Seek Investigation Of Woman’s Death

Foster Maer, the senior litigation counsel of LatinoJustice, a New York City civil rights organization, has written East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell asking for an investigation into Town Police handling of the death of 21-year-old Gabriela Armijos in September of last year. He is also hoping for something else: increased awareness by the Police Department of the needs of the local Latino community.

The department classified Ms. Armijos’s death as a suicide. She had disappeared on Saturday night, Sept. 27. She had moved to East Hampton six weeks earlier and was excited about her new home and new job, her family told Mr. Maer. When she did not show up for work that night, the family became worried and called the police.

According to Mr. Maer, the police declined to look for Ms. Armijos that night in the wooded area between Three Mile Harbor Road, where the family lived, and Springs-Fireplace Road, behind the One-Stop market, although the family said they suspected that was where she might be found. She had been missing for a time two days earlier, in those woods, the family told the organization.

Ms. Armijos was found dead hanging from a tree the next day. According to Mr. Maer, who spoke about the death yesterday, there were two sets of footprints, intermingled, in the woods.

The young woman had just broken up with a boyfriend she had met over the Internet, who had been reported to be harassing her. The family believed it possible that she was murdered. The police immediately classified the death as a suicide, Mr. Maer said, and did not treat the area as a crime scene. “They don’t really know,” Mr. Maer said about the family, “but there are all these indications” that someone else might have been involved in her death.

LatinoJustice had hired Dan Montgomery, a 53-year veteran of police work and a former police chief, to investigate the case. In a report, which was forwarded to Mr. Cantwell, Mr. Montgomery said the police had made numerous mistakes in their investigation.

Capt. Chris Anderson of the town police said yesterday that he had not seen the report, but he disparaged the criticism of the department’s handling of the case. “This matter was fully investigated,” he said, “in conjunction with the medical examiner’s office, and the case has been closed, noncriminal.”

East Hampton Town Police Chief Michael D. Sarlo declined to comment yesterday, citing the possibility of litigation. Asked about that possibility, Mr. Maer said, “We aren’t thinking about that, one way or the other.” The main focus, he said, was the family’s concerns.

“By bringing attention we are hoping there is a realization within the Police Department to treat all investigations equally.”