Femicide in Uruguay.  For Lola Chomnalez's mother, the geneticist was the key to catching the alleged murderer

Femicide in Uruguay. For Lola Chomnalez’s mother, the geneticist was the key to catching the alleged murderer

Relief. This is what we hear when listening the parents of Lola Chomnalez, the Argentinian teenager murdered at the end of December 2014 in the Uruguayan resort of Barra de Valizas, a case which, after years of lethargy, now seems to be heading towards an eventual clarification, after the arrest of the alleged murderer, a few days ago, thanks to a DNA test.

“As a mother or father, you get angry at silence. But in this case, The court’s response was immediate. In April, Diego, Lola’s father, traveled to Uruguay to request that the corresponding DNA tests be carried out. And to verify that they are done correctly. And today, we are where we are. We are very satisfied with the work done by Judge Juan Manuel Giménez and Prosecutor Jessica Pereira,” said THE NATION Adriana Belmonte, mother of Lola.

His daughter’s murder case took an unexpected turn last week, after a long and complex criminal procedure ended with a DNA comparison that identified him as the possible perpetrator of the murder. Leonardo David Sena, a 39-year-old man with a history of rape.

“When we discovered the work done by the medical geneticist Natalie Sandberg, in charge of the National Register of Genetic Fingerprints of the National Directorate of the Scientific Police of the Ministry of the Interior, We feel the need to thank you, because your work has been instrumental in the search for the new accusedBelmonte pointed out.

Lola ChomnalezArchive

On December 28, 2014, a day after arriving in Uruguay to spend a few days on vacation with her godmother, her husband and son, Lola, 15, went out for a walk. It was three o’clock in the afternoon and she was walking through the sands of Valizas towards neighboring Aguas Dulces when she encountered the man who forcibly took her to the dune area and killed her.

The body was found two days later, 145 meters from the beach. Just over two weeks later, not far from where Lola was beaten, lacerated and choked with her face buried in the sand as a teenager, the victim’s backpack was found, half-buried . The experts found, inside, the DNI and a towel. In both there was blood spots; in addition to the victim’s genetic profile, they had traces of male DNA.

This sample was matched against DNA records from the entire criminal base. At first, the results showed no matches. Subsequently, this trace was compared to the profiles that were entered into this database. And finally, After a modification of the search technique by genetic comparison, the investigators managed to find the suspect, once his DNA was registered in the official register.

Adriana learned of Sena’s arrest through a phone call from a reporter. Then they informed him of an individual who had matched over 99.99% positivity on DNA testing: “The moment they confirmed us, I felt all kinds of sensations go through me. I couldn’t stop crying with emotion.” assured the mother of Lola, who is now awaiting the judgment of the court on the new detainee.

For years, Lola’s parents have been filled with anger over the handling of the case. “Now, we understand that there was a certain armor on the part of Judge Giménez and Prosecutor Pereira so that no information escaped. And that helped research lines grow successfully,” Belmonte said.

For her, a new process is now opening up. It is clear to him that sooner or later it will become clear what role both Sena, accused by especially aggravated homicide, What Andres “Cachila” Moreira who was initially prosecuted as co-author of homicide and treason by prosecutor Jorge Vaz, but for whom, ultimately, prosecutor Pereira requested a 10-year sentence for concealment. For Lola’s mother, whatever criminal figure applied to her, “Cachila does not stop being a femicide”.

In the investigation carried out last week, the alleged murderer of Chomnalez admitted to having stolen money from the young woman’s backpack, although he denied having participated in the murder. He couldn’t deny that he had made contact with what was inside, since his blood was found on the towel and on Lola’s ID card. But repeated a justification: he said he injured himself with beer bottles in the warehouse where he worked at the time of the crime, and that explained why his blood had stained the things inside the backpack when he put his hand to check and take the girl’s handbag. He also said he found the backpack “abandoned in the middle of the beach”, two kilometers from where the victim’s body was found.

Lola Chomnalez was murdered in December 2014 at the age of 15;  Adriana Belmonte remembers her with joy;  I was a teacher for her
Lola Chomnalez was murdered in December 2014 at the age of 15; Adriana Belmonte remembers her with joy; I was a teacher for herAdriana Belmonte

As detailed in Leandro Sena’s impeachment request, the defendant’s account is unlikely, since he cannot explain why his blood was mixed with that of the victim, nor the presence of blood on the towel and on the DNI, nor that the backpack appeared miles from where it was allegedly found after days of intense combing and searches by individuals and police.

In the lengthy brief, prosecutor Pereira clarified that he enough evidence to ensure that at least two people killed the teenager when he was vacationing in the Uruguayan resort town of Barra de Valizas. In addition, a representative of the public prosecutor’s office specified that the victim was intercepted by his attackers and taken against his will to the area of ​​the dunes, where he was killed by “asphyxiation by suffocation” against the sand, in addition to generating several wounds due to cuts with a certain type of bladed weapon, presumably two different ones.

Since January 2015, it was known that the genetic samples found in the DNI and the towel of the victim had two contributors: a majority (from Lola) and another minority (from a man). Naming the carrier of this male DNA was a daunting task.

On November 24, 2021, a criminal investigation found that mucus samples taken from two defendants “shared a patrilineal line with the person who left the evidence in the case.” On May 12, “Y-chromosome analysis of evidence designated by the biology lab as L150073007, a lineage rooted in the autosomal genetic profile informed by this evidence,” was undertaken, according to the filing.

An investigation into the suspect’s paternal lineage has begun. But a positive result was not achieved; it was considered that there was “an inaccuracy as to the number of children the biological father of the DNA sample collected may have had”.

This led geneticist Sandberg to come up with a new strategy: to search for and obtain DNA samples of all maternal half-siblings from an already collected sample. Thus, a woman has been identified who could be the mother of the “ghost” that Justice was looking for. The woman, identified in the file as SMSS, voluntarily provided a blood sample. The DNA match with the one he left with his blood on Lola’s belongings came back positive.

The woman told police she had 11 children, including Leonardo David Sena. He said that since he was a child he lived with a family in La Paloma or Rocha. The ghost already had a name. He failed to find it. They caught him last week near Chuy, on the border with Brazil. Samples were taken to match their DNA. And he tested positive.

The shock of the murder seven and a half years ago has again been revealed; and the despair of the years has now turned into a more optimistic sign. With this in mind, the Uruguayan President, Luis Lacalle Pou He referred to the capture of the suspect: “It generates, at least, peace in their loved ones and the tranquility that, perhaps a little late, at least justice has been served or is being served; We will see what ultimately fails the judiciary in this regard.

It is very difficult for us to find consolation one day, but we can be at peace knowing that as a mother and father, we have done everything to clarify what happened to Lola. We don’t expect any kind of decoration for it. We just want Lola to rest in peace.” Belmonte concluded.

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