“I ask for the end of innocent women dying and children growing up without mothers,” says Paola Córdoba, the woman who stands accused, along with her daughter, Milagros, of killing her husband, Alberto Naiaretti.
Córdoba says she suffered domestic abuse and violence for years at the hands of Naiaretti. In 2019, when police inspected his dead body, the corpse had 185 stab wounds.
One year on the incident, the duo “remain hostages of a judicial system,” Andrés López, Córdoba’s lawyer, told Perfil.
“The ghost still lives,” he added.
The women have returned to living at the home where everything took place. Once a week they must meet with the prosecution investigating the murder.
“Paola and Milagros are not doing well emotionally, even though they are free,” said López.
After the murder, both women were initially detained for more than 15 days, until an appeals court decided that the investigation could continue with them out of jail.
Paola and Milagros have tried to recover themselves from the situation they had to endure, but they are finding it difficult to rebuild their lives. An accusation of aggravated homicide hangs over their heads. Such a charge could lead to life in prison for mother and daughter.
“The persecution is terrible. Above all, because the prosecution continues with this accusation, continues to look for evidence that may or may not exist because there isn’t much more evidence to find," said Lopez.
"The situation is complex because Paola’s children still do not have psychological support from the State, despite everything they have been through. These women still face charges and they're waiting to see whether or not the case will be brought to trial," he explained.
"They remain hostages of a judicial system that continues to victimise them. Ultimately, they are victims of the system."
The lawyer said it is difficult for Paola and Milagros to talk about what happened. They have psychological assistance provided by their legal team, but they are struggling, he said. The ghost of what happened continues to haunt them.
López says they won't be able to restart their lives until the justice system makes a decision: either bring the case to trial or conclude that the women were acting in self-defence.
Both mother and daughter have kept a low profile, but the two of them took to the streets on International Women’s Day to march for the first time this year.
“We march to demand justice for all of the women that are no longer with us and for the ones that are,” Córdoba said in an audio clip that López shared with Perfil.
“I especially do it for my daughter and my three children, so that this stops happening, and so that the people who are supposed to be helping us do their jobs and stop letting innocent women die and leaving children without their mothers,” says Paola.
Her anguish is clear in the clip. At one point, she cannot continue speaking, welling up. Cheered on by her lawyer, she walked through the streets of Buenos Aires to bring visibility to her case.
Today, mother and daughter live in the same house where they experienced two ordeals, Naiaretti’s abuse and his death.
Paola lived with Naiaretti for more than 20 years, and had four children with him. She had made seven complaints of mistreatment and domestic violence with the authorities in the past. According to her account, the victims in the case were her and her children.
Paola’s sisters are at the forefront of a campaign to get mother and daughter released and the charges against them dropped. They were witnesses to how Naiaretti mistreated Paola and beat her, in front of her own children.
Last Wednesday marked a year since Paola regained her freedom. Milagros was released four days prior, after the San Martin Court of Appeals considered that both the accused and her family had been “subject to systematic violence of all kinds.”
The prosecutor for the case, Silvia González Bazzan, opposed this ruling.
“In my opinion it has been proven that not only was the accused subjected to systematic violence of all kinds by her husband, but that the entire family suffered the brunt of these acts,” the judge said in his ruling.
“Don’t fall asleep”
Paola says the night of Friday, March 8, 2019, was the last time Naiaretti threatened her. “Don’t fall asleep because now I’m going to finish with you and your children,” she said in testimony.
It was not the first time she’d heard this phrase, she says. But this time the fear was not the same as it had been before. Paola feared for the lives of her children. She grabbed a knife and attacked her husband. Her daughter Milagros also became involved.
Naiaretti's corpse had 185 stab wounds, the majority of which were superficial. He died at the scene and Paola called the police and turned herself in. When the police arrived, they found Naiaretti's lifeless corpse covered with a blanket.
After they were taken into custody, the family of the accused mobilised immediately, calling for Paola and Milagros' release. Over and over, the family repeated that they were not murderers, but the victims of a man who had physically abused them for years, including sexual abuse and rape.
Mother and daughter finally regained their freedom, but Paola was away from her other three children for several months.
“Last November it was decided that the children would live with Paola again, so they are together in the same house,” said Lopez.
He continued: “This family needs someone from the State to intervene and see that here is a vulnerable woman with four children who is charged with a very serious crime."
"This only happened because she had to defend herself after the State did not do its job and take her complaints of abuse seriously.”