"When you destroy a population, once femicide happens, we're going to see the end of humanity, because I don't know how you sustain a future without vitalized women."
It was the 8th of March 2018. A Thursday. Twenty two year old Haley Anderson was up late playing board games and drinking with her roommates. They finished just before 4am and went to bed. They were all students at Binghamton University in Binghamton, New York, United States and were in their final year and were looking forward to graduation. Haley was in their nursing program and she had a job lined up in an emergency department in Long Island.
When Haley's roommate, Josie Artin, woke a few hours later, she noticed that Haley wasn't in bed. That didn't cause alarm as they were college students and were all independent and did their own thing. But later that night, she was concerned. Haley was supposed to meet Josie and other friends at a bar but didn't show up which wasn't like her at all. Josie noticed that she didn't post anything on any of her social media channels all day either. When she called her on her cellphone there was no answer and none of the text messages that her friends sent were responded to. Along with another roommate, Josie tracked Haley's iPhone using the app Find My Friends. Haley's cellphone was at a house on Oak Street. Orlando Tercero lived there. Orlando was in the nursing program also and he and Haley dated briefly on and off for a little over a year. Orlando was born in Miami and grew up in Nicaragua before returning to the United States to study. He was a good student and studied during the week and he liked to party when he had time off.
Josie and another roommate Mishela Topalli, went to Oak Street to see if Haley was there.
Josie, Haley and Mishela
Police had been called to the house on Oak Street earlier that day. Orlando's sister asked them to carry out a welfare check as she had received a concerning text message from Orlando. Police called to the house but there was no answer and there didn't appear to be anyone home so they left. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary at the house. When Josie and Mishela got there, there was also no answer when they knocked on the door and there appeared to be nobody home but they didn't leave. They stayed as they were worried about Haley.
Orlando's car wasn't outside but they knew from their app that Haley's phone was still inside so they found a window that was open and Josie helped Mishela climb inside first and then she followed her. They found Haley in Orlando's bedroom, partially tucked in under the covers on his bed. They weren't certain but believed she may be dead as she was so pale. They called 911. Police and emergency services arrived at the house and confirmed Haley was dead. She had been strangled to death. There was no sign of Orlando anywhere.
Police discovered that Haley and Orlando dated on and off but Haley ended the relationship. She wanted to remain friends with Orlando but Orlando wanted more. They had dated on and off for around a year and Orlando wanted a more serious and committed relationship but that was not what Haley wanted. She didn't want to be tied down while in college. The investigation revealed that a troubling incident took place six months before Haley was found dead.
On the 15th of September 2017, Haley was at a party and Orlando was seen shouting at her. He found out that she got back together with her ex boyfriend, Kevin Ocampo, and he wasn't happy about it. He wanted her to be in a relationship with him only. Haley again told him that she didn't want that but she wanted to remain friends. That night, Kevin stayed in Haley's apartment and when he left the apartment the next morning, he saw that the tires on Haley's car were slashed. Haley reported the matter to police but Orlando denied it. As the damage was more than $600, felony charges would be involved and Haley didn't want Orlando to lose his place at college so she agreed not to press charges if he paid for the tires.
Haley's friends told police that Orlando seemed obsessed with her. He would call over unannounced and drive by the apartment. He watched her all the time. Despite that, Haley liked him and remained in touch with him. She didn't want him to feel left out.
Police needed to ascertain what happened after Haley finished drinking and playing boardgames with friends. How did she end up at Orlando's house? They knew there were a number of surveillance cameras in the area and outside the house where Orlando lived. They viewed them and observed that Haley and Orlando entered his house together. Haley seemed fine at that point and seemed to go into the house willingly. A few hours later, the footage revealed that Orlando left the house alone and cleared out his garbage. He then went to a local pharmacy, purchased two sleeping aids, ZzzQuil and melatoni, and then went back to the house.
The footage revealed he left again seven hours later and walked down to the basement of the house. Police believed that at that point, Orlando tried to take his own life in the basement. They found hooks and a rope. They believed that he fell instead and hurt himself. There was blood on the floor in the basement. They found what they believed was a suicide note written in Spanish and the English translation read:
"I'm really sorry about this. I never felt I could be capable of doing this. Father, I'll see you soon."
Orlando's father had died five years earlier. They believed the note was not just a suicide note but a confession too.
The footage showed Orlando later leaving the house with a suitcase and police tracked his movements to JFK International Airport. They discovered that he boarded a flight to Nicaragua. He had dual citizenship and his mother still lived in Nicaragua.
As he had dual citizenship, in relation to possible extradition, authorities in Nicaragua did not have to extradite him to the United States. Despite that, authorities in the United States charged him with second degree murder in the hope that he would be returned to the United States for a Trial. Authorities in Nicaragua made every effort to find Orlando and they found him in a hospital in the city of Leon just five days after Haley's death. He was at the hospital seeking medical treatment for injuries that he sustained when he tried to take his own life.
There was a lot of back and forth between authorities in the United States and in Nicaragua and it took over a year before authorities in Nicaragua felt they had enough to charge Orlando and send him forward for Trial. To the initial dismay of authorities in the United States, the Trial would take place in Nicaragua and the charges differed from those he faced in the United States. He was charged with femicide, which is a specific hate crime in Nicaragua and involves the murder of a woman based on her gender, one with whom the perpetrator had a relationship with.
The charge was not the only difference in Court proceedings. In Nicaragua, there was no Jury. A Judge would listen to the Prosecution and the Defense and then make a Judgment. Orlando was also not required to enter a plea.
It was the Prosecution case that Haley willingly entered the house with Orlando and a short time later, he strangled her to death. They believed that he possibly strangled her while she was asleep. It was their case that he was obsessed with her and if he couldn't have her nobody else would. They believed that he strangled her in a jealous rage when she refused to be in a serious relationship with him and they believed that he festered that rage for six months. They believed it began at the party six months earlier when he discovered Haley got back with her ex boyfriend.
The Court heard from witnesses in the US via teleconferencing. Some of Haley's friends testified about Orlando's obsessive side when it came to Haley, how he drove by and called to the apartment and about the slashed tires. The Judge saw the surveillance footage from outside Orlando's house which showed him entering with Haley and leaving without her.
The Court heard that Orlando attempted to commit suicide and about the note he left behind for his family.
Dr James Terzian, the pathologist who conducted Haley's Autopsy, testified that the cause of Haley's death was asphyxiation by neck compression. The Court heard that Haley was asphyxiated from manual neck compression with an element of ligature strangulation involved due to the necklace she was wearing.
The Prosecution told the Court that Haley was murdered because she didn't want to be with Orlando. It was her decision to make but one that he was not happy with.
It was the Defense case that Orlando had no recollection whatsoever of what happened that night. They argued that due to the use of alcohol, Orlando was temporarily insane at the time of Haley's death. They only called one witness, a psychiatrist, to testify about his state of mind.
Dr Ronald Lopez Aguilar testified that when he examined Orlando, Orlando stated he had no recollection of the murder. He told him that he drank heavily that night and when he woke up Haley was dead. He had no idea what happened to her. Dr Lopez Aguilar told the Court that there was no way to know what Orlando's state of mind was at the time of the murder. But, in relation to his current state of mind, he told the Court that there was nothing wrong with it.
The Defense argued that Orlando was not a violent man and he may have been provoked.
The Judge retired for ninety minutes and returned with a verdict. Judge Fabiola Betancourt told the Court that she found Orlando guilty. She said that she found that Orlando simply did not accept that Haley could make her own decisions and decide who she wanted to date and he disposed of her due to that and he wanted to punish her because she rejected him. She sentenced him to the maximum sentence that she could for the charge of femicide which was thirty years in prison. She told the Court that all women have the right to life.
The Broome County District Attorney Steve Cornwell, who was watching the case with keen interest, said:
“We saw something that we haven’t seen before, but we saw two governments working together, law enforcement agencies working together.”
Despite initial reservations about what the Trial would be like, authorities in the United States were happy with how everything was conducted and that it was a serious Trial, not a Show Trial.
Orlando appealed his conviction. The appeal was heard before three magistrates in Nicaragua. The Defense argument was the same, namely that Orlando was drunk and temporarily insane at the time of the murder, but they asked the Court for a new psychiatric evaluation. The one at the Trial was conducted by a Court appointed psychiatrist and the Defense wanted a forensic psychiatrist who specialized in temporary insanity defenses to examine Orlando instead for the appeal hearing.
They also argued that Orlando faced second degree murder charges in the US and if found guilty of that, he would have received less than a thirty year sentence and on that basis, the sentence should be reviewed. They argued he should not have been charged with femicide.
The magistrates rejected the appeal for a new psychiatrist and refused to reduce his sentence. He was ordered to remain in prison on foot of his thirty year sentence handed down at his Trial.
If for some reason Orlando is ever freed and returns to the US, police in the US have made it clear that they will immediately arrest him so that he can face a Trial for a second degree murder charge there.
After the Court denied the appeal, Haley's parents, Karen and Gordon Anderson, thanked the Court for their work. Karen said:
“Thank you very much for not granting the appeal. I have not seen any remorse from him. I’ve only seen regret that he is not going to be able to lessen his sentence. Unfortunately, I don’t even think 30 years is enough, but I appreciate all the work you have done to convict him to the fullest extent of the law.”
Gordon believes justice has been served and also thanked the Court:
“I thank the Nicaraguan court system. I was a little uneasy when it first came about, not having control of the situation here in the United States, but as the trial progressed, I quickly felt assured that the right thing would be done and I think a remarkable job was done.”
Gordan wants people to remember Haley for the compassionate person she was, one who had a zest for life, and one who lived to spread joy and love.
Broome County District Attorney Steve Cornwell emphasised how important it was that Orlando was charged with femicide:
"America's legal system doesn't have a criminal charge quite like Nicaragua's femicide but the protection it afforded Haley Anderson in this case was important. Orlando Tercero, in a cold-blooded manner, choked the life out of a young woman who we believe was probably sleeping and had been drinking. It doesn't get any more sick and depraved than that, preying on somebody who's helpless, and completely overpowered them, with no chance at all."
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