Colombian nun jailed for 14 years for convent murder

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The Independent US

A Colombian nun has been sentenced to 14 years in prison for the murder of another nun in her convent. The nun was convicted after US forensics agents detected a trail of incriminating blood beneath layers of freshly painted floorboards of her Bogota convent cell.

The two-year-long murder mystery has gripped Colombia. Even police detectives, hardened by decades of drug violence and deathsquad chainsaw massacres, were horrified when they discovered a grisly corpse on a roadside outside the capital two years ago.

The mutilated body had been shot repeatedly in the head and badly burnt, and detectives described the crime as "horrendous". It took five months to identify the victim as Sister Luz Amparo Granada, a nun from the Adoratrices convent in Bogota's rough Candelaria district. She had worked on the streets with prostitutes and heroin addicts and, because of her pale blue eyes and red hair, had stood out in the crowd.

Police grew convinced that the nun was slain inside the cloister by an acquaintance, and not by one of her underworld parishioners, but they could not gather sufficient evidence to convict Sister Leticia, their main suspect. She consistently denied any knowledge of the violent killing and was released from custody in April last year after 17 months.

Yet the murder mystery gripped local prosecutors, who refused to close the case. They had found microscopic blood droplets and bone chips between the floorboards of the murdered nun's bedroom, even though it had been scoured with bleach and repainted.

Forensics experts at the FBI detected blood spatters on the wall beneath the layers of new paint and a trail where the body of Sister Luz Amparo had been dragged through the convent's corridors to the back door.

The FBI report, completed in November using cutting-edge technology not available in Colombia, concluded: "In this room, in this house, a violent act occurred and one can observe the possible trajectory of a dragged body."

The motive for the murder remains unclear. Sources close to the police investigation suggested there was growing tension between the two nuns. The conservative Sister Leticia had frowned on the victim's friendships with sex workers and drug users who would not repent.

Whatever the reason, the new forensic evidence was enough to convict the runaway nun, who was rearrested near the border with Venezuela. Sister Leticia was also fined a kilo of gold, worth £6,300. She vowed to appeal against the court's verdict.

After the sentencing, Sister Leticia protested to reporters that the Superior Court's verdict was "a travesty of justice".