09 Jun 2011

The Author

Author of the award-winning book Finding Fernanda. Senior Fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism. Redux Pictures photographer. Read more here.


Breaking: Sentencing in the Keneth Alexis López Agustín case

Keneth Alexis López Agustín, age four year, nine months

Keneth Alexis López Agustín was kidnapped on December 16, 2009 from the neighborhood Colonia Linda Vista in Jalapa, Guatemala. He was four years old.

His mother and father, Maribel Agustín and José Guillermo López Rojas, went to the capital to seek out help from the national police and the Ministerio Público. They also sought out the help of Norma Cruz at Fundación Sobrevivientes. Before Christmas, Keneth’s father told the press that he would return to Jalapa to pass the holiday with his daughter and wife, praying for his son’s return. The family suspected a neighbor had taken the boy– one of the children Keneth Alexis had played with on the day of his disappearance hinted that he’d seen it happen.

Keneth Alexis López Agustín

That neighbor, according to the Guatemalan newspaper El Periódico, had a history of involvement with a child trafficking ring. Neighbors began threatening to lynch the neighbor, Santos Matilde López.

The child’s remains were found inside López’ house in Jalapa two days before Christmas 2009. Police raided it. The scene they found was gruesome: the four-year-old had been beheaded, and showed signs of having been severely beaten. His skull was also fractured. A forensic report later showed that the boy had been killed by blunt force with a crow bar. Santos Matilde López was taken into custody. An arrest warrant was also issued for Karla Izmenia Morán Aguilar,who was suspected of possibly commissioning the murder. Investigators told the press that Aguilar had a complaint history of stealing children for adoption, and that she operated within a trafficking ring based in Villa Nueva, Guatemala.

Karla Izmenia Morán Aguilar is taken into custody

After Keneth’s death and the murder of another missing child who turned up dead, Alba Michelle España Díaz, Fundación Sobrevivientes began advocating for the implementation of an alert system in Guatemala based on the American model of the modern “Amber Alert” system. The proposed system, called the “Ley Alba-Keneth” (Alba-Keneth Law), would provoke a faster, multi-disciplinary team reaction by  authorities when a child was reported missing. Previous to the law, families had to wait 72 hours before filing a report about a missing child. The new law meant that a report could be made immediately. The Alba-Keneth law was signed into law by the Guatemalan Congress on September 13, 2010.

A banner announces the new Ley Alba-Keneth

Banners advocating for the Alba-Keneth law ("In 74 hours, you were totally lost")

This week, the trial for the two women accused of the murder and kidnapping took place in Guatemala City. Oral arguments began on June 6, and Fundación Sobrevivientes brought a video camera into the courtroom.

Arguments wrapped up today,  June 9. The Primero Tribunal de Alto Riesgo found both women accused of the crimes guilty, and sentenced each to 50 years plus fines of $500,000 Quetzales.

Here’s Maribel Agustín, mother of Keneth Alexis, addressing the press after the verdict was announced:

And finally, here’s a tribute slideshow of the little guy’s short life, from infancy to walking to playing with his friends and family.

A banner outside the court shows Keneth's picture

See also:

“Un Navidad Sin Keneth Alexis,” by Luis Ángel Sas, El Periódico, December 20, 2009

“Continúa búsqueda de Keneth Alexis,” by Luis Ángel Sas, El Periódico, December 22, 2009

Localizan muerto a Keneth Alexis, el niño de cuatro años,” by Juan Manuel Castillo, El Periódico, December 24, 2009

Detienen a mujer acusado de participar en crimen de Keneth,” by Luis Ángel Sas, El Periódico, December 27, 2009

Aprueban ley para la localización de niños y niñas desaparecidos,” Noticias de Guatemala, August 12, 2010

Condenan a dos mujeres por secuestro y crimen de menor,” by Gladys Galeano, El Periódico, June 9, 2011

1 Comment
  1. Who was paying for the children? What adoption attorney was to handle this case? Who were the US agencies connected to this ring? We all have our educated guesses, but I’d like to see the day when all responsible are held accountable (publicly) for these adoption related crimes, not just the “bottom of the chain” people as these women no doubt are.

    I have no doubt that US dollars are what fueled this activity, and most likely a US adoption agency was (knowingly or unknowingly) funding those that paid these women.

    Thank you, Erin, for making this horrific story available to US readers, as hard as it may be to read, because so many of these adoption related stories are not reported in the United States, despite the US being the largest “home” for adopted Guatemalan children.

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