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Honduras: Death of Riccy Mabel, July 1993

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 1 August 1998
Citation / Document Symbol HND29912.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Honduras: Death of Riccy Mabel, July 1993, 1 August 1998, HND29912.E, available at: [accessed 22 January 2019]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


The rape and murder of Riccy Mabel Martinez Sevilla in July 1991 has captured headlines and national attention for years in Honduras; it caused widespread outrage, manifested in demonstrations and other public actions, and has been described as a test case of the degree of impunity of the military.

Riccy Mabel Martinez, a teenage student at a teachers college, disappeared on 13 July 1991 after visiting the Communications Battalion on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa, to request the release of her boyfriend, Ruben Hurtado Padilla, who had been recruited to serve there (La Prensa 16 Feb. 1998; ibid. 14 Feb. 1997). Her body was found on 15 July 1991 by a brook, showing signs of rape (ibid.).

One of the main suspects in her rape and murder was the head of the battalion, Colonel Angel Castillo Maradiaga, whose voice was identified by the director of her college as the one that anonymously called to give the location of her body (ibid.). Forensic exams of the victim's clothes carried out by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) showed sexual activity of at least four men; pubic hair and semen found in her clothes were found to match the colonel's (ibid.).

A sergeant, Santos Eusebio Ilovares Funez, presented himself to the courts three days later claiming to have been responsible for the crime and was jailed (ibid. 4 Oct. 1996), although he later stated that he had been forced to do so by officers in higher positions (ibid. 16 Feb. 1998). In August 1991 Colonel Angel Castillo Maradiaga and the former personnel chief of the battalion, Ovidio Andino Cuello, were detained, but the latter was released in January 1992 (ibid. 4 Oct. 1996).

Both the colonel and the sergeant were held at the Central Penitentiary in 1991 and sentenced in 1993 to prison terms of 16 and a half years and 10 and a half years, respectively, by criminal court justice Maria Antonieta de Castro (ibid.). The sentence was rejected by an appeals court claiming procedural errors in the trial, but was later ratified by the same judge in 1995 (ibid. 4 Oct. 1996). The appeals court accepted the sentence after reviewing the corrections to the procedural errors, and passed the case on to the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ), which ratified the sentence (ibid.). However, Castillo Maradiaga presented a "cassation recourse" (recurso de casación); after reviewing this legal recourse, the CSJ rejected the sentence and returned the case to the appeals court for review (ibid.). On 2 October 1996 the appeals court annulled the sentence and returned the case to criminal court (ibid.). At this point, sergeant Ilovares Funez claimed innocence and declared that he had claimed responsibility for the crime under pressure of a colonel Herber Munguia Morales, head of the C-2 detachment, who allegedly told Ilovares Funez that he would receive a house, salary and release after two years; however, Ilovares Funez claimed from his cell to have been only received eight months' salary (ibid.; ibid. 14 Feb. 1997).

In February 1997 criminal justice Jose Octavio Calix stated that sergeant Ilovares Funez had killed Riccy Mabel Martinez Sevilla on the night of 13 July 1991 after attempting to rape her, and sentenced him to 15 years in prison, while at the same time absolving colonel Angel Castillo Maradiaga of any wrongdoing (ibid.). Justice Calix claimed that the teenager was not raped, despite forensic evidence to the contrary, and sentenced the sergeant for homicidio simple [translated by various English-language reports as "second-degree murder"] (ibid.).

The appeals court later partly ratified this sentence, by clearing the colonel of any responsibility and sentencing Ilovares Funez to 10 and a half years for rape, changing the previous 15-year term for murder (ibid. 16 Feb. 1998). Weeks before this judicial decision a  key witness, ice-cream vendor Esteban Garcia, who claimed having seen the teenager boarding a car identical to the  colonel's, was beaten to death by a gang in an apparent robbery (ibid.). The teenager's family, which publicly rejected the absolution of the colonel, never accused the sergeant of taking part in the crime; however, the sergeant stated that he was giving up claiming his innocence, since having been imprisoned for more than seven years would enable him to seek his release (ibid.; ibid. 14 Feb. 1998).

The Committee for the Defense of Human Rights and the youth theatre group El Manchen presented a play in November 1996 in San Pedro Sula based on the case of Riccy Mabel Martinez (ibid. 15 Nov. 1996).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


La Prensa [San Pedro Sula]. 16 February 1998. "Quien Mato a la estudiante Riccy Mabel Martinez?" [Internet] [Accessed 17 Aug. 1998]

_____. 14 February 1998. "Absuelven a colonel acusado de muerte de normalista Riccy Mabel Martinez." [Internet] [Accessed 17 Aug. 1998]

_____. 15 February 1997. "Decision judicial." [Internet] [Accessed 17 Aug. 1998]

_____. 14 February 1997. "Absuelven a colonel y sentencia a sargento en muerte de normalista." [Internet] [Accessed 17 Aug. 1998]

_____. 15 November 1996. "Obra 'Creo que nadie es capaz de mentir' presentaran mañana en San Pedro Sula." [Internet] [Accessed 17 Aug. 1998]

_____. 4 October 1996. "Anulan sentencias contra militares acusados por la muerte de normalista Ricci Mabel Martinez." [Internet] [Accessed 17 Aug. 1998]

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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