The long and painful saga of a Dutch family took another turn this week when the suspect in the murder of a daughter in Ciudad Juarez was sentenced by a Mexican court to a lengthy term in prison.
Roberto Flores, also known as Ramiro Adame Lopez, was slapped with 35 years in the penitentiary by a Chihuahua state court that found Flores guilty of committing the September 1998 murder of Hester van Nierop by asphixiation. The Dutch national was also raped.
Van Nierop, a 28-year-old budding architect, had completed a trip through Mexico when she stopped over in Ciudad Juarez; her body was found in a downtown hotel the next day.
Although witnesses quickly described the prime suspect, the murder investigation was shelved in the back files of the Chihuahua state attorney general’s office. During a visit to Mexico years later, Hester van Nierop’s parents were shocked to learn that next to nothing had been done with their daughter’s case.
Subsequently, public pressure by members of the van Nierop family and and their supporters put the crime squarely in the international spotlight, even elevating the importance of Hester’s murder to such an extent that it influenced the historic 2007 anti-feminicide resolution by the European Parliament. Hester van Nierop’s story was included in a 2002 book about the Juarez women’s murders by Mexican journalist and author Sergio Gonzalez Rodrgiuez.
According to the Chihuahua state prosecutor’s office, Flores was finally located during December 2013 in a federal prison in the United States, where he was serving a sentence related to drug trafficking.
Chihuahua State Prosectutor Jorge Gonzalez Nicolas told the Mexican press that cooperation with the FBI and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement resulted in Flores’ extradition to Mexico the following month.
“Once the judge heard the allegations and discussion, he delivered a final verdict handing down a penalty of 35 years in prison,” Gonzalez was quoted. “This is an exemplary sentence that makes a precedent for such a memorable event.”
The testimony of a witness was considered crucial in Flores’ conviction, as was a photo posted by the suspect on his Facebook page that showed an identifying tattoo and other unique physical characteristics.
The activism of Hester’s mother, Arsene van Nierop, led to the establishment of the Hester Foundation, an organization dedicated to supporting anti-gender violence campaigns in northern Mexico, especially the work of Ciudad Juarez’s Casa Amiga. In Europe, the Hester Foundation works to maintain public awareness about violence against women and girls in Juarez.
Last year, as part of a cross-border speaking tour, Arsene van Nierop gave a presentation at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.
According to a family statement sent to FNS, the Dutch ambassador in Mexico, Dolf Hogewoning, informed the van Nierops of Flores’ sentence the same day it was delivered on December 1.
The statement credited the van Nierop family’s lawyer in Mexico, Lucha Castro, founder of the Chihuahua City-based Women’s Human Rights Center, as well as the Dutch embassy in Mexico City, for waging a tireless struggle to obtain justice for Hester. Recongition was also given to Dr. Carlos Castresana, feminicide and Latin American legal expert, for assistance in the investigation.
“In Mexico, a sentence of 35 years is considered severe. It is probable that the fact that Hester was Dutch contributed to the degree of the sentence,” the statement read in part.
“The Hester Foundation gives thanks to the efforts of Mexican auhtorities and considers this sentence as a step toward justice. For 10 years, the Hester Foundation has struggled to obtain justice for all the women of Juarez. This struggle will continue, even after the sentence,”
For more on the Hester Foundation check out: http://www.hester.nu
For an earlier FNS story on the murder of Hester Van Nierop and the struggle of her family for justice see: https://fnsnews.nmsu.edu/a-mothers-international-quest-for-justice/
Additional sources: Arrobajuarez.com, December 1, 2015. Nortedigital.mx/Agencia Reforma, December 1, 2015.