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Rescue workers at the school after the 2017 earthquake. Rescue workers at the school after the 2017 earthquake.

Owner of Mexico City school that collapsed in earthquake gets 31 years

Miss Mónica maintained she was innocent in a statement to the court

The owner of a Mexico City private school in which 26 people died during the 7.1-magnitude earthquake in September 2017 was sentenced to 31 years in prison on Wednesday.

Mónica García Villegas, former owner and director of the Enrique Rébsamen school in the capital’s south, was found guilty of manslaughter last month.

A Mexico City court ruled that García had acted negligently by building an apartment for her personal use on the roof of a wing of a school building. The building collapsed in the September 19 quake, killing 19 children and seven adults.

A judge determined that García knew the risks of constructing an extra level on the building and found that the construction of the apartment violated building codes. The extra weight it placed on the building was identified as a factor in its collapse.

García extended her condolences to the families of the victims but maintained that she was innocent in her final statement to the court.

Former private school owner Mónica García.
Former private school owner Mónica García.

In addition to being sentenced to 31 years imprisonment, García was ordered to pay 402,000 pesos (US $18,900) in compensation for each of the victims and was fined 123,000 pesos (US $5,800) for criminal negligence related to the construction of her apartment.

During the entire judicial process, parents of the the children who were killed at their school demanded that the judge deliver a sentence that sent a clear message that no one has the right to play with the lives of others.

Although the Mexico City Attorney General’s Office asked for a sentence of 57 years, Attorney General Ernestina Godoy said in a Twitter post that authorities had “achieved justice for the victims.”

Fernando Castillo Vega, a lawyer for the victims’ families, also said he was happy with the sentence, although he left open the possibility of challenging it.

“The lawyers and the victims we represent are satisfied,” he said.

The sentencing of García, who was called Miss Mónica by her students, brings some closure to a three-year-long nightmare for the victims’ families.

The former school owner went into hiding after a warrant was issued for her arrest in late 2017 but she was arrested in a Mexico City restaurant in May 2019 after her brother alerted authorities to her location and collected on a 5-million-peso reward.

Source: Milenio (sp), Animal Político (sp) 

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