A Hispanic advocacy group is calling for a criminal investigation into the death of an immigrant woman found hanged in the woods in East Hampton last year. It also is requesting an independent inquiry into how town police handled the case.
Manhattan-based LatinoJustice, in a letter sent Thursday to Town of East Hampton Supervisor Larry Cantwell, said the Sept. 29, 2014, death of Andrea Gabriela Armijos, 21, merits another look. The missive said town police "immediately acted as if her death were a suicide" without exploring the possibility of foul play.
A police expert that the group hired as a consultant identified "numerous failings" in policing, according to the letter. The alleged faults detailed in his report included not referring the case to Suffolk homicide detectives, not securing evidence at the scene and not interviewing people who may have been the last to see Armijos, who lived in East Hampton.
"The failure of the police to take the very basic investigative steps here is inexplicable," said Foster Maer, attorney for LatinoJustice, which is acting on the family's behalf.
"There is someone hanging in the woods, you call up the homicide unit, of course you do," he said. Because town police did not do that, "they made all the basic mistakes, not cordoning off the area, not making imprints of the footprints found there, not taking photos of it," Maer said.
The group asks for the case to be investigated by the homicide squad in the Suffolk County Police Department and for the town to appoint an independent investigator to look into why East Hampton police "failed to follow well-established practices."
Cantwell said the letter had been received, adding "we would have no comment on the content of that letter, pending a review by the town attorney's office and the police department."
Armijos was found hanged in the woods about a month and a half after arriving on Long Island from Ecuador, a relative and the advocacy group said. The Suffolk County medical examiner ruled the cause of death as suicide by hanging.
Capt. Christopher L. Anderson, of the East Hampton Town Police Department, did not comment on the allegations and said the department stands by its work.
"All that I can tell you is that there was a thorough investigation conducted by the East Hampton PD in conjunction with the Suffolk County medical examiner's office and that case has been closed," Anderson said. "It has been deemed a suicide."
The Suffolk County Police Department did not comment because the case is in the East Hampton Town Police Department's jurisdiction.
In the report prepared for LatinoJustice, Colorado-based consultant Dan Montgomery wrote that homicide investigators should have been called immediately to conduct an investigation, adding "there are simply too many unanswered questions" in the case.
Armijos' sister, Alexandra Ramón, said her sister's death didn't make sense. Armijos had started her new life in East Hampton, finding work as a hairdresser after yearning for a year to move there.
"Her hope was to help our mother because we are very poor" in Ecuador, Ramón, 28, said in Spanish. "It can't be that they will just say someone killed themselves here, without any proof of anything, and just tell me she died and that's all."