A driver for the ride-hailing service Cabify will be charged with the murder of a 19-year-old woman who was found dead in Puebla last Friday, a crime that has provoked an outpouring of anger and led to street protests across Mexico yesterday.
State Attorney General Victor Carrancá said the accused, identified as Ricardo Alexis, will face charges for the femicide, sexual assault and illegal deprivation of liberty of Mara Fernanda Castilla.
“We’re going to proceed with the full weight of the law and I’m sure that we’ll have a sentence very soon,” he said in an interview with Grupo Fórmula.
Castilla, a university student, requested a ride via the smartphone application just after 5:00am on Friday, September 8 to return to her home in the state capital from a bar in San Andrés Cholula. But she never arrived.
Family members reported her disappearance and authorities opened an investigation.
The driver made a voluntary statement that Castilla had asked to get out of his vehicle just before she reached her home. However, video evidence confirmed that the vehicle had in fact arrived outside Castilla’s address but she did not get out.
The newspaper Milenio reported that the driver saw that his passenger was asleep and drove off without leaving her at her destination.
Over the following days, further inconsistencies were detected in the accused’s version of events including cell phone signals that indicated that he and Castilla had been in the same locations following her disappearance, including his home and a Puebla motel, where investigators say he sexually assaulted and strangled her.
Cameras recorded him entering a room at the motel where traces of blood were found and a bed sheet and towel were reported missing.
On September 12, he was arrested at his home in the neighboring state of Tlaxcala and taken into custody.
Carrancá said antenna signals that detected Castilla’s cell phone led authorities to a ravine in Santa María Xonacatepec, about 15 kilometers from downtown Puebla, where they found her body.
News of the teenager’s death sparked outrage across Mexico.
Protest marches were held in several cities yesterday including Mexico City, Guadalajara, Monterrey, Morelia, Saltillo, Puebla and Oaxaca. Thousands of people — mainly women but also men and children — took to the streets to express their indignation at gender-related violence and to demand justice for the perpetrators of all crimes against women.
Eighty-three women have already been murdered in the state of Puebla alone this year; state authorities have classified 56 as femicides.
The protests rallied around the demand “ni una más” (not one more) while there were also calls to put an end to blaming victims and for women to be able to reclaim public spaces no matter the time of day or night.
Cabify, a Spanish-owned company, has also come under fire amidst allegations it does not comprehensively screen its drivers. In response, it announced four new measures to increase safety for customers.
They include taking steps to tighten the screening of drivers, allowing users to add emergency contact details to their profiles on the app and providing details to authorities of former drivers who have left the company because of an infringement of the law.
But, perhaps most significantly, it also said it would develop a panic button to be integrated into the app, linking it to local police.