamante was convicted in 2005 of the murder of his then-partner Verónica Vásquez and her nine-year-old son. He was sentenced to 27 years in prison for simple homicide. In 2016, just 11 years later, he was released for good behavior.
Chile Rushes Bill To Prevent Reduced Sentences for Sex Offenders
In November 2019, the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights submitted to Congress a bill that excludes sex offenders from sentence reductions. Since then, the bill had not advanced much, but the government assured yesterday that consideration of the bill was now a priority and would be immediate.
The initiative seeks to modify Law 19,856, a norm that “creates a system of social reintegration for convicted persons, based on the observation of good conduct” and regulates the reduction of sentences. The norm establishes that the reduction of sentence does not apply in cases of serious crimes such as qualified murder or parricides, but it does not exclude those convicted of sex crimes against minors. The Government’s aim with the initiative is to add seven new exclusions to the norm:
- Cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment with rape or aggravated sexual assault.
- Rape of a person under 14 years of age.
- Rape of a person over 14 years of age.
- Aggravated sexual assault.
- Sexual abuse of a person under 14 years of age.
- Person trafficking, in relation to sexual exploitation.
The court set a period of 120 days for the investigation of Cornejo’s murder. Meanwhile, Bustamante will remain in the high security jail in Santiago as a precautionary measure.
Fernanda Gándara is currently finishing her journalism degree at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. She’s passionate about writing, environmental issues and women empowerment. You can find her on Twitter as @FerGMarchant