Chilean court awards damages to father of murdered U.S. student over bungled probe

SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Chile’s Supreme Court on Tuesday awarded $240,000 to the father of a young U.S. psychologist who was beaten to death in southern Chile, in compensation for mistakes by police and prosecutors that allowed her killer to get away.

Erica Faith Hagan, 22, from Murray, Kentucky, was working as a teaching assistant in English and religious education at the Colegio Bautista school in the city of Temuco, 400 miles south of the capital Santiago. Her lifeless body was found in her dormitory bathtub on Sept. 6, 2014.

In December 2015, Domingo Cofre, 44, a security guard at the school, was acquitted of her murder. The files of four other people arrested over the death were sealed, the lawyer for Hagan’s father told Reuters.

The Supreme Court ruling on Tuesday upheld another by the Temuco appeal court in May 2019.

The court ruled that “negligent performance and unjustifiable errors” by police and prosecutors meant Hagan’s father Chris “lost the opportunity” to turn the page on her death through the conviction of her killer or killers.

Gaspar Calderon, the lawyer acting for Chris Hagan, said the ruling brought him “a shred of justice.”

“It’s a definitive ruling and puts an end to this long process,” he told Reuters.

Cofre’s DNA, and that of another person, was found on the poker used to kill Hagan but it was contaminated by police during its recovery and could not be used in evidence, the Supreme Court ruling said.

Hagan’s watch was also lost during the investigation, and the crime scene was not properly secured, the court finding said.

The court ordered the Chilean state to pay Chris Hagan $200m Chilean pesos ($239,000) in moral damages.

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