SANTIAGO —Providencia firefighters responding to a report of a suitcase in flames last night made a surprising discovery: a bound and beaten body. A homicide investigation is now underway, but so far the circumstances only raise more questions than answers—among them the fact that the perpetrator of the blaze seemingly so calmly carried out his mission.
Santiago has its share of street fires, but they are usually connected to demonstrations or impromptu asados. Nothing of the kind was going on last night in Providencia at Calle Dr. Ernesto Prado Tagle and Avenida Vicuña MacKenna. Residents who happened upon a flaming suitcase there around 11:00 p.m. were therefore right to go to the fire department just a few meters away.
The fire department immediately responded and, as reported by La Tercera, once they extinguished the small blaze, they made a grisly discovery: a bound and beaten body inside the suitcase.
The victim was female, about 1.5 m. tall, appeared to be close to 20 years old, and was found with her face beaten and bloodied, naked, and covered with a blanket inside a travel suitcase that was 80 cm. by 40 cm., according to prosecutor Omar Merida, as also reported by La Tercera.
Preliminary expert reports reveal signs of suffocation and that the victim died at least 24 hours before her body was found in the burned suitcase, added Merida. Preliminary information also suggests some type of accelerant was used to enhance the blaze, as reported by 24 Horas.
One of the hypotheses being explored, according to La Tercera, is related to the sex trade that occurs in the area adjacent to where the body was found; and another possibility is a crime of passion and eventual femicide. A third, more sinister hypothesis, not mentioned by La Tercera, is the possibility that the burning was intended to send someone a message.
PDI On The Case
In the meantime, PDI investigators are interviewing witnesses, reviewing various traffic cameras, and looking for other surveillance footage. According to La Tercera, two minutes of traffic camera footage have already allowed investigators to create the route taken by the person who transported and burned the suitcase.
The initial image of the man is on Vicuña MacKenna and Diagonal Paraguay. “At a calm pace, he walked north one block until he reached the corner of Ernesto Prado where he placed the suitcase and lit it,” La Tercera reported.
PDI Commissioner Orlando Calderón, of the Homicide Brigade, said that the “the circumstances described by the Public Prosecutor’s Office and that refer to the transfer of the body in a suitcase, allow us to conclude that there would be participation of third parties in the death,” according to 24 Horas.
Robert Travis grew up in San Francisco, California, and moved to Santiago, Chile, in July 2018. In addition to editing and writing for Chile Today, he practices law from afar with Travis & Travis. He’s thrilled to be living in the same hemisphere as “the world’s longest left,” Playa Chicama.