A Springs man and his family are looking for answers about the death of his 21-year-old sister-in-law, whose body was found in the woods behind Bistrian Gravel off Springs-Fireplace Road in East Hampton on September 28.
Manuel Pucha said the body of Andrea Gabriella Armijos, covered in dirt, was found hanging from a tree, her sweater fashioned into a makeshift noose, early that Sunday morning when he and his family went into the woods searching for her. Ms. Armijos, who worked at Jazmine Hair Salon on Springs-Fireplace Road, had been in the United States for little more than a month and had plans to return to her native Ecuador with her sister at the end of December, Mr. Pucha said.
Police say they don’t suspect foul play, but family members and friends aren’t convinced.
Ms. Armijos often would take a shortcut from her home on Three Mile Harbor Road through the woods to Springs-Fireplace Road to get to work, according to Mr. Pucha.
He said he last saw Ms. Armijos at approximately 7 a.m. on September 27 and grew concerned at around 9 p.m. that night when she didn’t return home. Mr. Pucha said he searched for Ms. Armijos on Saturday evening but could not locate the woman.
“I was very worried, because the area is dangerous,” he said of the woods in between Springs-Fireplace and Three Mile Harbor Road.
The area has a reputation for being a place for drinking, drugs and, in some cases, homelessness, according to Ms. Armijos’s co-worker Adriana Leon.
“It’s scary, it’s dirty, there are mattresses and furniture and couches, and you see bottles everywhere, and plates,” she said. “And it seems like people go back there to live … you can feel weird things in there.”
Days before her death, Mr. Pucha said, he saw a group of men in the woods, near where Ms. Armijos’s body was later found, drinking and doing drugs.
Mr. Pucha said that Ms. Armijos had come home late—and covered in dirt—on the night of September 24. He then contacted East Hampton Town Police, who came to his home to check on Ms. Armijos’s well-being, he said. The police conducted an interview, asking Ms. Armijos, with Mr. Pucha translating, if she was all right. Ms. Armijos told police she was okay, and the officers left, according to Mr. Pucha. Her body was found four days later.
Ms. Armijos’s body was discovered by a friend of Mr. Pucha, who said he noticed large footprints around the tree from which the body was hanging. Mr. Pucha said he contacted Town Police, who responded to the scene and contacted the Suffolk County medical examiner’s office, but said the department has not been helpful in providing the family with answers about what, exactly, happened to Ms. Armijos.
“I never got any kind of report from the police,” he said on Tuesday. “We still haven’t heard anything from the police. I don’t know why … what’s going on here.”
East Hampton Town Police Captain Chris Anderson said he had not received any phone calls asking for information about the death, and that he would happily help if possible.
No criminal activity is suspected in Ms. Armijos’s death, said Capt. Anderson. It might be a suicide, but no official ruling has been made, pending a report from the medical examiner. It can take months for the medical examiner’s office to determine an official cause of death, he said, declining to release the name of the detective handling the investigation.
Capt. Anderson said he could not comment on what Mr. Pucha described as a first police encounter with Ms. Armijos, because he was unaware of it.
Mr. Pucha said he contacted Southampton attorney Jean Hazelton, initially about an unrelated issue, and later brought the death to her attention. She said she, too, has tried to contact Town Police for more information but has yet to receive any.
Ms. Armijos’s body was flown to Ecuador for a funeral service late last week. It will be flown back to the United States, to the Rivera Funeral Home in Queens, for additional services.