Chilean prosecutors reopen bungled probe into death of American teaching assistant

SANTIAGO (REUTERS) - Chile's prosecutors office announced it would reopen a bungled investigation into the death of American teaching assistant Erica Faith Hagan, who was who was beaten to death in a college dormitory in southern Chile in 2014.

The prosecutor's office said in a statement late on Friday (Sept 4) that it had made the decision following a special request by the victim's mother Regina O'Neal.

It said it had instructed a team of prosecutors specialised in violent crimes and gender violence to look again at the case file and determine any new investigation needed to identify the"direct perpetrators, accomplices or accessories to the crime, or anyone who colluded to obstruct the investigation."

The prosecutor's office said it considered that potentially missed lines of enquiry highlighted by Ms Hagan's mother warranted"taking action to ensure respect for the fundamental rights of the victim, such as effective access to justice."

Ms 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, 600km south of the capital Santiago. Her lifeless body was found in her dormitory bathtub on Sept 6, 2014.

In December 2015, Mr 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, lawyers for the family told Reuters earlier this year.

In March, Chile's Supreme Court awarded US$240,000 (S$328,000) to Ms Hagan's father in compensation for "negligent performance and unjustifiable errors" by police and prosecutors that allowed her killer to get away.

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

The court ruled that Ms Hagan's father Chris "lost the opportunity" to turn the page on her death through the conviction of her killer or killers.