CONCHALÍ – After more than 14 months, the case of missing Fernanda Maciel has been resolved. The body of the 21-year-old woman was found on Monday afternoon in the garage of a neighbor. The police had searched the garage six times before without finding anything.
Fernanda Maciel, seven months pregnant, went missing on February 10, 2018. She left home in the afternoon and simply vanished.
Family and police conducted an extensive search, from the Argentine city of Bariloche to her boyfriend’s house, from the bottom of Laguna Carén lagoon in Pudahuel to her neighbors, and yet she remained missing.
But exactly in that latter place—the neighbor’s garage—police found Maciel’s body on Monday. The same place police, with search dogs, had entered six times before. The same place she had entered the day she went missing, according to camera footage. And owned by the same person who, the entire time, was identified as the main suspect by Maciel’s family.
The tweet the PDI sent out after Maciel went missing:
A Gruesome Discovery
In the days since the discovery, additional details of the murder have been released. They tell the gruesome story of a young and pregnant woman who became the victim in a coldblooded murder.
The body was buried in a corner of the garage, 70 cm deep under a thick layer of lime and cement, covered with rubble and canvas. According to the prosecutor, the lime had been used to absorb odors. Nevertheless, search dogs found the body after entering the sixth time. Maciel’s family had to identify her by her tattoos.
During the autopsy, it was determined that Maciel was strangled. However, the suspect did not only kill her, as the woman had been pregnant for seven months. The unborn baby was still in her belly when they found her this Monday.
The Main Suspect
On the same day the body was found, a suspect was arrested. It was the owner of the garage, Maciel’s neighbor Felipe Rojas.
In his bedroom, shoes were found that matched footprints in the cement layer under which Maciel was buried. Maciel’s boyfriend and family members had pointed to Rojas as the one responsible as soon as she disappeared. Rojas will be charged with homicide, illegal burial, and illegal abortion.
Although the disappearance has been solved and loved ones have a body to bury, the family of the victim feels that the Chilean authorities have not taken their case serious.
The lawyer of the family pointed out that footage existed of Maciel entering the garage and later of a man carrying bags of cement to the place and that authorities didn’t take further steps to question the owner of this garage, Rojas.
A Call to Action
The Chilean Network of Violence against Women called out the government and said that “crimes against women, their lives, disappearances, and deaths are not a priority and are treated as crimes of second order.”
They recalled the cases of other Chilean women, who disappeared and were found dead sometimes weeks later. “We demand the state to review its procedures, provide more resources for investigations, train the experts and police, and stop this neglect that Chilean women are facing,” they said.
Esta situación confirma lo que hemos acusado: para @Carabdechile @PDI_CHILE y @GobiernodeChile los crímenes contra mujeres, sus vidas, desapariciones y muertes NO SON PRIORIDAD y se abordan como crímenes de segundo orden.— Red Chilena contra la Violencia hacia las Mujeres (@MujeresRed) June 25, 2019
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today. He worked in Colombia, Surinam and the Netherlands as reporter and made appearances on BBC World Services and ABC News during major events in Chile.