Another Death Rattles Hamptons Hispanic Community

Lilia Esperanza Aucapiña disappeared in October and was found by hunter a month later. (Photo via El Diario)

Lilia Esperanza Aucapiña disappeared in October and was found by a hunter a month later. (Photo via El Diario)

A tearful María Duchi is imploring the Southampton Village Police Department to conduct an exhaustive investigation of the murder of her aunt Lilia Esperanza Aucapiña, 40, who went missing on Oct. 10 and was found a month later hanging from a tree in a vacant lot 500 feet from her house.

“We have more questions than answers. We are facing a limbo that will keep our wounds open. We will not give up until this mother’s death is solved,” said Duchi. “We believe that the police investigation has been inefficient so far. Her family and the members of the Southampton community demand justice for [Lilia] Esperanza.”

On Tuesday, Aucapiña’s niece demonstrated alongside a group of religious leaders and activists who claim that the local police did not work hard enough to find Lilia Esperanza. The victim was found by a hunter on Nov. 22. A coalition of Long Island organizations held a vigil in front of Southampton Town Hall to demand that the authorities conduct a full investigation. [Editor’s note: El Diario reported recently on the efforts by relatives of another Latina woman, Gabriela Alejandra Armijos, who died a year ago, to more fully investigate her death.]

The day Aucapiña went missing, her soon-to-be ex-husband Carlos Aucapiña, 50, confronted her in a Wainscott area parking lot after seeing her talking to a man identified as Ángel Tejeda, according to The Daily Beast. Although the couple was in the process of divorcing, Carlos Aucapiña accused his wife of being unfaithful. It has been known that the woman, who worked as a housekeeper, obtained a restraining order after accusing her husband of raping her twice.

Carlos Aucapiña’s attorney Colin Astarita, from Astarita & Associates, said that his client was arrested twice for violating the restraining order: The first time, on Oct. 6 for trespassing on Lilia Esperanza’s Sagaponack home, and then on Oct. 10 for approaching her in the Meeting House Lane Medical Practice parking lot in Wainscott.

Initially, the Southampton police considered Carlos Aucapiña a suspect in the woman’s disappearance, but Detective Lisa Costa said in a press release that “the case is under investigation and [the death is] not believed to be criminal in nature.”

Carlos Aucapiña was processed in court for the first violation of the restraining order but was released after he paid a $10,000 bail. He was later arrested by the East Hampton police for violating the order in Wainscott.

María Duchi said that Carlos Aucapiña and her aunt were together for more than 20 years and had two children, now 14 and 20 years old.

“She was a woman who lived for her children and to share with others,” said Duchi. “She was always very kind and sweet and devoted to God. She was well-loved.”

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“Her mother, brothers and children are heartbroken from her death, and deserve to know exactly that happened,” said Foster Maer, senior litigation counsel for LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “The family has a right to an in-depth investigation. However, they have to stand here today asking that this right is respected.”

The police denied negligence in their search procedure, adding that they brought in reinforcements from several sources, including the police departments of East Hampton and Quogue, Suffolk County’s air and K-9 units, the New York State Police, the Sheriff’s Office and the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation.

Second case

Aucapiña’s case is similar to that of fellow Ecuadorean Gabriela Alejandra Armijos. Last September, 21-year-old Armijos also disappeared and was found hanging from a tree near her East Hampton home. Even though the police deemed the death a suicide, her sister Alexandra Ramón and LatinoJustice PRLDEF are pressing for a criminal investigation, claiming that the victim’s ex-boyfriend may be involved.

Activists say that justice is not equally administered in the Hamptons, on Long Island’s South Fork peninsula, where a number of wealthy enclaves are located.

“The police have the obligation to serve everyone, regardless of their ethnic origin or immigration status,” said Jason Starr, interim director for the Suffolk County Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), which belongs to the Long Island United for Police Reform coalition.

“This poorly-conducted investigation on the disappearance and death of [Lilia] Esperanza poses serious concerns about the quality of police work,” he added.

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst published a message for the Aucapiña family.

“I have solicited and am currently awaiting a full written report from the police on the steps that were taken to conduct the investigation,” said Throne-Holst in her communication.

“We are also waiting for official results from the Suffolk County medical examiner. As soon as we have the information, we will share it with you,” she added.

The elected official said that Aucapiña’s death is a tragedy and expressed her condolences to the family.

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