A man from Rosario has been sentenced to life in jail for the 2016 femicide of his partner, who was three months pregnant when she was murdered.
Walter Santos Gómez, 35, was sentenced to life imprisonment on Monday after being found guilty of the murder of 23-year-old Daiana Armanino. He found guilty of "aggravated homicide by relationship of a partner" and "gender violence," but was acquitted of an additional charge of the “illegitimate carrying of a civilian firearm.”
Judges Ramón Lanzón, Mónica Lamperti and Gustavo Pérez Urrechu, of Rosario's Oral Court, decided to hand down the maximum sentence possible under Argentina's Criminal Code for the crimes.
The court heard that Gómez shot his partner at the home they shared in the Empalme Graneros neighbourhood of northern Rosario, on the night of September 12, 2016.
Gómez accused denied the charge initially, telling police that he heard a shot in his home and had discovered Armanino's lifeless body, before handing police a .38-calibre weapon and claiming she had committed suicide.
However, prosecutors proved in court that the killing was a femicide, showing evidence that the accused had previously abused his partner before killing him.
According to court sources cited by the Télam state news agency, testimony from the victim's five-year-old daughter to her eight-year-old brother was crucial to the case.
One of the key pieces of evidence in the trial was a recorded testimony provided by the youngster, Armanino's daughter. Her version of events was captured by the case's prosecutor, Luis Schiappa Pietra, on the same night at the crime scene. The audio recording was heard in court during the trial and ratified by experts, who subsequently questioned the girl in a recorded interview.
According to local outlets in Rosario, a neighbour – who was temporarily caring for Armanino's children in the aftermath of the event – reportedly told police that one of the victim's daughters was refuting Gómez's version of events. The neighbour told investigators to listen to two of the children of the deceased, who were talking in her home nearby.
The girl was speaking to her eight-year-old brother about the incident. When the prosecutor heard them talking, she immediately ordered her assistant to record their conversation.
"She didn't shoot. Walter killed her. I saw him. He did 'chic chic' and hit her. And she died. She didn't get up anymore. And now she's in heaven with the little angels," the girl told her brother.
Two days later, police arrested Gómez, charging him with the killing.
A forensic autopsy revealed that Daiana had been shot in the armpit and chest, with an entry wound indicating the bullet had entered diagonally from a highter height. It left the right hemithorax and entered both the lungs and heart, in addition fracturing a rib. There was no exit wound.
Armanino – who had three children from a previous relationship aged two, five and eight – was pregnant with Gómez's child when she was murdered. Prosecutor Schiappa Pietra confirmed that the victim was 16 weeks pregnant and that the foetus no longer had vital signs when the body was discovered. Previous injuries, including to the nose and right thigh were discovered, the latter made within 72 hours of her death.
"This is a case marked with strong singularities. The eyewitness to the fact who proved to be fundamental to the sentence is a five-year-old girl," Schiappa Pietra told the court, requesting the judges hand down the maximum sentence possible to Gómez.
The prosecutor emphasised in court that the murder was part of a pattern of abusive behaviour.
"[Some of] the injuries that the victim had suffered were from a previous acts of aggression, such as blows dating back to four days before.The behavior of gender violence is clear," he added.
During the trial, which began in July, the victim's sister, Alejandra, delivered emotional testimony, painting Gómez as an abusive partner and alleging he used drugs. She said she wasn't allowed to make contact with Daiana independently and had to send messages through Gómez in order to communicate with her sibling. She also revealed that Armanino had been adopted as a child and the two had formed relationship after being reunited.
Daiana's three children are now in the care of her aunt, Sonia, who is the sister of the children's father.