The relatives of a model, singer and student who were tortured to death and dumped in a shallow grave in Ecuador furiously denied theories that the trio were linked to drug cartels.
The bodies of Nayeli Tapia, 22, Yuliana Macias, 21, and Denisse Reyna, 19, were uncovered by local fishermen who noticed a dog sniffing the ground alongside a river bank near Quininde last week.
Police officers were called to the scene where they dug up and uncovered the bodies of the young women from the shallow grave. Their bodies were each tied up, their throats slit, and their mouths covered, local news in Esmeraldas Province reported.
Yuliana’s aunt has told the Noticias Noroccidente media outlet that the murders should not be linked to drug trafficking, adding: ‘I ask the public not to accuse people who have nothing to do with it.’
Yuliana was a singer who performed under the name Siria.
The slain women were identified as (L-R) Yuliana Macias, Denisse Reyna and Nayeli Tapia
The horrifying discovery was made by some fishermen who noticed a dog sniffing the ground alongside a river bank, where they also smelt a foul stench
Police are now desperately trying to track down those responsible for carrying out the heinous killings.
Diego Velastegui of the Quininde Police told local media: ‘They were young, had beach clothes, bathing suits, light clothing, shorts.’
The young women had left their homes in Santo Domingo de los Tsachilas – over 50 miles from where they were found – after heading to the beach on April 4.
After not returning or getting in contact, their families reported the three girls missing later that day.
Crime scene investigators say the women were tortured due to the injuries sustained and the fact it appeared they had been tied up and gagged.
Their bodies were each tied up, their throats slit, and their mouths covered, media in Esmeraldas Province reported. Pictured: Denisse Reyna, 19 (left), and Nayeli Tapia, 22 (right)
The women’s bodies were were uncovered alongside the Esmeraldas River near Quininde, Ecuador, last week
The victims’ families have said that they do not know the friends their relatives were supposed to meet.
Preliminary investigations suggest that the women were killed in the rural locality of Malimpia, in Quininde Parish, on April 5.
Investigators have reportedly identified the rental car that allegedly took the young women to the crime scene.
In addition to the bodies, police officers found a mobile phone, which they hope will help them solve the case.
Yuliana’s aunt, Paulina Rueda, told local media: ‘All we want is justice, and if the public knows, they should report who is responsible for this horrible murder, because it’s three murders in one day.’
Police officers were called to the scene, where they dug up and uncovered the bodies of the young women from a shallow grave
The victims, aged between 19 and 22, have been named as Nayeli Tapia (right), Denisse Reyna (left), and Yuliana Macias
Nayeli Tapia (pictured) was the oldest of the group of three women found dead together
Local media reported that this was the final video of Yuliana – in which she was singing at a restaurant table with some friends
Relatives of the slain women, as well as police, have confirmed that the three did not belong to a musical group as previously rumoured, although Yuliana was a solo artist, having been part of the group Las Diablitas before.
Heart-breaking footage has since surfaced on social media of Yuliana singing at a table restaurant with friends before she went missing. Local media in Ecuador report it to be the last footage there is of her alive.
Victim Nayeli, 22, grew up in Santo Domingo de los Tsachilas but lived in Quito. She worked as a model.
Meanwhile, the youngest of the women, Denisse, 19, was studying Agricultural Engineering at the State Technical University of Quevedo.
Preliminary investigations suggest that the women were killed in the rural locality of Malimpia, in Quininde Parish, on April 5. Pictured: 19-year-old Denisse Reyna
The victims’ families have said that they do not know the friends their relatives were supposed to meet. Pictured: Denisse Reyna
Footage shared online showed the funeral of one of the victims, Yuliana, who was in a closed casket, surrounded by floral tributes
Grieving Paulina told local media that she and other relatives have been receiving threats for demanding justice.
She said: ‘I will stand until the last consequences, despite the fact that my life has been in danger since yesterday.’
She has pleaded with the public to not link the young women’s deaths to drug trafficking.
The victims were laid to rest on the Easter weekend. Footage shared online showed the funeral of one of the victims, Yuliana, who was in a closed casket, surrounded by floral tributes. She is believed to have been buried at the Santo Domingo Drivers Union.