The family of Lilia “Esperanza” Aucapina, the Sagaponack woman whose body was found hanging from a tree near her home last month after she had been missing for more than six weeks, filed a formal request with the Southampton Town supervisor on Tuesday, asking that the investigation into her death be reopened and reassigned.
The letter asks Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst to allow the Suffolk County Police Homicide Squad open a completely new investigation. It came one week after a vigil was held outside Southampton Town Hall, where about 100 people gathered to demand that her death be investigated more thoroughly.
The five-page letter was sent on behalf of Ms. Aucapina’s family but was written by Foster Maer, the senior litigation counsel for LatinoJustice, a New York-based civil rights organization that has been investigating Ms. Aucapina’s case and how it was handled by the Town Police. Her death was ruled a suicide.
The letter claims that Town Police did not have “open minds” and “wrongfully imposed limits on the investigation into Ms. Aucapina’s disappearance.” It notes that Ms. Aucapina had recently obtained an order of protection against her estranged husband, Carlos Aucapina, and documented numerous instances of domestic violence he had committed against her.
The letter also states that the Town Police did not sufficiently consider that Ms. Aucapina’s death may have in fact been a criminal act, as the department did not contact trained homicide detectives. Furthermore, the investigation was limited only to “noncriminal explanations” even when Ms. Aucapina’s body was eventually found hanging from a tree in an area previously searched by police.
“Whatever their exact reasoning, the Town Police viewed the discovery of her body as confirmation that she had committed suicide and continued their refusal to expand the investigation or have trained homicide detectives take over,” the letter says.
LatinoJustice suggests that this brings into question the competence of the Town Police as well as the adequacy of the investigation, asserting that Ms. Aucapina was found hanging in “plain view in this lightly wooded area.”
According to the letter, because a hunter, and not the police, discovered Ms. Aucapina’s body, either her suicide was staged after the police search was conducted, or the police investigation was not thorough enough.
The letter additionally requests that Southampton Town examine how the police conducted their investigation, and specifically what steps the department took to determine that Ms. Aucapina’s death was a suicide. It mentions Gabriela Armijos, a Latina who went missing and was found dead last year in Springs, and notes that East Hampton Town Police quickly determined that she too had committed suicide.
“That both these cases involved the disappearance of Latinas suggests that race may have played a role in the gross mishandling of both investigations,” the letter states.