A body believed to be that of Lilia Aucapina, who had been missing for more than six weeks, was found not far from her home in Sagaponack on Saturday, and Southampton Town Police believe that she committed suicide by hanging.
Although multiple police departments were involved in the search for her, including K-9 divisions, it was a hunter—whom police did not name—who found her body at about 7:30 a.m. between Toppings Path, where she lived, and Sprig Tree Path, the next road over, according to Southampton Town Police.
Police have not disclosed exactly where the body of Ms. Aucapina, 40, was found, but it appears that it was not more than about 500 feet away from her home.
Because of the heavy foliage in the area at the time Ms. Aucapina disappeared on October 10, police had not been able to find her body, Southampton Town Lieutenant Susan Ralph said. “It was heavily foliaged, plus the ground cover was high, so it is thickets that you would have to be able to get into,” she explained.
When asked why search dogs also failed to find Ms. Aucapina’s body, Lt. Ralph said, “It can be the wind direction, and if the wind is blowing the scent away from the dog, the dog wouldn’t pick it up.
“With all those factors, she was missed,” the lieutenant said.
“Police had searched the area, but in the last six weeks the leaves have dropped and the area has been more accessible,” Colin Astarita, the attorney for Ms. Aucapina’s husband, Carlos Aucapina, said on Saturday. Like Lt. Ralph, Mr. Astarita added that foliage could have made the search more difficult.
“It is definitely not the outcome we wanted,” Lt. Ralph said of the discovery on Saturday. “There were multi-agency searches in that area over several days.”
Both Southampton Town Police detectives and the Suffolk County Medical Examiner responded to the scene in the woods this week. “Medical examiners will do their own investigation based on evidence that was presented to them,” Lt. Ralph said, adding that they will confirm that the body found was in fact that of Ms. Aucapina and decide whether her death was definitely a suicide and not criminal in nature. They will use dental records to aid in the official identification of the body, police said.
Mr. Astarita said police told him that Ms. Aucapina hanged herself from a tree and that her body had significantly decomposed because of the length of time before her body was finally found on November 21.
Mr. Aucapina had said earlier that he did not believe his wife would commit suicide, as she was a “strong person in her beliefs.”
Police would not provide basic information about Ms. Aucapina’s disappearance, including whether or not her cellphone was at the scene where the body was found, how many officers were engaged in the search and for how many days, and exactly how close to her home she was found.
According to authorities, a text message had been sent from Ms. Aucapina’s phone to both of her children a few hours after she was last seen on the morning of October 10 but before she was officially reported missing by her son, Ronald, roughly 12 hours after being seen. Mr. Astarita said the message said something along the lines of, “Remember, Mommy loves you.”
The Southampton Town Police Patrol and Detective divisions, East Hampton Town Police Patrol and Detective divisions, Quogue Village Police, Suffolk County Police Aviation and K-9 divisions, State Police and K-9 divisions, Suffolk County Sheriffs K-9, and State Department of Environmental Conservation and State Forestry officers were all involved. Even civilian volunteers searched for Ms. Aucapina, Lt. Ralph said, but to no avail.
Ms. Aucapina had spent the night with Angel Tejada in Wainscott, according to a court statement by Mr. Tejada, and her husband—against whom she had an order of protection—and her brother confronted Ms. Aucapina and Mr. Tejada at the Meeting House Lane Medical Practice on Montauk Highway in Wainscott, where she had left her car overnight. It was the last place she was seen, according to police.
Ms. Aucapina had filed the order of protection against her husband on Wednesday, October 7, only three days before she disappeared. The order of protection allowed Mr. Aucapina to live next door to her, Mr. Astarita said, and he still had access to the property where Ms. Aucapina was living, as his tool shed was located there.
Mr. Aucapina was accused of violating the order of protection on the morning of October 10 in both Southampton and East Hampton towns and was subsequently charged with misdemeanor criminal contempt by both police departments.
According to Mr. Astarita, Mr. Aucapina faced two counts because he drove past his wife’s home in Sagaponack before confronting her in Wainscott, which constituted a separate violation of the order of protection.
Mr. Tejada told Southampton and East Hampton town police that he and Ms. Aucapina had walked to the medical practice to pick up Ms. Aucapina’s car.
Mr. Aucapina accused Mr. Tejada of having an affair with his wife, according to arrest and incident reports filed at East Hampton Town Justice Court. According to Mr. Tejada’s statement, Mr. Aucapina called Ms. Aucapina’s brother, Carlos Parra, and the two men confronted Ms. Aucapina and Mr. Tejada in the medical practice parking lot, and then left when Mr. Tejada called police.
Later that day, Ms. Aucapina’s car was parked at her house, but who drove it there remains unclear.
Mr. Astarita had said that many of Ms. Aucapina’s belongings, including her wallet, were in her car, but that her phone was not.
“They are together and supporting each other during this very difficult time,” Mr. Astarita said. “While technically, the district attorney’s office could pursue the criminal contempt charges, I believe that is very unlikely in light of the recent and most tragic circumstances.”
The attorney continued, “On behalf of the Aucapina family, we would like to thank our community on the East End and its law enforcement officers for their efforts in trying to bring Lilia home.”