The tragedy of Bogotá’s missing girls

A child goes missing in Bogotá launching a massive police operation to locate the whereabouts of the 2-year old. The tragedy of Sara Sofía is the most recent case of a missing person in the Colombian capital where, between January and February 2021, according to data released by the national medical forensics institute Medicina Legal, 312 persons are listed as disappeared, of which 160 are women and 152 men. During the same period, the total in Colombia is 741. More than one-third of all disappeared persons in Colombia are minors – and in yearly numbers – four reported missing every day.

Sara Sofía Galván

Sara Sofía’s disappearance has sparked a huge outpouring of solidarity in the locality of Kennedy where she resided with her aunt and legal guardian Xiomara Galván, as citizens hand-out flyers with the girl’s face to help police locate her whereabouts. According to a testimony by Xiomara Galván, Sara Sofia’s mother Carolina Galván took the child on January 15 and never returned. Sara Sofía was officially declared missing two weeks later. On Thursday morning, during a police raid, Carolina and her partner Nicolás Díaz were arrested on charges of forced disappearance. The search for Sara Sofía continues.

The circumstances surrounding Sara Sofía recall for Bogotanos the death of 14-year old Yuliana Samboni. Yuliana was snatched from the front of her home in a vulnerable Bogotá shanty on December 4, 2016, by a pedophile who raped and tortured her until she died from asphyxiation in his affluent penthouse. Rafael Uribe Noguera was handed one of the longest prison terms for a sex offender in recent Colombian history. He is serving 150 years with no parole in a maximum-security prison for the forced abduction and murder of the indigenous girl.

Yuliana Samboni

On January 1, 2021, another horrific case shocked Colombia when the identity of 15-year old Lynda Michelle Amaya was confirmed by her mother Nathalie, a month after a body was found inside a demolished building near Bogotá’s historic center. Lynda Michelle had left her home in Suba, a locality northwest of the capital, to search for her cellphone that was stolen at the TransMilenio station on Avenida Jiménez. The girl who suffered from autism and a cognitive disability believed she could recover her equipment if she headed downtown. “We have evidence that she left home on her bicycle and went to that station,” remarked her mother to the media. “Local merchants pointed her to Calle 13 and the black market for stolen goods.”

Lynda Michelle Amaya

With no news of Lynda Michelle’s whereabouts, Nathalie infiltrated one of the most derelict and dangerous neighborhoods in the capital, San Bernardo, disguised as a homeless woman. Cloaked in an old blanket and dressed in rags, Natalie frequented the crack dens and brothels of the city’s “new Bronx” from early morning and into the night. As the mother wandered the warren of alleys terrorized by micro drug traffickers, the Attorney General’s Office decided to step up the investigation after Nathalie reported more than 167 extortion calls to her home. “They demanded ransoms, they demanded money in exchange for the girl. They said they would send us the corpse wrapped in a black bag,” stated Nelson Amaya, Lynda Michelle’s grandfather.

Without any clues to continue her search in San Bernardo, Nathalie went to the Institute of Legal Medicine where unclaimed bodies are stored and identified by forensic doctors. Natalie gave the details of Lynda Michelle’s features as a body had been collected in San Bernardo of a woman aged between 19 and 23. The body of the victim was disfigured given multiple beatings and stab wounds. The age, however, did not match that of her daughter. After analysis of the jaw and wisdom teeth, on January 7, Lynda Michelle finally was returned to her family and laid to rest. The investigation resulted in the arrest of five members of the so-called La Tazmania gang, all charged with torture and aggravated homicide.

“When the criminals known as Chepe, Andrés, Rafael, el Veneco and Tito had finished beating this girl, that is, torturing her, they laughed and enjoyed what they did,” remarked the district judge at the sentencing.

Yuliana and Lynda Michelle are two girls who faced unspeakable horrors. Two girls whose innocent lives were cut short by pure evil. Tragically, there are many others who remain missing in the capital and whose bodies have yet to be found. One can only hope – and pray – for the safe return of Sara Sofía and all the other missing children in Colombia.