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ARGENTINA | 17-01-2024 15:09

Horror in Colonia Aurora: Man arrested for rape, murder of 10-year-old girl

Youngster Milagros Prestes mysteriously disappeared on Thursday, January 12. Her body, which had been raped and strangled, was found the following day. A 62-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murder.

Colonia Aurora is a small town in Misiones with less than a thousand inhabitants. Many of its residents work on growing tobacco, soy and mate tea. But last week, the lives of the locals who live there were turned upside down by the shocking rape and murder of a 10-year-old girl.

Youngster Ayelén Milagros Prestes mysteriously disappeared on Thursday January 12. She had left her home to buy her mother, who was in distress, a painkiller.

Nobody thought it odd that she would go out on her own. There was nothing to fear. In the town, children often spend more time on the streets than in their homes – especially in summer, when they do not go to school. 

But that morning Milagros did not return. The hours went by, nighttime arrived, and anguish turned into despair.

The 10-year-old girl could not have gone far, police conducting the search speculated. Their initial lead was that she might have got lost in one of the cornfields. 

But soon after 6am the following morning, a police officer found her body in a cornfield, around 400 metres from her home. She had been murdered and sexually abused.

The news swept through the town, carrying terror and grief with it. Initial information added to the horror: the corpse had a cord tied around Milagros’ neck and she was not wearing underwear. 


Disappearance and search

Milagros, a fourth-grader, had three little brothers. She was the eldest. She lived with her mother, 26-year-old Dahiana Prestes, and stepfather, 30-year-old Eliseo Fagundez. 

Her absence was noted. At around 10am, her mother went to look for her – it had been an hour and a half since she left and Milagros had not returned. 

Dahiana took the same journey her daughter should have made, but she was surprised when some neighbours and shopkeepers told her they had not seen her pass by. 

After reporting her disappearance, nearly 100 officers arrived in the area and began conducting a search, under the orders of local police chief Hugo González.

From 2.30pm on Thursday until nighttime, investigators spoke to as many residents as they could and combed through fields and part of Provincial Route 222, near the place where she was last seen. Once it got dark, they suspended the operation and resumed the search early on Friday morning.

Soon after, Milagros’ lifeless body was discovered. The corpse was taken to a morgue in Posadas for an autopsy, which confirmed she was raped and strangled to death.

The news has shocked the town. Everyone knows each other in Colonia Aurora.

“She was my sister’s right hand. She took care of her little brothers, and would sometimes help out in the kitchen, she was a very good girl. I can’t wrap my head around someone being capable of doing this to her. We found out the state of her little body. God will not forgive this,” said Anabella, a local resident of the town who took part in the search for the missing youngster.

“Now it’s too late, she’s no longer with us. It’s so unfair what they did to this innocent girl. Now we want justice,” she said, speaking hours after the body was found.

 

Investigation and arrest

The investigators’ main hypothesis is that Milagros was murdered in the middle of a sexual assault. 

Local residents quickly informed the police of a potential suspect: a 62-year-old identified as Daniel Alberto N. who was seen with muddy clothes close to the area where Milagros’ body was found.

Following that lead, Oberá Trial Judge Horacio Alarcón ordered the individual’s arrest and search of his home. They seized clothes and a mobile phone, among other items. 

Further investigation added to the suspicions: the accused has a criminal record for the sexual abuse of a minor and was jailed between 2009 and 2017. 

The 62-year-old, who is said to have found religion while in prison and was originally misidentified as an evangelical pastor, arrived in Colonia Aurora from Buenos Aires three years ago, settling there with a partner that he met online, local media reported.

The small town has just a few blocks, and many of the properties are a short distance away from each other. But that hasn’t stopped it being stained by violence. 

Over the last few months, there was an unsuccessful attempt at kidnapping an eight-year-old girl which rattled many neighbours, a shootout over a bar brawl in the town centre, the murder of an alleged burglar and even the arrest of a Brazilian convict linked to one of the region’s bloodiest criminal organisations. All of this happened between March 2023 and January this year. 

On the same day that Milagros’ body was discovered, Misiones police announced the arrest of Jonas Vieira, a dangerous drug-dealer who had broken out of a maximum-security prison in Rio Grande do Sul and was passing through the town.  

To make matters work, smuggling is commonplace given its proximity to the Uruguay River separating Argentina from Brazil.

Leonardo Nieva

Leonardo Nieva

Editor de Policiales de Diario Perfil.

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