Covering up a femicide in Mexico

Two suspects are in custody after trying to cover up the murder of 27-year-old Ariadna López, whose body was found alongside a highway in the state of Morelos last week

Rautel ‘N’ carrying the body of Ariadna Fernanda López through a parking lot.
Rautel ‘N’ carrying the body of Ariadna Fernanda López through a parking lot.SSP

The two suspects arrested in the femicide of 27-year-old Ariadna Fernanda López tried to cover up the murder. This is apparent from recorded phone conversations and photographs of text messages that the two exchanged, to which EL PAÍS has had access.

“I’m really scared,” Rautel texted his girlfriend, Vanessa, on November 2, two days after the death of Ariadna, whose body was found dumped alongside a highway near the town of Tepoztlán, in the central Mexican state of Morelos.

When Ariadna’s friends said that they planned on reporting her disappearance, Rautel told his partner, “it’s good that we cooperate, but let’s be careful with the details.” The analysis of telephone conversations reveals how the defendants tried to create a version of the events that would help them evade justice.

The last time Ariadna López was seen alive was the night of October 30. The young woman went to Fisher’s restaurant in the Condesa neighborhood of Mexico City to meet Rautel, Vanessa and other people. After spending about an hour there, she boarded an SUV with the group. They went to Vanessa’s home, at 175 Campeche Street, about 10 blocks from the restaurant. Security cameras show the group getting out of the SUV in the building’s parking lot and entering the apartment. Half-an-hour later, the rest of the friends leave the house… leaving the couple and Ariadna inside.

The next day, on October 31, at 10.27am, Rautel’s chauffeur is seen arriving at the site, dropping off the vehicle and leaving a few minutes later. Half-an-hour later, Rautel – the alleged killer – is seen carrying her body out of the building and into the SUV. The last security camera images show Rautel leaving the site and heading to Tepoztlán, where Ariadna’s body would later be found.

The stories shared by the victim on Instagram that night indicate that Rautel and Vanessa were the last people to see her alive. Hence, Ariadna’s social circle began to bombard the couple with questions. While publicly expressing disbelief, the defendants privately began to formulate a false version of what happened. According to the police analysis of Vanessa’s iPhone, Rautel was in constant communication with her during the days after Ariadna’s death.

Cyclists found Ariadna’s body on November 1 – she was identified by her family a day later. Her alleged killers claimed that she had left the house on the night of October 30: they had a lengthy discussion about whether to say if the victim took a taxi or an Uber. Rautel eventually gave Vanessa a synopsis of events that she could provide to Ariadna’s friends when they texted her:

“We left Fisher’s around 6.30 [pm]… Ernesto, Anita, José, Puñe [Rautel’s nickname], me and Ari [short for Ariadna] came. We were like in my house until 9, everyone left… she must have ordered her Uber around that time, nine at night. But nobody knows if she got in.”

Ariadna Fernanda López en Fishers de Roma Norte
Security footage of Ariadna Fernanda López in the restaurant Fisher’s on October 30 of 2022.

One of Ariadna’s friends who took charge of the search asked Vanessa for her building’s security camera footage. Vanessa replied that the cameras could only see parts of the sidewalk beyond the parking lot, but was in a panic when she relayed the request to Rautel. He assured her that the security recordings only lasted one day before being automatically deleted… but he was wrong. After state investigators in Morelos bungled the operation, authorities from Mexico City managed to retrieve the footage a week into November, which allowed for the arrest of the couple.

There have been allegations that the state prosecutor’s office may have attempted to pass the murder off as death caused by choking, as a result of intoxication. Mexico City’s mayor, Claudia Sheinbaum, has accused the Morelos state attorney-general’s office of “covering up a femicide.” There is a possible link between the authorities in Morelos and the suspected killers of Ariadna.

Vanessa’s shaky, contradictory responses to persistent queries made by Ariadna’s friends’ also compromised her. She said that Ariadna had been fighting with her roommate and didn’t want to return home… then mentioned that it was possible that her phone had simply run out of battery. In other messages she sent, she even tried to sow the idea that her death could have been a suicide. “She was very sad… don’t you think she was capable of doing something to herself?” She later tried to blame the gaps in her memory on inebriation.

Screenshots of messages between  Vanessa 'N' and friends of Ariadna Fernanda López.
Screenshots of messages between  Vanessa 'N' and friends of Ariadna Fernanda López.

On November 3, the couple attended Ariadna’s wake. Rautel spoke to the press and offered a version of events that the authorities later disproved. That night, Vanessa wrote to her boyfriend to tell him that they needed “a video or something” to prove that [Ariadna] left the building alive, “because words alone won’t do any good.” They then prepared a message to post on social media, which included a photo of them with Vanessa.

The last conversation is dated November 4. Rautel tells his girlfriend that he is meeting “Balckie.” After that, there is no more communication – at least, not via the two phones that police have in their possession.

Vanessa was arrested two days later, on November 6, in the municipality of Ecatepec, in the State of Mexico. Rautel turned himself over to the authorities in the state of Nuevo León on Monday, November 7, after the Mexico City Prosecutor’s Office accused them of being responsible for the death of Ariadna, who, according to a second autopsy, died of “multiple trauma.” Both are in prison, set to be charged with femicide under Mexican law.

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