Salvadoran officials said Thursday they were excavating graves found in the home of a former police officer that contained up to 40 bodies, most of them believed to be women.
The exhumation of all the bodies could take a month longer, authorities said. The remains of at least 24 people have so far been found in the house in the municipality of Chalchuapa, about 78 km northwest of the capital, San Salvador.
At least 10 people face charges, according to the attorney general’s office, including a former policeman, Hugo Ernesto Osorio Chavez, whose home is on the same site as the graves.
Neither Osorio nor his lawyer could be reached immediately for comment.
Dozens of people who believed their missing loved ones might be among the bodies gathered outside the house on Thursday, as forensic workers in white suits removed skeletons from the floor.
“There is hope to recognize a family member, even among the dead bodies,” said Marleny Barrientos, 50, who carried a photo of her son, who disappeared in 2015. “That’s why I’m here. “
The discovery of the mass grave shed light on the issue of femicides in the Central American country of 6.7 million people, which recorded 70 murders of women last year. There were 111 in 2019, according to police data.
So far, authorities have prosecuted nine cases of aggravated femicide and five other cases of aggravated homicide in connection with this case.
“The central focus of the investigation is sexual violence,” prosecutor Graciela Sagastume told reporters earlier this week.
Violence against women in Latin America has worsened during the coronavirus pandemic, aid groups say.
Separately, in Mexico, a 72-year-old man was arrested this week as a suspected serial killer of women, local media reported. The remains of several people were found at her home in the state of Mexico during an investigation into the death of a 36-year-old woman.
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