A task force of over 200 officers found the body of 21 year old Micaela García last Saturday, one week after her disappearance was reported outside King nightclub in Gualeguay, Entre Ríos. She disappeared around 5 AM, while walking back to her apartment from the dance club. Autopsy reports indicate strangulation as her cause of death.
The main suspect, Sebastián José Luis Wagner, is currently detained. Video footage placed his car outside the club, and it was later recovered from a car wash. Also under investigation for aiding in the cover-up are Wagner’s stepfather Fabián Ehcosor and car wash owner Néstor Pavón.
Micaela’s devastated parents call for their pain and that of the community to be agents of change. Micaela, they say, died fighting for pro-women’s movements. To honor her mission, they plan to continue seeking institutional change.
The Evidence and Investigation
The main suspect is 30 year old Sebastián José Luis Wagner. Security footage from King nightclub captured his Renault 18 loitering outside. The car was later recovered in Pavón’s car wash.
In an interview with UNO, The Chief of Entre Ríos Police Gustavo Maslein, details the evidence from the car: “We picked up important evidence that will be subject to skilled analysis from the vehicle. We found soil, stains and hair.” Also recovered was a shovel with soil on it.
Wagner, the primary suspect in the case, was captured last Friday in Moreno and is being held in a maximum security cell in Capital Federal, north of Entre Ríos. At the time of writing, he has just been questioned by Ignacio Telenta, the prosecutor in the case.
The other two suspects, Ehcosor and Pavón, were picked up last Thursday, in Moreno and Gualeguay, respectively. They are under investigation for possibly aiding in concealing Wagner and covering up the murder.
According to an interview with La Nacion, Telenta reports indicate that Wagner’s mother reported him to the police. Telenta also reports that a psychological exam of Wagner, performed by Doctor Magdalena Miralpeix, finds him sane, but higher security containment reduces the risk of suicide, which was a concern after finding him with a 32 caliber revolver.
Within the next few days, Telenta plans to continue interrogating the suspects, as he and the department await evidence analysis and a complete autopsy report.
A History of Violence
Also known as “El Melli,” Sebastián José Luis Wagner has a history of violence. He has been accused of three violent acts, and was sentenced to nine years in prison for two. The prosecuted incidents involved two victims, both students from the city Concepción del Uruguay, and occurred in July and November of 2010.
Wagner was a suspect in a third incident, but the courts did not procure enough evidence to try him. Wagner wore a mask during the incident, so the victim could not identify him. In a twist of injustice, Wagner accused his twin brother for the incident, which complicated DNA testing in the case. Because accurate results would have to have been procured from a German testing lab, the courts decided not to process DNA evidence over costs. The case was dropped against Wagner.
After serving two thirds of his sentence, Wagner appealed for parole. Although specialists did not recommend his release, Judge Rossi approved the request. At the time of Micaela’s disappearance, Wagner was still on parole.
The community was unsettled, holding massive convocations last Tuesday and Wednesday to demand Micaela be found quickly— and alive. The group of over five thousand people occupied Plaza Constitución and ten blocks around the center.
With hope, the Government Minister of Entre Ríos, Mauro Urribarri, sent out a force of 200 officers to search for Micaela. The optimistic goal was to bring her back, “safe and sound.” Unfortunately, that was not the case.
Chief of Police Maslein reports that Micaela was found “in a state of very significant decomposition, nude and with marks around her neck… [in an area that was] of low ground, swampy, [with] limited access and with local roads that with the rain are difficult to travel.”
Preliminary autopsy reports indicate Micaela was strangled to death, which has been confirmed by Chief of Police Maslein.
Yesterday, the day after her body was recovered, Micaela’s father Néstor García said to neighbors and police, “I’ll be grateful to these people for as long as I live. I know how much they worked and how much they didn’t sleep. The prosecutor was there for everything, I don’t know if he slept more than two hours a day.”
After seeing Micaela’s body, Micaela’s parents fought through their devastation to deliver a clear message. Nestor said, “Justice will come, I am sure that it will come… The pain has to [encourage] us to change society… beyond what one feels, one should follow institutional order, so one that one should not take justice into his own hand.”
Micaela, originally from Concepción del Uruguay, was studying to be a physical education professor in Gualeguay. She was an activist, supporting the advancement of women’s rights, and a member of JP Evita.
In a goodbye post to her Facebook wall, a comrade left her this message: “Compañera we are going to fight for the dreams that you left [behind] for the fight you [had to] give. Compañera your examples will guide us. As part of the Evita family, the pain and the grief fills our souls. In our hearts the loss of justice appears like a shout that breaks the schemes of an archaic and corrupt law. We join family and friends in the pain. And we appreciate the accompaniment of colleagues from all over the province as well as the society of Gualeguay. Compañera Mica rest in peace.”
Femicides in Argentina: What Needs to Change?
Argentina’s increasing news coverage has brought to light a devastating amount of femicides over the past few years. In response, the Argentina government has set forth seemingly good programs, including The National Register of Femicides, maintained by the Supreme Court Women’s Office, and the National Council of Women. Also available are women’s hotlines, including lines for domestic assault and general hotlines.
Yet, these services, while well-intended, are having little effect on the femicide rate. Given the Monday through Friday business hours of most hotlines, this comes as no surprise. Even the widely supported Law Nº 26.485 has yet to achieve a reprieve from the violence.
Ni Una Menos, an anti-gender violence advocacy group, points to institutional sexism, which may discourage women from reporting, minimizes their concerns and compromises their safety with limited implementation of the law.
Among their demands for change, the strongest include full implementation of Law Nº 26.485, guaranteed reporting and safety services for women, full reporting of femicide and violence statistics, anti-violence departments in all provinces, greater emergency resources and anti-sexism (and violence) education in all levels of education systems.