A member of the indigenous guard of the Nasa community from the department of Cauca stood with his wooden staff next to the white coffin of Yuliana Andrea Samboni, the seven-year-old girl who was brutally raped and tortured before being found dead Sunday in the apartment of an affluent and respected Bogotá architect.
As relatives huddled over the small coffin, the wake was accompanied by members of the Colombia’s National Police, anti-kidnapping unit Gaula, and representatives of the mayoralty’s department for social inclusion. After prayers and a musical tribute, Yuliana’s coffin was accompanied from the funeral home to a nearby church, where locals waving white handkerchiefs stood on street corners with tears in their eyes.
The brutal and senseless death of Yuliana has outraged Colombia, weeks after the country signed a historic peace accord and that ended more than a half-century of violence. Bogotanos have held candlelit marches and vigils all week for this little girl whose brutal murder has demanded cries for justice.
Yuliana was discovered beaten and tortured in an affluent part of Chapinero Alto on Sunday evening. Medical examiners ruled asphyxiation by strangulation to be the main cause of death, an end to Yuliana’s terrible ordeal that is believed to have lasted several hours.
Yuliana was reportedly snatched Sunday from the poor neighborhood of Bosque Calderon Tejada by a man seen driving a gray SUV, according to images captured by a CCTV camera and official eyewitnesses. Bosque Calderon is a shanty home to many displaced people located only a few blocks away from the restaurants and New York-style lofts of Chapinero Alto and Bogotá’s famous gastro zone.
The little girl was playing with her brothers near the front of their humble dwelling when 38-year old architect Rafael Uribe Noguera allegedly pulled up in his expensive vehicle to kidnap Yuliana. Yuliana is the only daughter of a poor subsistence farmer who was displaced from the southern department of Cauca to search for a better future in the Colombian capital for his young wife and two sons.
On Monday, as the nation first came to grips with the horror of the crime, the first official vigil began in the Parque Lourdes. Candles have since been been lit by the thousands throughout the capital while the #NiUnaMenos and #TodosSomosYuliana movements have taken over social media in Colombia.
Many concerned Bogotanos have assembled outside the apartment where her body was found, a building for the well-to-do on Carrera 4A near Calle 66, to honor Yuliana’s memory and put pressure on law enforcement to solve this crime immediately.
“I demand, as all Colombians demand, the most prompt and severe justice that falls on the person responsible for this murder,” said Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Monday while speaking at an event to celebrate the educational progress made by Colombia’s young students.
In addition to the horror of the alleged acts, the crime has become such as symbol of injustice due to the fact that the pedophile killer is a person of influence in Bogotá’s social circles and preyed on Colombia’s most vulnerable.
After initially checking into a medical clinic in the capital — where a mob of outraged citizens gathered to protest — Rafael Uribe was transferred Tuesday to the city’s Modelo prison and charged with homicide, kidnapping, and torture. On Wednesday night, as a protective measure, authorities transferred the alleged murderer to an isolation cell in the maximum security La Picota.
Néstor Humberto Martínez, Colombia’s attorney general, revealed yesterday that the crime scene has provided authorities with a wealth of evidence. “We have all the videos, from the moment the minor was kidnapped,” Humberto told the media. “We had access to places like the private room. We have parts of the clothes of the minor, that were in different places. We have carried out inspections all day.”
Based on the progress of the investigation so far, he believes the perpetrator will face justice. “In face of this horrendous crime we can tell the country, the community, and her family that there will be justice immediately,” said Humberto Martinéz.
Mayor Enrique Peñalosa, who condemned the crime and asked Bogotanos to march Monday, has called for a “rejection of this act and all kinds of violence that undermine the integrity of Colombian children.”
Yuliana’s body will be buried in the isolated rural hamlet of El Bolivar, Cauca, several hours from the departmental capital of Popayán.
– Additional reporting by Jared Wade