Mother urges calm after son’s murder sparks frenzy in Spain
by Marianne BARRIAUX
The grieving mother of an eight-year-old Spanish boy whose body was found in his stepmother’s car called for calm Monday as the discovery caused an outpouring of hate with demands the death penalty be reinstated.
“Let justice run its course, what remains now is faith and all the good acts that took place and that brought out the best in people,” Patricia Ramirez told Spanish radio.
“It can’t end with the image of this woman or with words of hate,” she said.
The disappearance of Gabriel Cruz on February 27 in the small southeastern village of Las Hortichuelas gripped Spain, a country with one of the lowest homicide rates in the world.
Hundreds of volunteers joined the search and his parents Patricia and Angel Cruz, who are separated but get along well, gave countless tearful interviews.
Then in a shocking twist, Spain’s Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido announced Sunday that police had found Gabriel’s body in the car of his father’s partner, Ana Julia Quezada.
Quezada had been a fixture of the days-long search through the countryside for Gabriel, wearing the purpose-made white t-shirt with the boy’s smiling face, speaking to reporters in tears.
– Calls for death penalty –
Social media was hit by an outpouring of sadness combined with countless messages of hate towards the suspect, and calls for her to be given life in prison.
These calls came as Spain is locked in a debate over whether to abolish life imprisonment, a sentence re-introduced in 2015 in rare cases such as “exceptionally serious murders,” or widen it to include other offences.
On Change.org, several petitions asking for life for the suspect proved hugely popular.
One petition signed by more than 220,000 people even asked the Dominican Republic, where the suspect is from, to request her extradition to serve prison time there to avoid her enjoying “the comfort of Spanish jails”.
Social media was also full of calls for the death penalty to be reinstated.
On Sunday evening, an angry mob of protesters took to the police station where the father’s girlfriend was held in Almeria, not far from Las Hortichuelas, shouting “death penalty” and clapping their hands.
This prompted others to try to calm the waters.
“While last night a crowd shouted for the death penalty, Gabriel Cruz’s mother said this this morning,” Spain’s famous film director JA Bayona wrote on Twitter, with Patricia’s call for calm attached.
“What an extraordinary woman setting the example! No one can take another human being’s life, and especially not the state that must be an example for all. RIP little Gabriel.”
– 1996 death –
News also emerged Monday that in 1996, a girl had died in the northern city of Burgos, falling out of the window of a home where she was with Quezada.
It was unclear whether the child was her daughter or if Quezada had been looking after her.
Zoido confirmed this, saying police had investigated the tragedy at the time but the case was dismissed.
Meanwhile police said Monday they were still probing a case that has not been without its twist and turns, even before Sunday’s grisly discovery.
Just days after Gabriel disappeared after leaving his grandmother’s home to go out to play, it emerged that a man who had stalked his mother for two years had been detained.
Police later said the detention was unrelated to Gabriel’s disappearance, adding the man was held for breaking a court order not to go near Patricia.
Then earlier this month, Angel Cruz said he and his girlfriend had found a shirt that could belong to Gabriel while on a walk in the area, and the boy’s DNA was found on the piece of clothing.
Spanish media reported Monday that from that moment, police, Gabriel’s father and mother started suspecting Quezada but decided to say nothing and watch her as they believed the boy could still be alive.
On Sunday, their efforts came to their grisly conclusion. (Agence France-Presse/AFP)