Chile toughens sentences in 'Missing' killings of Americans

AP News
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Posted: Jul 21, 2016 5:33 PM

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Chile's Supreme Court on Thursday lengthened the prison sentences of two former military officers convicted in the 1973 killing of two Americans during the early days of Gen. Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship.

In a unanimous ruling, the court sentenced retired Gen. Pedro Espinoza to 15 years, up from the seven ordered by the trial judge, and ex-Col. Rafael Gonzalez to three years instead of two.

Both were convicted in 2015 in the deaths of documentary filmmaker Charles Horman and university student Frank Teruggi, who were detained days after the coup that put Pinochet in power.

Horman's bullet-riddled body was later admitted to a morgue as a "John Doe." Teruggi's corpse was left in a Santiago street.

The case was dramatized in the 1982 movie "Missing," which starred Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek and won an Oscar for its screenplay. The film suggested U.S. complicity in Horman's death and at the time drew strong objections from U.S. State Department officials.

The Supreme Court also ordered on Thursday that Espinoza and Gonzalez must pay $196,000 to Horman's widow and $151,000 to Teruggi's sister.

A third man, former U.S. Navy Capt. Ray E. Davis, was also charged in the deaths, but he died in 2013.

Davis commanded the U.S. Military Mission in Chile at the time of the Sept. 11, 1973, coup that ousted the democratically elected government of Marxist President Salvador Allende. Davis was investigating Americans in Chile as part of covert intelligence operations run out of the U.S. Embassy targeting those considered subversives or radicals, said lawyer Sergio Corvalan, who represents Horman's widow.

Corvalan said the ruling by the Supreme Court rejected claims by the Chilean State Defense Council, which he said was seeking to avoid paying compensation, arguing that the statute of limitations expired.

"The right of the victims is being consecrated," Corvalan told The Associated Press.

Horman, 31, was arrested Sept. 17, 1973. A national truth commission formed after the Pinochet dictatorship ended said Horman was executed the next day while in the custody of state security agents. The panel said Teruggi, 24, was executed four days after that.

The case remained practically ignored in Chile until 2000, when Horman's widow, Joyce, filed a lawsuit against Pinochet. She said she was acting on behalf of all victims of the dictatorship.

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This story has been corrected to show the men were convicted in 2015.