Guatemalan Government Asks for Miami's Help Solving Famous Murder

In 2011, 38-year-old Cristina Siekavizza disappeared in Guatemala City. A frenzied manhunt ensued. Cops canvassed town after town. Guatemalan national magazine Contrapoder published an entire feature about her death, and the case sparked a national debate about domestic violence after her family organized marches throughout the nation's capital.

Eventually, police pointed their fingers at one man: her husband, Roberto Eduardo Barreda de León. Barreda was apprehended in Merida, Mexico, in 2013, and now the Guatemalan government says it needs the U.S government's help following Barreda's paper trail in Miami.

Documents the U.S. government filed Monday in the U.S. Southern District of Florida state, "Guatemalan authorities believe that Barreda de Leon murdered his wife, Cristina Ziekavizza Molina de Barreda, and then fled with his two children, Roberto Jose and Maria Mercedes Barreda Siekavizza... to Mexico, where they remained for two years using pseudonyms and receiving financial assistance from third parties."

According to the court documents, Guatemala believes someone in Miami might have been helping Barreda's parents funnel him money while he hid out in Mexico. On November 8, 2013, Mexican police hunted Barreda down and seized his laptop and a USB storage device, which revealed Barreda's parents had been depositing money into a Chase Bank account in Miami. The money would then, somehow, end up in Barreda's hands.

Guatemalan police now say they want those bank records to prosecute Barreda and those who may have been helping him hide.

The crime at the center of Barreda's case has been well documented in Central America.

According to Contrapoder, Siekavizza was last seen July 6, 2011. That night, she and her husband reportedly screamed at each other as their children watched television in a separate room with the sound blasting. Eventually, reports say, the couple moved up to their second-floor nursery. There, Barreda beat Siekavizza to death, a witness who worked in the home told investigators.

At 5 a.m. the next day, the worker, who lived in the home, said that she heard Barreda "dragging something heavy" through the hall and that Barreda refused to open the trunk of his car when the worker asked.

Barreda worked for a telephone company and made a habit of calling his wife every day. But according to call logs, he failed to call Siekavizza July 7.

Authorities believe the murder stemmed from Barreda's controlling nature: According to Contrapoder, Barreda had banned his wife from working and had scrubbed her name from their joint checking accounts as a way to control her financially. Prosecutors believe that when Barreda caught Siekavizza working a secret job, he became enraged and beat her to death.

Barreda's lawyers, however, have denied that Barreda was responsible for the murder. Her body has still not been found.

Nonetheless, Guatemalan authorities charged Barreda with "femicide," obstruction of justice, and "mistreatment against minors." He was ordered to stand trial in December.

If he is found guilty of femicide — defined as killing a woman with whom one had kept "family, marital, or co-habitation relations" — Barreda could be sentenced to 25 to 50 years in prison.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.