The families of two Montañita murder victims said on Wednesday that they were retracting earlier criticism of the Ecuadorian police investigation that resulted in the arrest of two men. Spokespersons for the families made the statement following the confirmation by an independent Argentine forensics team of the victims’ identities.
The bodies of Marina Menegazzo, 21, and Maria Jose Coni, 22, from Mendoza, Argentina, were discovered March 1 near Montañita. Police believe the murders occurred on February 22 or 23.
When the families of the victims first arrived in Ecuador, they said they believed that the murder investigation had been handled improperly and that police may have arrested the wrong men. They also said they had information that indicated the crimes may have been the work of an international human trafficking ring. They even questioned the identity of the bodies, which were dismembered and decomposed.
“When we came to Ecuador, we were under a great deal of emotional stress and we received information that was incorrect,” Gladys Steffani, Maria Jose’s mother, said at a press conference. “The pressure from our loss was overwhelming. What we have learned from the new investigation supports most of what the police had originally found. We apologize to the Ecuadorian people for our earlier statements.”
Marina’s sister, Paula Menegazzo, criticized Ecuadorian newspapers and television stations for exaggerating the families’ original statements and taking parts of them out of context. “What they said did not accurately represent our positions,” she said. Some government officials claimed that the media, which they say is controlled by the political opposition, deliberately distorted the positions of the victims families.
Steffani said the families still have questions about the crime and will work with police as well as the forensic team from Mendoza to find answers.