The relatives of a model, singer and student who were tortured to death and dumped in a shallow grave in Ecuador have furiously denied theories that the trio had ties to drug cartels.
The bodies of Nayeli Tapia, 22, Yuliana Macias, 21, and Denisse Reyna, 19, were discovered by local fishermen who saw a dog sniffing the ground along a riverbank near Quininde last week.
Police officers were called to the scene where they exhumed and uncovered the bodies of the young women from the shallow grave. Their bodies were all bound, their throats slit and their mouths covered, local news in Esmeraldas province reported.
Yuliana’s aunt has told media outlet Noticias Noroccidente that the murders should not be linked to drug trafficking, adding: “I ask the public not to accuse people who have nothing to do with it.”
Yuliana was a singer who performed under the name Siria.
The women killed were identified as (L-R) Yuliana Macias, Denisse Reyna and Nayeli Tapia
The gruesome discovery was made by some fishermen who saw a dog sniffing the ground along a river bank, where they also smelled a foul stench
Police are now desperate to find those responsible for carrying out the gruesome murders.
Diego Velastegui of Quininde police told local media: “They were young, had beachwear, bathing suits, light clothes, shorts.”
The young women had left their homes in Santo Domingo de los Tsachilas – more than 50 miles from where they were found – after heading to the beach on April 4.
After they failed to return or make contact, their families reported the three girls missing later that day.
Crime scene investigators say the women were tortured because of the injuries sustained and the fact that they appeared to be bound and gagged.
Their bodies were bound, their throats slit and their mouths covered, media in Esmeraldas province reported. Pictured: Denisse Reyna, 19 (left) and Nayeli Tapia, 22 (right)
The bodies of the women were discovered last week along the Esmeraldas River near Quininde, Ecuador
The victims’ families have said they do not know the friends their relatives would meet.
Preliminary research suggests that the women were murdered on April 5 in the rural town of Malimpia, Quininde parish.
Investigators reportedly identified the rental car that allegedly drove the young women to the crime scene.
Next to the bodies, police officers found a mobile phone, which they hope to use to solve the case.
Yuliana’s aunt, Paulina Rueda, told local media: “All we want is justice, and if the public knows about it, they must report who is responsible for this horrible murder, because it is three murders in one day.”
Police officers were called to the scene, where they exhumed and uncovered the bodies of the young women from a shallow grave
The victims, aged between 19 and 22, have been named as Nayeli Tapia (right), Denisse Reyna (left) and Yuliana Macias
Nayeli Tapia (pictured) was the eldest of the group of three women who were found dead together
Local media reported that this was Yuliana’s last video – in which she sang at a restaurant table with some friends
Relatives of the killed women, as well as the police, have confirmed that the three did not belong to a musical group, as previously rumored, although Yuliana was a solo artist and was previously part of the group Las Diablitas.
Since then, heartbreaking images have surfaced on social media of Yuliana singing with friends at a table restaurant before she went missing. Local media in Ecuador report that these are the last images of her life.
Victim Nayeli, 22, grew up in Santo Domingo de los Tsachilas but lived in Quito. She worked as a model.
Meanwhile, the youngest of the women, Denisse, 19, studied Agricultural Engineering at Quevedo State Technical University.
Preliminary research suggests that the women were murdered on April 5 in the rural town of Malimpia, Quininde parish. Pictured: 19-year-old Denisse Reyna
The victims’ families have said they do not know the friends their relatives would meet. In the photo: Denisse Reyna
Images shared online showed the burial of one of the victims, Yuliana, who was in a closed coffin surrounded by floral tributes
The grieving Paulina told local media that she and other family members have been threatened for demanding justice.
She said, “I will hold out to the last consequences, despite the fact that my life has been in danger since yesterday.”
She has pleaded with the public not to link the young women’s deaths to drug trafficking.
The victims were buried over the Easter weekend. Footage shared online showed the burial of one of the victims, Yuliana, who was in a closed coffin surrounded by flowers. She is believed to be buried in the Santo Domingo Drivers Union.