(CNN Spanish) — Six bullets. One bounced and fell to the ground. The other five were lodged in his head. This is how they killed a 50-year-old woman in the Carmel private neighborhood in Pilar, province of Buenos Aires, in 2002. Now, almost 20 years later, justice tries to answer, in a third trial, the question that keeps all of Argentina in suspense: who killed María Marta García Belsunce?
On Wednesday, the trial began with Nicolás Pachelo, the victim’s ex-neighbor, as the main defendant, accused of “aggravated robbery for having been committed through the use of a firearm – suitable for shooting – in real competition with homicide criminis causae aggravated by the use of firearm”. Pachelo denies having any connection to this crime.
Why are they accusing Pachelo 20 years later?
For the Public Prosecutor’s Office (MPF), represented by prosecutors Andrés Quintana, Federico González and Patricio Ferrari, the clues that pointed to Pachelo were always in the file. “There is a lot of compelling evidence that was always in the file, but was never valued,” the Prosecutor’s Office told CNN in a telephone conversation.
Prosecutor Ferrari explained it graphically in the opening guidelines of the trial: he used six bullets that he unfolded on a table to mark the grounds on which his accusation is based.
Criminal Court No. 4 of San Isidro. Hearing for the start of the trial in case No. 5499. – YouTube
First bullet (or basis): “Nicolás Roberto Pachelo assaulted practically all the houses that surrounded the victim’s house on the perimeter. Particularly on Sundays between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. [la víctima fue asesinada un domingo en ese rango horario]. That was his criminal comfort zone,” Ferrari said. The prosecution ensures that it has material to prove and map these robberies. All this documentation will be presented throughout the trial.
Putting the second bullet on the table, Ferrari pointed out that Pachelo, months before García Belsunce’s death, “stole her pet, her dog, Tom” and “required a ransom”, but María Marta “was never able to recover ” to the dog. According to Ferrari, this was one reason why the victim “was afraid” of Pachelo.
When presenting the third bullet, Ferrari pointed out that Pachelo “was an irregular user of a firearm with identical characteristics to the one used to commit the crime.”
As a fourth reason, the prosecutor said that the accused “formalized an absolutely false alibi” and assured that Pachelo would have asked other people at a service station if they knew anything about “the woman who was killed” in the private neighborhood at a time when No one knew yet that it was a homicide. The death was initially considered a domestic accident. It took almost 40 days for an autopsy to be ordered and only then were the gunshot wounds to her skull discovered.
The fifth argument that Ferrari mentioned, when putting a new bullet on the table, is that “Pachelo has threatened and harassed all the witnesses who stood before him.” And he assured that they will prove this point throughout the trial.
Finally, Ferrari supported “the sixth bullet or reason, which is strictly speaking the first and is the one that left a material trace at the crime scene.” It is that one of the shots fired at the victim did not enter his head, but bounced off and remained on the floor. Later it would become what was called “el pituto”, an element that had wide repercussions in the first stages of the investigation.
Regarding the motive for the crime, for the prosecution there was an intention to steal an alleged money that was believed to be in the victim’s house. Once the debate over the García Belsunce crime is over, Pachelo will also be tried for eight robberies in private neighborhoods, which occurred between 2017 and 2018, according to the Prosecutor’s Office.
The defense posture
From the defense of Pachelo, in the hands of the lawyers Roberto Ribas and Marcelo Rodríguez Jordán, they assure that their client had nothing to do with the death of García Belsunce.
“María Marta died, but not at the hands of Nicolás Pachelo. Pachelo never entered that house. But I don’t say that, Pachelo doesn’t say that. The investigation has said so, “said Ribas in the opening guidelines of the trial.
He also pointed out that the alleged theft of a dog from the victim to which the prosecutor referred in his presentation “was a rumor.”
Both the defense and the prosecution will have 31 hearings, through which 176 witnesses will pass, to substantiate their positions.
The previous trials
But this is not the first trial facing the case. The first prosecutor who investigated the events accused his widower, Carlos Carrascosa, of the crime. In 2009 he was convicted as a co-author of the homicide and was detained in a prison until 2015, to go on to serve house arrest until 2016, when a new ruling by the Buenos Aires Court of Cassation annulled the conviction and acquitted him. In December 2020, the Supreme Court of Justice confirmed that acquittal, rejecting the last appeal presented by the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the province of Buenos Aires.
In 2011, a second trial had Guillermo Bártoli, the victim’s brother-in-law, on the bench; Horacio García Belsunce, brother; Juan Carlos Hurtig, half brother of María Marta; to the doctor Juan Ramón Gauvry Gordon, to Sergio Binello, a resident of the country Carmel and to Beatriz Michellini, a masseuse who treated the victim. All received convictions for allegedly covering up the crime, except the masseuse.
Bártoli died in 2014, while Gavuvry Gordon was acquitted in 2015. María Marta’s brother and half-brother, like the neighbor Binello, were dismissed in 2020 when the Justice considered the criminal action to be extinguished due to the prescription of the case.
However, García Belsunce’s family pointed to Pachelo from the beginning as a suspect in the murder. Now, both the widower and the rest of the victim’s relatives will testify as witnesses in the trial against Pachelo.
“If the first investigation had not been focused on persecuting the victim’s family, if elements that were present in the file had been valued, Pachelo would have been formally accused and prosecuted from the beginning,” they told CNN from the MPF. “In this trial we are going to prove without a doubt that Nicolás Pachelo is the murderer of María Marta García Belsunce,” the source assured.
New series: “María Marta, the country crime”
Starting this Sunday, July 17, HBO Max will be able to watch the new HBO original series “María Marta: el Crimen del Country,” which tells the story of García Belsunce’s crime.
Like CNN, HBO is part of Warner Bros. Discovery.
In November 2020, Netflix had launched the series “Carmel, who killed María Marta?”, which addressed the case from various angles in four chapters.