The Murder of Emely Peguero

This week, we are going to talk about a current news story that has been getting a lot of press in the Caribbean, especially in the Dominican Republic, where the murder took place. That’s right. A murder of a sixteen year old pregnant girl. The story has sparked a lot of controversy especially in the last week because of the rise of femicide and the Dominican Republic’s strict laws against abortion and the religious stance of the community. It has led to riots and acts of violence in the streets. This is happening right now as we are recording this episode.

According to Listin Diario, there have been fifty femicides since January of 2018. Many of them were killed by former lovers. Machismo in this day and age is still rampant in the latino community, and this story has pushed it to the forefront.

This happened just last year in 2017 in Cenovi, on the outskirts of the city of San Francisco de Macoris, north of the capital, Santo Domingo. It’s a small city with a population of under 18,000 people that had been rarely heard of until just last year.

At 8:30 in the morning on August 23rd, 2017, Emely Peguero got into a car with her boyfriend, Marlon Martinez, and was never seen again. According to Marlon, he had dropped her off at a gas station and saw her get in a motoconcho, which is a motorcycle taxi service. She was heading to a prenatal appointment to obtain some results because she was five months pregnant with Marlon’s child. She was only 16 years old while Marlon was 19.

Emely’s family went to the police in the evening when they realized that she was not responding to text messages and phone calls which she always did. By the next morning or some say 48 hours later, Marlon along with his mother, Marlin Martinez, called a press conference in their home to answer any questions. They never went to the police.

Marlin sat quietly staring at the floor while his mother went on to say how concerned they were about her disappearance. She went on to say, “she was the girlfriend of my son,” then corrected herself and said, “is the girlfriend of my son.” Then she turned to the camera and passionately pleaded for Emely to come home. Marlin sat there the whole time with a scared expression on his face. He knew he fucked up.

Soon after, Marlin went to his girlfriend’s family home and confessed. The family took him to the police station where he was arrested. Now it’s unclear whether he confessed to knowing where she was or that he himself had a part in the murder. Or if she was murdered at all! Emely’s family were desperate for answers.

So what happened to Emely on August 23rd? Before we get to that, let’s start with who Emely Peguero was. She was Cenovi native who lived with her parents and three older siblings. She was an intelligent, sweet young girl who wanted to grow up to be a lawyer and represent victims of domestic abuse. She was ambitious despite coming from a humble family who were very poor and of a lower class than her boyfriend Marlon’s family. She and Marlon met as young children and had many mutual friends since they lived in the same area, some of whom even reported that they lived across the street from one another.

They started dating and now this is where it gets weird. Some news sources said that they had been dating for four years prior to the murder, but that would’ve made them 12 and 15, respectively. That makes it very strange, but I suppose it’s possible. I don’t know, it’s weird. What we do know is that she got pregnant at 15.

Their families welcomed each other into their lives, except for Marlin, Marlon’s mother. She was a prominent figure in local politics and very wealthy. She looked down upon the Peguero family and her son for dating a very young poor girl. She never warmed up to Emely or her family, hoping that Marlon would one day forget her and move on when he started college.

Something else that no one really mentions, Emely was only 15! The age of consent in the Dominican Republic is 18, but sometimes in small towns, these things happen. And, as can happen with young kids without the benefit of sex education, Emely got pregnant.

This was terrible news for Emely who wanted to go to law school and have the life she always wanted. Not only was she a minor, but abortion in all circumstances is illegal in the Dominican Republic, a predominantly conservative and religious country. It is one of six countries in the world who prohibit abortion even to save the life of the mother. It became a constitutional amendment by an overwhelming majority vote of 128 to 34 by congress. And not just that, but as of October of 2012, women who seek medical help after an abortion can be prosecuted and imprisoned. Someone helping another person get an abortion also gets imprisoned – for four to ten years! I don’t just mean doctors and nurses who perform the abortion, friends and family. If you took a woman to get an abortion, you will land in jail.

So what was Emely going to do? She was raised Catholic and was very religious. Even though this was bad news, she wanted to keep the baby. She confronted Marlon, who told her to hide the pregnancy for a while until they come up with a plan. And that’s what she did for five months. Marlon told his mother and naturally, she was very angry at her son for his carelessness. She told him to take care of it because there was no way he was going to lose his future over this.

Remember, Marlon comes from a wealthy family. His mother, Marlin, was working in the Dominican Revolutionary Party. His dad, who he didn’t live with, paid for his private school, expensive gifts and vacations. On top of that, he had a promising life ahead of him. And even though abortion is very illegal, he had to find ways to get her to abort her baby, including convincing her to do it willingly.

Okay. Let’s get to the day. August 23rd, 2017. This is from Marlon’s confession. He did not take her to a gas station as he had previously said. Instead, he drove her to his mother’s other apartment in the city. It was there where he gave her something to drink that would induce an abortion. What it was or where he got it from is a mystery to this day. He then said she started to feel sick and passed out. He held her and accidentally dropped her which is what caused her to hit her head. He panicked and fearing the consequences he put her body in a sack, carried it downstairs and threw it over a bridge nearby. He then called his mother and told her what he had done.

Now, that story is so not true. What probably happened was that he either forced her to drink the liquid or had someone perform an abortion there. She may have resisted and he may have hit her. Her autopsy said that she suffered a blunt force trauma to the head as well as a punctured uterus.

But he did throw her off a bridge. Maybe that’s why she sustained the blunt force trauma to her head.

Anyway, he told his mother. She was furious. But mainly furious that he did not hide the body well enough. WTF. On August 24th, the next day, she called up her brother Henry and her friend Simon Bolivar Ureña, also known as El Boli. They came by and took her body, put it in a suitcase and dumped her on the curb of a street, Cayetano Germosen, in the provincia Espalliat, about an hour away from Cenovi.

Marlin also approached the security guard of her building and asked him if she could see footage from a camera that points at the front door. According to the security guard, she saw the footage of her son walking out with a large sack. She immediately started screaming furiously. A few days later, the tape mysteriously disappeared and no one has seen it since. And that’s when they pleaded on national TV for her return.

On August 28th, five days after her disappearance, the police traced the geolocation of Emely’s cell phone to Marlin’s other apartment in San Francisco de Macoris. They searched the apartment and found blood on a mattress and towels.

With all of the evidence and motivation pointing to Marlin, she turned herself in to police on August 30th, stating that she was really just coming in for questioning. When Marlon heard of his mother being detained, he gave his not so true confession to knowing about Emely’s death. The very next day on August 31st they found her body. News quickly spread and her family rushed to the site and saw it for themselves. There’s a video of it somewhere online, but it’s night time and blurry and probably not a good idea to go looking that stuff up. It’s your choice though.

This is when this became international news. On Twitter, #WeAreAllEmely was trending. Even Cardi B shared a post of a picture of Emely saying, “What would you do to keep a clean image and reputation? Make a five months pregnant sixteen year old girl get an abortion, then kill her, put her in a luggage and throw her in the garbage so they don’t find out your 19 year old son got a minor pregnant? RIP EMELY. Rest In Peace, there will be justice. You brought the country together.”

At this point both mother and son were in jail along with Simon Bolivar Ureña, who was released about seven months later after cooperating with police. Henry Martinez, Marlin’s brother who had also helped move the body, escaped to New York but was eventually arrested in March of 2018, when he landed in the Dominican Republic airport. He was released not too long after under the condition that he testify in court.

The trial was long and exhausting for the Peguero family. Her father, Genaro, was even arrested to trying to bring in a gun to the courtroom. There have been massive protests and rioting outside the courtroom. It got so bad that Marlin had to wear a bulletproof vest and helmet since many of the protestors were throwing rocks at her.

Marlon had always maintained that it was an accident and that his mother is innocent. Marlin has said, “I acted like a mother”. She claims that her love for her son is the reason why she acted the way she did. She also told the press, just a few days ago from today, that she was propositioned by the Peguero family’s attorney, Jose Hoepelman, to pay five and a half million pesos ($109,000 USD) for her freedom. She said that if she gave the money by 10 that morning, the day of the sentencing, she would go free.

The sentencing happened on November 8th, 2018. Marlon was sentenced to thirty years in prison and the mother Marlin to five years in prison. They each slapped with a ten million peso fine ($200,000 USD) to compensate the Peguero family as well as cover legal costs. According to the Dominican Penal Code, Marlin’s actions were not complicit in the murder because Emely was already dead. Since she supposedly was not there at the time of the murder she can not be considered guilty of murder, according to the Constitution. She is however guilty of hiding a dead body and child abduction.

And the story continues. The protests and riots are happening right now. People have been arrested for protesting and starting fires. Emely’s father, Genaro, physically attacked one of Marlin’s lawyers as well. The family’s own lawyer, Hoepelman, like Tom Hagen, yelled right after sentencing, “The Dominican Republic will continue to be garbage!” There is a lot more awareness over the rights of women in the Dominican Republic, and what happens next is up to the people.