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Feb 10, 2016 10:28 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Schneiderman Requests Information From Police About Missing Woman Investigation; No Answers For Family

Maria Duchi, Ms. Aucapina's niece, gave a press conference last year and asked the public for help in finding her aunt. ALYSSA MELILLO
Feb 10, 2016 10:50 AM

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman last week asked Town Police to provide him with a detailed report of the investigation into the death of Lilia “Esperanza” Aucapina, who was found hanging from a tree close to her Sagaponack home in November.

He did so after persistent requests from family members, who say they still have not received the most basic information about the investigation, including an official autopsy report.

Ms. Aucapina was missing for more than six weeks before she was found on November 21 by a hunter, and after a thorough police search of the area had yielded nothing. Once her body was found, her death was quickly ruled a suicide.

The family of Ms. Aucapina counters that the possibility of criminality in her death was not even considered. It was thus prematurely declared a suicide, they say, as Town Police did not contact trained homicide detectives to conduct a full investigation.

“If you looked in a place and you didn’t find a body, and, all of a sudden, 43 days passed and the body [is] found so close to the house, in their mind it is suicide,” Ms. Aucapina’s niece, Maria Duchi, said angrily on Friday. “They already called it a suicide six hours after she was found.”

Mr. Schneiderman said he will meet with both the Aucapina family and LatinoJustice, a New York-based civil rights organization that has been investigating how police handled Ms. Aucapina’s death, in March, once he receives the report from police to help explain things.

“I want the police to go through it systematically to provide that information,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “There is this perception we didn’t do enough, or because it was a Latina woman the life didn’t matter as any other. That is simply not true.

“I have no reason to believe that the police did not put a significant amount of resources toward this investigation,” he said. “I certainly understand the family’s desire to get to the bottom of the investigation, that the town took it seriously and that the town didn’t jump to quick conclusions when it could have been other things.”

Ms. Duchi said that her family had tried earlier to search the property around her home, but police would not let them because they said it could compromise the investigation. “So now the hunters are, what? Now what are you calling the hunters?” she asked. “Investigators never listened—they said, ‘No, it doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t make sense.’”

She added, “If we are her family, and we know how she used to move, and we know what things she did, why won’t you listen to us and let us be part of it?”

Southampton Town Police Lieutenant James Kiernan said the only time police would have kept the family away from the residence was on October 10, the day Ms. Aucapina was reported missing: “After those few hours, the family was free to search any place they wanted like anyone else would have been.”

Foster Maer, the senior litigation attorney for LatinoJustice, said last month that it appears that the local police do not go to the same lengths in an investigation into the death of a Latina.

“We have seen what we believe is a pattern of the failure by local police—be it Southampton, East Hampton, Suffolk County police departments—to properly investigate or fully investigate crimes that have been committed against Latinos,” Mr. Maer said, adding that the family has “specific people in mind who might have committed some sort of criminal act.”

Mr. Maer noted that there was compelling enough evidence that “someone had injured her or faulted her” and that therefore that person should have been fully investigated.

The month before Ms. Aucapina’s disappearance, the 40-year-old mother of two had filed a petition in family court for an order of protection against her husband, Carlos Aucapina, in which she documented specific instances of emotional and sexual abuse.

Mr. Aucapina had actually violated that order of protection the morning his estranged wife went missing, confronting her and a male friend in the parking lot of the Meeting House Lane Medical Practice in Wainscott. Ultimately, he left without incident when her friend called police.

“I have tried to keep Mr. Aucapina away from me, but he continues to break into my locked bedroom and sexually assault me. I am seeking an order of protection to keep him away from me and my home so I can feel safe sleeping at night,” Ms. Aucapina wrote in the petition.

She documented a specific incident on August 30: “I awoke to Mr. Aucapina trying to get into my bed.” She explained she had moved to a separate bedroom the month before and always kept her door locked. “He had broken into the room by using something to open the lock. I told him to get out and he refused, he wanted to have sex with me but I did not want to. I had to push him away from me because he was trying to hug and kiss me. Finally he left,” Ms. Aucapina recalled in the court document.

She also described an earlier incident on July 13 when she was trying to go to church: “Mr. Aucapina took my cell phone and car keys so I couldn’t go to church. I went to the home phone and said I was calling the police. He then pulled the phone cord from the wall so I could not call police.”

Ms. Duchi said everything written in that order of protection is true and unfortunately even their young daughter, Jocelyn, knows it to be true. “She was there a couple of times when those things happened,” she said, adding that the relationship had been abusive since 1998. “I was 14 years old,” she said. “I remembered this happened.”

As of this week, Ms. Aucapina’s family still has not received a copy of the autopsy or the official medical examiner’s report. The only knowledge they have to date are the preliminary results from the medical examiner, which is what determined Ms. Aucapina’s death to be a suicide.

“Nothing on hand, nothing we can see or touch. It is upsetting,” Ms. Duchi said. “They keep saying the autopsy is not ready, and I just don’t believe that.”

The family was not allowed to see Ms. Aucapina’s body when she was found or even photos from when she was found, either. Although they buried what they believed to be her body, “we don’t know for sure if it was her,” Ms. Duchi said.

“We lived here for more than 29 years, we pay taxes, our kids go to these school districts, and we are not allowed to have the same respect,” she said. “That is why we think it is more like a Hispanic thing, something against Hispanics.”

Ms. Duchi said her family is hopeful Mr. Schneiderman can help them to understand what happened to Ms. Aucapina.

She said, “We buried my aunt but we don’t really know what happened.”

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Good for Scheiderman. Investigation was completely botched. How can the autopsy report not be available?
By harbor (409), East Hampton on Feb 10, 16 11:02 AM
If the investigation was botched, then expect a botched autopsy report. Demand that this case be put in the hands of homicide detectives. PERIOD. I wonder if hubby is getting nervous?
By nickykane (4), bx on Feb 12, 16 5:38 AM
It's about time!
By Rich Morey (370), East Hampton on Feb 10, 16 11:17 AM
2 members liked this comment
I hope its not to late. Her body was exposed to the elements for a long time. Some forensics may have been lost. IS HUBBY PUSHING FOR A FULL SCALE INVESTIGATION? DOUBT IT. Someone should ask Mr. call the kettle black, why he called her brother down to the parking lot the morning of.
By nickykane (4), bx on Feb 12, 16 5:50 AM
New Supervisor, new attitude!
By bigfresh (4534), north sea on Feb 10, 16 11:30 AM
3 members liked this comment
Well done Mr. Schneiderman.

Please also request that the SHT PD also release all investigative material on the alleged driver of the vehicle which mowed down Sister Jackie Walsh in Water Mill on July 9, 2012 -- and left her to die on the side of the road -- three years and seven months ago, as of yesterday. Was he the actual driver, and why did the PD wait 11 days to ask for the public's help?

The PD might also update us on the status of the investigation and whereabouts of the ...more
By PBR (4945), Southampton on Feb 10, 16 11:42 AM
We should also add to the list the CHARGE of child abuse of a child of the Hispanic community in HB by a convicted pedophiel priest,the man was in their custody but they did not find out until after he was released that he was on probation for his conviction of child abuse in Brooklyn,where is he now? how many other children did he abuse her in HB ? what out reach has there been to the Hispanic residents of our town to locate other victems.We should not pretend everything is OK,If we need more ...more
By watchdog1 (541), Southampton on Feb 10, 16 12:45 PM
2 members liked this comment
PBR thank you for your perseverance for Sister Jackie.
By jams (128), hampton bays on Feb 10, 16 9:51 PM
3 members liked this comment
Yes. Why did police withhold the identity and photo if the alleged driver of the car that hit Sister Jackie. Go back to the 27 East articles at the time of the killing. Police delayed release of pertinent information to the public which may have helped in the case. Unless, of course, someone was waiting to release information so that man could have time to leave the country so he couldn't be questioned or apprehended. Because he might not be the man who hit Sister Jackie at all, but someone who ...more
By btdt (449), water mill on Feb 11, 16 10:36 AM
1 member liked this comment
Well done Mr Schneiderman? Why wasn't he asking for answers when this mess happened? Oh I forgot he didn't want to piss the cops off during an election. More phony bs.
By chief1 (2765), southampton on Feb 13, 16 8:54 AM
1 member liked this comment
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