Montanita rocked by tourist murders; Families of the victims question the police investigation

Mar 2, 2016 | 6 comments

chl murder

A recent selfie of Maria Jose Coni, left, and Marina Menegazzo.

The families of two young Argentinian women murdered in Montanita are questioning the accuracy of police accounts of the crime. The families are asking that a forensic team from Argentina be allowed to examine evidence and question witnesses.

The women, Maria Jose Coni, 21, and Marina Menegazzo, 22, were murdered Feb. 23 although the bodies were not discovered until six days later near the home of one of the suspects..

An attorney representing one of the families believes the women may have been captives of a human trafficking ring when they were murdered. Police in Santa Elena Province, where Montanita is located, say that the motives were robbery and rape.

Two men have been arrested for the murder and remain jailed by judicial order. The men, identified as Segundo P. and Eduardo D., have confessed to the crime according Ecuador Interior Minister Jose Serrano.

On Tuesday, business and civic leaders in Montanita met with Interior Ministry officials to request additional law enforcement personnel for the town that is popular with young international travelers and known as a surfing mecca. The local leaders were also concerned about the impact that news coverage of the murders was having on the community.

“We have a high crime rate here but it is mostly robbery,” said Montanita restaurant owner Hugh Wesler. “These are the first murders in years,” he said.

The families of the victims, who have traveled to Ecuador from Mendoza, Argentina, say they are concerned with the speed with which authorities claim to have solved the crime. “We believe this may be a more complicated case and want to make sure the investigation was thorough,” said a family representative. “Most of all, we want justice to be served,” he added.

Serrano says he will allow Argentinian crime scene experts to examine the evidence.