Almost seven years have passed since 48-year-old Bernardino ‘Tuti’ Tolosa was found murdered in a small village in Chubut Province with only 45 inhabitants. It is still not known who killed him – and perhaps it will never be known.
The case was shelved in 2018, although the Trelew Police Detective Squad was asked at the time to continue collecting data to "clarify the case." The multiple genetic profiles found at the crime scene have yet to be identified.
Those who lived there say that the locals "do not want to talk about what happened to Tuti." Everyone has their conjectures and suspicions, but investigators have found no concrete evidence against anyone.
What is certain is that Tolosa was murdered in his adobe house in the small village of El Mirasol, an isolated spot of Chubut Province in the middle of aridity and desolation. The crime took place on the night of December 10, 2015, and the victim was only discovered the following morning when the headmistress of the only school in the area found she was unable to turn on the lights.
Tuti was the "engine man" of El Mirasol. He was in charge of turning on the motors of the electricity generator each day to provide light for the whole village.
And so, at the request of the headmistress, Tuti's nephew went to his uncle's house, one of the 20 or so in the village. He found a gruesome scene – the victim’s body was propped up against a bed in a pool of blood. He had been gagged and bound, hands and feet, with belts, ropes, wires and ties, according to the police who arrived on the scene. They concluded that he had been beaten to death.
The perpetrator, or perpetrators, tried to delay the local villagers from alerting the police by cutting the cable of the only telephone line in the village. They also left the victim's van blocking the entrance to the village.
The villagers had to rely on a radio from the local health post to contact the police and tell them what had happened.
The investigators collected the following items from the scene of the crime, in order to examine and try to unmask the killer or killers: a plastic containter, a box of cigarettes, two pieces of wire, a belt, plastic ties, two cords, hair and adhesive tape. All were used by the murderers to immobilise the victim, police believe.
In the immediate aftermath, the only thing people talked about in El Mirasol was Tuti. The locals at that time mentioned that "two men in a red vehicle with a black bonnet" had driven through the village on December 10 and 11 of that year. They were carrying a white jerry can and stopped to ask for water. None of the residents could provide any further information. Police eventually located the identified car, but found no evidence to link it to the crime.
Later, a resident of the village told investigators that days before the murder, they had heard a message for Tuti on the radio, allegedly sent to him from the electricity cooperative he worked for. They told him to "stay in the village” and “that public service personnel would be on their way in a matter of hours," the witness claimed. This was later denied by the cooperative's treasurer, who denied that "they were communicating in that way." The message was also not recorded.
In early February 2016, testimony was taken from a dozen locals. According to the case file, what they provided "was based on hearsay" and "was not supported by concrete evidence." Tuti had 12 siblings who lived in different localities and with whom he did not have a close relationship. They did not provide much relevant information to the investigation either, according to the prosecution.
From the adhesive tapes collected from Tolosa's body, it was not possible to extract sufficient DNA samples for analysis. But it was possible to do so from the rest of the items seized from his house. There, experts were able to obtain the genetic profile of around eight individuals, including that of the victim himself. The rest could not be identified – i.e. it is still unknown to whom they belong.
Two different but unidentified genetic profiles were found in the white plastic container. From one plastic tie, a mixed genetic profile was found corresponding to the victim and another unidentified person, separate to the one found in the container. On another tie, DNA from the victim was found mixed with two other profiles, different from the previous ones.
Stuck at a dead end, the local prosecutor's office decided "as a result of the analysis of all the evidence collected" to "temporarily" close the case in 2018, because identification of “the perpetrator or perpetrators of the crime has not been achieved."
Nor has the motive for the murder.
El Mirasol today
Unsurprisingly, the rhythm of El Mirasol was altered by the crime and changes began to happen. Tuti's daily task, providing light and electricity, is now carried out by another resident. In addition, a permanent police officer moved into the village after the crime. The headmistress of School #118 left the village soon after.
The villagers do not want to talk about what happened that day, a local who lived there told Perfil. They heard rumours that a relative of Tuti's was behind the crime, but the justice system has not been able to collect concrete evidence against anyone – neither family members nor people outside his circle.
"Unfortunately, since Tuti's mother died in 2017, no-one is asking for the case to be clarified," said this person, who preferred not to be identified.
The mystery of who killed Tuti remains to this day. And, perhaps it will, forever.
Fewer and fewer residents
Living in El Mirasol is not easy. Communication is limited, there is no mobile phone signal and only a semi-public telephone exists at the village school. Most of the residents are elderly. Children can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
El Mirasol is located in the central plateau of Chubut Province, in the department of Mártires, 72 kilometres from Las Plumas and 240 kilometres from Trelew. There are about 20 houses, a church and a school, and little else.
The village now finds itself with fewer and fewer inhabitants. In general, teenagers migrate in search of job opportunities and only the elderly and children remain as part of a permanent population.
In 2000, there were around 100 inhabitants, according to newspaper reports. The 2001 census reported 85. A decade later that number had dropped to 57. In 2015, at the time of Bernardino Tolosa's murder, there were just 45 inhabitants. Today, it is believed that the number has not changed, though the recent National Census will reveal how many remain.