In a press conference recorded on August 24, 2017, 19-year-old Marlon Martínez said he had last seen his 16-year-old girlfriend, who was five months pregnant, the previous morning.
“We’ve had problems, but problems that are common to all couples,” he said. “We accepted her pregnancy. We said we’d continue forward. … I want to now make a public announcement: Emely, no matter where you are, please, we are waiting for you with open arms.”
His mother, Marlin, sitting next to him in a black suit jacket, added, “she was already a part of us”.
“She was my son’s girlfriend,” she said, before repeating, “is the girlfriend of my son. She was five months pregnant, and when we found out, we gave her our support.”
“Wherever you are, Emely, don’t make us suffer any more.”
When the footage of the press conference was shared to YouTube, commenters immediately picked up on how Martínez’s mother had spoken almost exclusively in past tense.
According to a special investigation by Buzzfeed News, public suspicion started to grow, and it was justified. Because there was a sinister aspect to the story of Marlon Martínez and his missing girlfriend, Emely Peguero, that locals were particularly attuned to.
Peguero's pregnancy wasn't your usual teenage pregnancy. She was just 15 when she discovered she was pregnant - still three years below the age of consent in the Dominican Republic - in a country where abortion is illegal.
The Dominican Republic is one of only six countries that bans abortion in all cases.
With suspicion following him closely after the press conference, Martínez went to visit Peguero's family home. It was here that he handed himself into police, aware that they were likely to arrest and question him over his girlfriend's disappearance.
Still, he maintained his innocence.
Then, on August 28, police located Peguero's phone. It was in an apartment owned by Martínez's mother, and when that apartment was searched, police found blood on a mattress.
Two days later, Marlin Martínez turned herself into police - a move her lawyer said was simply to 'cooperate' with the investigation. But later that day, police would hear a stunning confession.
Marlon Martínez admitted to killing his 16-year-old girlfriend.
He told police he had dumped her in a landfill close by, but when they searched the site, there was no sign of her body.
The following day, as the community expressed their anger in protests that stopped traffic, begging to know where Peguero's body was hidden, the victim's older brother started to receive a series of messages on WhatsApp. His sister's body had been found, the messages said. In a town about one hour away. That night, at 8pm, the decomposing remains of Peguero, and her unborn child, were found inside a suitcase by the side of the road.
Forensic reports seen by Buzzfeed News found that Peguero had suffered internal bleeding, believed to be the result of an abortion attempt. She had also suffered a blunt-force blow to her head.
According to the prosecution in the ongoing court proceedings over Peguero's death, Martínez forced his young girlfriend to drink an "unknown liquid to induce an abortion". When it didn't seem to work, instead of going to hospital and facing charges for assisting in an abortion - a serious criminal offence in the Dominican Republic - he killed her.
Martínez's lawyer maintains the 19-year-old should not be found guilty of murder. Instead, he simply participated in a failed abortion attempt.
The trial for both Marlon and Marlin Martínez is due to begin on June 11. Marlon faces up to 30 years in prison, while his mother faces 20 years for her role as an accomplice.