On December 16, 2001, 15-year-old María Isabel Franco disappeared in Guatemalan City. Her body was found shortly before Christmas.
María Isabel Franco
On December 16, 2001, 15-year-old María Isabel Franco disappeared in Guatemalan City. Her body was found shortly before Christmas. She had been raped, her hands and feet had been tied with barbed wire, she had been stabbed and strangled. Her face was disfigured from being punched, there was a rope around her neck, and her fingernails were bent backwards. Her body had been stuffed in a bag and left abandoned in a waste land in the municipality of Mixco, near Guatemala City. To date, her case remains unresolved.
María Isabel’s case has been mired by numerous shortcomings since the initial stages of the investigation. Although María Isabel’s clothes had traces of semen and blood, they were handed back to the family prior to having been processed for evidence. According to reports, a DNA test, fluids and/or blood analysis of the victim were never conducted.
María Isabel’s mother, Rosa Franco, also reported to the authorities that her daughter had had her mobile phone with her when the body was found. The Public Prosecutor investigating the case at the time, however, never bothered to investigate any calls. Rosa obtained a list of calls and handed the numbers over to the Prosecutor’s office, but these were reportedly not investigated until November 2004. The Public Prosecutor’s Office in Mixco also failed to promptly search the house where an anonymous witness had reportedly seen the vehicle used to dump the body. Authorities reportedly went to the site on one occasion, but it wasn’t until July 2003 that a search warrant was issued. Moreover, it took nearly a year and a half after the murder for the authorities to conduct a visual inspection of the scene of the crime. By then, not only had the crime scene been contaminated, but it had also been burned.
According to Amnesty International, the two main suspects have reportedly consistently failed to respond to summons to testify and are reportedly fugitives. To date, no effort has been made to locate them.
In November 2006, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights accepted a complaint against the Guatemalan government for having failed to ensure a timely investigation in the murder of María Isabel in accordance with regional human rights and women’s rights treaties and conventions. In its report, the Commission noted that four years after Maria Isabel’s murder, “Guatemalan authorities have failed to provide any concrete information about the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for her murder.” The Commission, therefore, concluded that all domestic legal action had already been unsuccessfully taken.