Leonela Wants to Be Your Friend – Translation
► Lupa is our new app for Spanish learners who want to study with Radio Ambulante’s stories. More info at lupa.app.
[Jorge Caraballo, Growth Editor]: Hi, Ambulantes. This is Jorge Caraballo, growth editor. Before we start, I want to remind you about our new podcast: El hilo. El hilo is different from Radio Ambulante: in that show, every week we pick the most important story for Latin America and tell the story behind the news. In last Friday’s episode, for example, we explored different initiatives that have appeared in the region and that respond in a creative way to an urgent problem: the scarcity of medical supplies. Don’t miss it.
Plus, we want to remind you that during the next four weeks we’re going to publish El hilo’s episode in the Radio Ambulante feed. The idea is to serve you better in these uncertain times. More information at elhilo.audio.
OK, here’s the episode.
[Daniel Alarcón, host]: Hi, Ambulantes, a warning before this episode. This story contains graphic scenes that are not suitable for all audiences. Discretion is advised.
Welcome to Radio Ambulante from NPR. I’m Daniel Alarcón.
[Diana]: I got out of the car. He went out to close the gate. We were talking inside the house, standing in the garage. The light was on.
[Daniel]: This is Diana. That’s not her real name. We changed it for her safety. She’s Colombian, and she’s recounting what happened to her and her boyfriend Giovani in early 2017.
It was around 9 p.m. and they had just gotten home from his parents’ house, southwest of Bogotá.
At that moment they were very close to the garage door: a gate with opaque window panels, the kind that you can just see the outline of a person through.
[Diana]: That was when I heard him say, “They’re shooting.” I don’t remember hearing gunshots. And all I remember was that he came over and pushed me. When he pushes me I see the stain on his shirt here.
[Daniel]: One of his sleeves was stained with blood. Diana and Giovani took a few steps into the house, and he collapsed. Diana was holding him up and lowered him carefully onto the ground.
[Diana]: Then I saw he was upset. I said, “Calm down… the… you got shot in the arm.” Since I saw the stain… a very small stain. And I remember he was looking at me, and he looked at me with his desperate desire to say: “Help me.” And all I could do was… I mean, I thought for a second, I said, “My God! What happened?”
[Daniel]: Diana is a nurse and she knows what to do in cases like these. She opened his shirt and checked to see if there were any wounds anywhere else. She touched his back…
[Diana]: I looked at my hands. There was no blood. It took me —what?— ten seconds to do that. When I turned him over to look, he was already closing his eyes. I said to him, I said, “Don’t do this to me.” I remember I hugged him and gave him a kiss. I turned to see his chest, and his chest wasn’t expanding. In other words, he wasn’t breathing.
[Daniel]: She tried to take his pulse, but she didn’t feel anything. So she started trying to resuscitate him: she gave chest compressions and mouth to mouth. More and more neighbors started to arrive, and several of them helped Diana get him into the car. They took him to the nearest hospital, the same one where she worked as a nurse and Giovani worked as an ambulance driver.
[Diana]: When they brought out the gurney, and I got him on the gurney and I ran in, and when they realized it was Giovani, the hospital collapsed.
[Daniel]: The people working there had known him for almost three years. They saw him every day. He was their friend. Since the recovery room was occupied by another patient, Diana had to take him to another procedure room. There they injected him with medication and started telling everyone on the hospital staff that Giovani was very badly injured.
[Diana]: When they came, they all asked, “What happened?” I told them, “I don’t know. They shot at us. He’s been shot in the arm. That’s all I know.” It’s a long hallway. I remember the hallway filled up. All of our co-workers lined up to participate in the recovery. Everyone did a cycle.
[Daniel]: A cycle: 30 chest compressions and two rescue breaths. They took turns so they wouldn’t get tired and so the compressions would be constant.
They spent 50 minutes trying to resuscitate him, but it was no use. Finally, the doctor asked them to stop. There was nothing more they could do. And at 41 years old, Giovani had died.
[Diana]: At that moment, everything stopped. I mean, it was unbelievable. I couldn’t accept it. I said, “This is a dream.” —I don’t know— “I’m dreaming.” I was disoriented, I didn’t even know what time it was. I didn’t know what to do, or what to grab onto. I didn’t even know what had happened, where the shots had come from. We were in the house. We weren’t on the street.
[Daniel]: The authorities made it to the hospital around midnight. They started questioning Diana about what had happened and then they took the body to conduct a legal autopsy. They would later learn that the bullet went through his right arm and his chest and perforated an artery in his lungs and that caused them to fill up with blood.
Sometime later, she was approached by an investigator from the Bogotá SIJIN, or Criminal Investigations Section, an organization under the Judicial Police that coordinates criminal investigations with other State entities.
[Diana]: The investigator was there outside the hospital, and he said there had been a dispute over drugs and there was a stray bullet.
[Daniel]: Diana was devastated. She knew the area where she lived had a violence problem. She herself had treated several people at the hospital with gunshot wounds, knife wounds, and overdoses… but she never thought that a street fight over something that didn’t have anything to do with her or her boyfriend would end up directly affecting them.
That night, Diana went back to Giovani’s parents’ house, where they had been shot at.
[Diana]: When I got there, the block was cordoned off and there were a bunch of police there.
[Daniel]: They were gathering evidence, but she was surprised to see they were interrogating a waste collector who had a cart full of things to recycle. She and Giovani had seen him a few blocks before arriving at the house. But she didn’t really understand why the police had him there. Be that as it may, she didn’t want to think too much about it. She just wanted to go inside.
[Diana]: When I got out of the car, I looked toward the garage door and there wasn’t one shot, there were four. And I said to the police, “How can it be a stray bullet if I see four bullet holes on the door? I want you to explain who this guy is now and what his cart is doing outside.”
[Daniel]: The police told her that they couldn’t say much, just that there had been an exchange of fire and the recycler had seen what had happened. For Diana, it was strange to think that Giovani had been killed intentionally. In the three years she had known him, she never saw him get into trouble or in suspicious situations, and much less did she know of any threats.
She started having doubts. In that moment, Diana set out to find the truth of what had happened. And that search would bring her to do things she never thought she would do, including putting her own life at risk.
Our producer David Trujillo tells the story.
[David Trujillo]: Diana is 38 years old. She grew up in a town in eastern Colombia, and by the late ‘90s, she had two kids.
[Diana]: One of my children got sick. He had lymphoma. At that time, any kind of cancer was only treated here in Bogotá, especially for children.
[David]: Her son was three years old, so she had to move to Bogotá with him, and the other, who was eight months old, had to stay with his father in the town while all this was going on. The treatment lasted for four years. In the end, the boy was cured, but Diana started thinking about the possibility of staying in the city for good. In all that time she spent with her son, she was learning about caring for patients and medical procedures, and she liked it, so she decided to study to be a nurse’s aide in Bogotá.
In time she brought her other son to come live with her. By then, she already had her third child, a daughter. Then she got married and went to go live with her husband and children in Bosa, a locality in the southwest corner of the city.
[Diana]: It’s the seventh locality in Bogotá. Bosa is very big, incredibly big.
[David]: It has more than 700,000 residents.
[Diana]: There’s a lot of crime, a lot of drug addiction —too much— a lot of narcotics sales. I started living in Bosa around 2010.
[David]: Two years later she started working in one of the public hospitals in that locality. Since this is a level one hospital it only offers basic emergency care, they take samples for the lab, they take X-rays, and deliver babies. At first, Diana had to do home visits, take laboratory samples, and help out wherever they needed her, but then she was moved to emergency services.
[Diana]: That has always been my… I don’t know. I like it. I like it because it gives me the opportunity to, if someone comes in with heart failure, if we resuscitate them correctly, we can get them out of heart failure and the person can survive.
[David]: And it was a real challenge to accomplish that, because normally that hospital gets very difficult cases, like knife and gunshot wounds, attempted suicide, poorly done abortions, overdoses. Since they couldn’t do full procedures, when a serious case came in, the team was in charge of stabilizing the patient quickly.
[Diana]: The work was so team-based that it was like if my mom or dad came in with a heart attack and we would all get to work and no one would leave until the resuscitation was over. Resuscitation normally takes place in the first 20 minutes, but we kept going for 40, 50 minutes.
[David]: If they managed to stabilize the patient, they would send them to another higher-level hospital so they could be operated on.
And it was in that basic care hospital in Bosa where Diana met Giovani.
Giovani started working in the hospital in 2014 as an ambulance driver. And at first Diana didn’t even notice he was there.
[Diana]: I was always running around because there was too much work to do. You don’t have time to stand around and talk to hardly anyone unless your shift is over. And they would come in and bring their patient, and I had almost no contact with them.
[David]: With the ambulance drivers.
But one day, when they were short staffed at the hospital, the ambulance teams had to come in to help the other workers. Giovani had to help Diana sterilize some tools. They saw each other for the first time there and started talking.
[Diana]: He was about 5’8”. He was in good shape. Very polite. An impeccable dresser. He was a good companion, a very good friend, really a human being like him I’ve almost never met.
[David]: They got along very well and started talking more and more.
[Diana]: We started becoming good friends. We had something in common: we both liked to help people. The first conversations we had were about our kids and our concerns.
[David]: Giovani had two daughters and was divorcing his wife. Diana was in a similar situation with her husband, and though they lived together, it was a very bad relationship, especially because of his alcoholism and violence. So Giovani…
[Diana]: Became my confidant. Whenever something happened at home with my ex-husband, I would get really upset, and so he would say to me, “You can’t keep on putting up with such bad treatment.”
[David]: Giovani supported her in the process of getting a divorce and helped her move out with her kids. He had already gone to live with his parents, and he had also divorced his wife. One year after meeting, they started dating.
[Diana]: I feel like I’ve never fallen in love with anyone, and, I don’t know, I said that the people who fall in love are the ones who lose. And when I met Giovani, I found my soulmate. We shared so many lovely things, and I had never had someone like him in my life.
[David]: They wanted to move in together, but for that, they’d need more money. So they decided to start a business, and when they weren’t working at the hospital, they administered injections at people’s homes. Diana would give the injections and Giovani drove her. And it started going well for them.
[Diana]: We had a lot of plans, and we had so many dreams. I mean, we were trying to save up for the house. We always dreamed of a house with a yard. He said, “We’re going to make it so far, and we’re going to do so many things.”
[David]: The day Giovani was killed, in early 2017, both of them had left the house early to see patients.
[Diana]: That day he told me he loved me and gave me a hug. That was… it was… almost 11 a.m. He said: “I want to be by your side until the last day of my life, in whatever form. Whether it’s as your friend, your enemy, your husband, your lover.” And I said, “Why are you saying that?” And he said: “I just want you to know.”
[David]: Once Giovani said that if she died first, he wanted to keep her eyes because he liked them so much. That always made Diana laugh. It seemed odd for him to say that. Then Giovani asked what she would want to keep if he died first and she said,
[Diana]: “I never want you to die, because I won’t be able to live without you.” He would say, “You can live without me because you are very strong.” And I would say, “No.” He would say, “It doesn’t matter. Nothing will ever happen to me because you’re so good at resuscitation you’ll never let me die.”
[David]: That’s why, when Giovani died…
[Diana]: The first few days were unbearable. At first I spent many nights reliving that moment, thinking about if I had done the compressions deep enough, if I had done the… the 30 compressions and the two breaths. In a way I blamed myself for something that I… that wasn’t my fault.
[David]: But there was something else that kept her up at night, and it was all the questions surrounding Giovani’s death. She knew it hadn’t been a stray bullet. Someone shot in their direction four times, and Diana didn’t have any clues that would help her figure out who it was and why.
A week after the murder, she got a call from an investigator from SIJIN, the police agency that’s in charge of investigating these kinds of crimes. She doesn’t remember if it was the same investigator she had spoken with at the hospital.
[Diana]: He told me that he was the one who was the one in charge of the case of Giovani’s murder. He quickly explained what the process was like.
[David]: The first step was to check security cameras in the area. In front of Giovani’s parents’ house, there’s a school that has cameras pointed toward that street. Those are the most important ones, but the investigator said:
[Diana]: That he had already sent a few letters requesting the security footage to see what had happened. But he hadn’t gotten an answer. He said he had already gone to claim the videos twice. So I said, “No, it’s OK. Let me check.”
[David]: Diana went to the school. There they explained that the cameras belonged to a private security company and they were the ones who could hand over the video. So she asked the investigators at SIJIN to go with her to that company and explain to the people in charge why they needed those videos.
But getting access to the videos ended up taking longer than expected because at the company they didn’t even know which key they needed to access the recording device. On the third day, Diana, who was desperate, ended up paying a system engineer to solve the problem. When they finally did it, they took her into an office to watch hours and hours of video recorded at different angles of the street. They needed to find the exact moment of the murder.
When the timestamp on the video hit 8:57 that night, the car Giovani and Diana were taking to his parents’ house appeared. You can see they stop outside for a minute, and then…
[Diana]: You could see when the… the car backed in.
[David]: Backing into the house’s garage. At 8:59.
[Diana]: You can see the recycler with the zorra walking.
[David]: The recycler who the police were interrogating that night. When she says zorra she means the cart he was pushing.
In the video you can see the recycler walking down the street with his back to the camera.
[Diana]: He turns and looks back and starts going faster. When he starts moving faster, he makes it to the garage door where we were standing. He leaves… leaves the cart there.
[David]: He leaves it in the street. The recycler gets on the sidewalk in front of the house and starts running.
[Diana]: And at the corner, he turns. Then you can see another person come running.
[David]: A man, also with his back to the camera.
[Diana]: And you can see he sticks to the same side as if he’s chasing him.
[David]: Chasing the recycler.
[Diana]: He goes in front of the house, but he turns to look and he looks back and that’s when he shoots.
[David]: At 9 exactly. And here we have to be very clear: it appears that he turns back toward the glass door and shoots Giovani intentionally.
[Diana]: In other words, you could see that he knew what he was doing. Then he turns back. A taxi was waiting for him on the corner. He gets in the taxi and leaves.
[David]: The scene lasted less than four minutes. Diana was shocked.
[Diana]: That moment was very hard. I remember that there was a man next to me, and that man… was looking at me, and he didn’t know… didn’t know if he should help me, if he should do something. I mean, it was a very hard moment for me, extremely hard.
[David]: Diana didn’t recognize the man from the video who shot at them.
[Diana]: I started having more doubts. And I said, “But, if he was going to kill someone else, then the person runs off, and after the fact, he shoots at us.” There were so many mysteries. I mean, there were so many unanswered questions.
[David]: But there was a video that showed the murderer. Now it was the SIJIN’s job to handle it. Diana called the investigator to tell him she had the video, that the investigation could go forward. But according to her, his response was:
[Diana]: “I don’t have the time. I’m very busy.” That he was on a job, that he wasn’t in Bogotá, that he doesn’t know, that if I have any more info… Well, that was what he told me. Well I had to take him at his word. Though he didn’t seem very interested because, if he saw that I was helping him, he should have been more attentive. Because it was his job, not mine.
[David]: Diana asked her coworkers at the hospital to cover her shifts and decided to continue investigating on her own. The first thing she did was look for other security cameras in the area and ask for the recordings from that day. She got about seven other videos and set out to look at the scene from every possible angle, recording every detail.
[Diana]: I did it by hand: I wrote down all the times, what time the recycler arrived, what routes he had taken, the taxi’s route when they escaped, how it moved, where it picked them up, what he did. And since I know the addresses, I put it all down. I made a map and gave all of that to the investigator.
[David]: But according to Diana, nothing happened. She insists that every time she called him, the investigator’s answer was the same: he had a lot of open cases, he wasn’t in the city, he didn’t have the time.
I tried to talk to the investigator to get him to explain what had happened, but we could never get in touch with him. The truth was that Diana couldn’t sit around doing nothing.
[Diana]: I needed to do something, because if I was left alone for a moment, all I could think about was ending my life. Because I didn’t want to live.
[David]: She was very depressed. She felt like her children didn’t need her anymore, that she wasn’t motivated by her work anymore, that her life didn’t make much sense without Giovani. But she had one obsession, one single thing that could get her out of bed in the morning.
[Diana]: It was the fight to learn, before I died, what had happened.
[David]: Diana started a bureaucratic and exhausting procedure to get a different investigator at SIJIN. She didn’t want to wait several years for them to solve the case or, even worse and more likely, for them to end up closing it due to lack of evidence or expiration of terms. So, while she was requesting a new investigator, she started looking for a way to speed up the process of assigning a prosecutor to the case to take care of the legal issues.
That whole process took Diana about two months: she sent letters, made phone calls, spent hours waiting at different official’s offices to ask them to do something with her case. In the end, the case of Giovani’s murder made through all the necessary steps to get into the hands of a prosecutor.
When SIJIN found out what Diana was doing, they set up an appointment with her and Giovani’s parents to give them an update on the investigation. When they arrived, they met with the investigator and his superior. They started telling them that they had two witnesses who had been interrogated: one was the recycler and the other was the taxi driver who picked up the murderer. Both said the same thing.
[Diana]: That the guy who killed Giovani belonged to a very dangerous and very large gang in Bosa that dealt in micro-trafficking. That he was in charge of collecting payments and killing people. The hitman.
[David]: They told them that the night of the murder, he had gone to collect money from the recycler for drugs. If he didn’t pay or return the drugs, the order was to kill him. Since the recycler didn’t do either of those things, he started running because he knew what was going to happen, and when the hitman went to kill him…
[Diana]: The gun misfired and the other guy ran off, which made him angry and he shot at the house. That was the reason. And the taxi driver who picked him up corroborated what happened.
[David]: They didn’t tell them anything more. But it seemed strange to Diana that the killer would shoot at the house out of anger. She had seen the video, she had been there when it happened, and the shots were aimed directly at Giovani. There was still a lot to uncover. So, taking advantage of the fact that they were there, Diana told off the investigator for his lack of interest.
[Diana]: Honestly, when I talk, I’m very direct. I said, “I’ll show you the conversations, or did you forget about those?” I said it to him in front of his superior. I said, “I don’t think you’re interested in the case. And if you are very busy, with all due respect, assign it to someone else who can take it because you don’t have the time or the interest to do it.”
[David]: According to Diana, the investigator said that wasn’t the case, that he had done his job, that he had been very friendly toward her.
[Diana]: I said, “Yes, you have been very friendly toward me, but I did the work. I had no reason to have seen… Do you know how I broke down the day I saw the video of him shooting at us? You can’t imagine. You’ve seen me crying many times, and I’ve given you everything you’ve asked for, and I’ve cooperated with you.”
[David]: The investigator didn’t argue the point any further. He and his superior told her that in about a month and a half they were going to re-assign the case to someone else. And they did: they ended up assigning it to two investigators who had brought the largest case against the killer’s micro-trafficking gang to court.
During the first week of May, the new investigators called in Diana and Giovani’s parents again to tell them more details about the case. When they met with them, the first thing they did was show them a picture of the killer on a computer.
[Diana]: And that’s the way he told me, outright. “He killed Giovani.” When they pulled up the photo of that man, Giovani’s mom broke down again. The woman was crying and crying and crying and crying. And we couldn’t believe it: it was a 19-year-old boy.
[David]: His name was Robinson Arley Murillo Gutiérrez, alias Bimbo. They had arrested him once for getting into fights, and for drug possession. That’s why they had his picture. But since they were minor charges, they had never brought him to court.
[Diana]: So I said, “OK, and now what? I mean, what comes next? If you have two witnesses, who threw him to the sharks, they said he was the one who did it, why not bring him in?” They told me they couldn’t bring him in just for Giovani’s murder because that would undermine all the work they had done with the rest of the gang.
[David]: And that’s because for about two years, they had been investigating that same gang, and they couldn’t capture a single member because that would alert the rest of them and interfere with their investigation. Giovani’s murder would be entered into a larger case with other crimes these people had committed.
[Diana]: So we had to wait, to find all the evidence to arrest the entire gang. Which could take a long time. They just had… I mean, they knew what they were called, how they operated.
[David]: They were called Los Moros. They dealt in micro-trafficking in the area and they had several bars in the area. They were after them for, among other things, drug trafficking, illegal possession of weapons, and other homicides. They had already identified several people, including Bimbo, each with a specific job.
[Diana]: They showed me all the gang members. They told me who the boss was, how they operated, where. When they started showing me photos —I have a good memory and I never forget a face— we had treated two of them in the ER.
[David]: And she had seen others at the bars.
[Diana]: That was when I asked: “What do you need?” They told me, “Look, the truth is we need to tap their phones. We need to know where they live.” I said, “I can do that.”
[David]: The investigators were surprised, and they asked her what she meant. Diana told them that the hospital in Bosa had a policy of doing house calls in order to have a database of all the people in the community. That helped them follow up with pregnant women, children under five, seniors or people with chronic illnesses. Diana had access to that database which included people’s full names, addresses, and telephone numbers.
[Diana]: So I said, “I’ll take care of it, but on one condition: leave Bimbo to me. I’ll take care of him.” One of them said, “What do you mean you’ll take care of him.” In a tone, like saying, “Are you going to kill him.” I said, “No, calm down, I’m not going to do anything because I’m a very different kind of person than he is. All I want is for him to pay, but I’ll take care of investigating him.”
[David]: The investigators agreed.
That night, Diana told everything to one of her kids: what the investigators had told her, that Bimbo had supposedly fired his gun in a fit of rage, and the reason that they couldn’t capture him. Her son suggested they look him up on Facebook. They typed “Robinson Arley Murillo” in the search bar and someone with that name showed up. Diana remembered the photo the investigators showed her, and it was the same person from the profile: a tall, chubby guy with a beard who looked older than he really was.
Diana knew that she was going to find him at some point, but she never imagined it was going to be so easy. Now she wanted to know everything there was to know about Bimbo.
[Diana]: I spent the first three days looking at every post, studying everything. It looked like, from what he posted, he didn’t have a stable family. It looked like he had a lot of failed relationships.
[David]: He would post texts like these:
[Man]: “A real woman is a woman who helps her man get ahead in life and stays with him so they can do it together, and not the one who runs off chasing a different path. God bless those women who sit down, take off their shoes and say, ‘I’m here, papi. I’m here for you.’”
[David]: And he also published photos with friends…
[Diana]: Showing their tattoos, their scars and things they’d made. I don’t know. They were proud of the life they led.
[David]: Diana wanted to go deeper. She wasn’t convinced by the story of Bimbo firing his gun in a fit of rage, without knowing they were there. She needed to hear from him why he’d done it. So she decided, along with her son, to create a fake Facebook profile.
[Diana]: We had a photo of some girl. The girl was about 21 years old.
[David]: Someone Diana knew. But she knew that Bimbo would never have contact with her because, among other things, she lived outside of the city.
[Diana]: That profile only had like… inspirational posts and other photos of her.
[David]: They gave her the name Leonela Ibarra and sent Bimbo a friend request.
The next day, in the morning, Diana met with some coworkers at one of their houses for breakfast. When they sat down to eat, she got a notification on her phone. Diana checked it and realized that Bimbo had accepted her friend request on Facebook. Right then…
[Diana]: He messaged me “Hi.” My whole world came out from under me. I found myself having mixed feelings of rage, but also a lot of pain. I remember my legs were even shaking and my friend said to me, “You’ve gone pale. Did something happen?” I said, “No, it’s nothing. No, it’s nothing.”
[David]: Diana put her phone away and didn’t say anything else. She didn’t respond to Bimbo then.
[Diana]: I didn’t answer because I was afraid. I didn’t know what to do.
[David]: Diana’s plan was always to get information from him, but she hadn’t actually prepared for the moment her boyfriend’s killer spoke to her. She wasn’t physically standing in front of him, but she felt like she had been put face-to-face with him.
[Daniel]: Diana had to make a decision: leave things as they are, and let the police take care of it, or continue with her plan and start a conversation with Bimbo.
We’ll be back after the break.
[How I Built This]: What does it take to start something from nothing? And how do you actually build it? Every week on How I Built This, host Guy Raz speaks with the founders of some of the most inspiring companies in the world. How I Built This, from NPR. Listen and share with your friends.
[Hidden Brain]: When’s the last time you had a really good workout? Not of your biceps — but of your brain. Listen to NPR’s Hidden Brain every week to hear stories that will flex your mind.
[Daniel]: Before the break, Diana told the investigators at SIJIN that she would help them find the other members of the gang, but as for the man called Bimbo, her boyfriend’s murderer, she would take care of him personally.
[Diana]: For me the most important part of it all was to get all the information to see the kind of person he is.
[Daniel]: So they could catch him. Diana had already created a fake Facebook profile and had sent him a friend request. Bimbo didn’t just accept it, but wrote her to start a conversation. The next step was to earn his trust.
Diana knew it was very risky, that Bimbo was dangerous, but she had already made up her mind.
[Diana]: Really they always ask me the same question, if I was ever afraid while going after him or being so close to him. Today, I think the only thing I wanted was for him to kill me, and somehow put an end to my suffering.
[Daniel]: But despite those feelings, what motivated her was a mission. She took on all the risks associated with the case because she had to know why Bimbo had killed her boyfriend.
David Trujillo continues the story.
[David]: Diana ended the breakfast with her coworkers and didn’t tell them anything about Bimbo. Then, when she was alone at home, she answered his message and started a conversation.
She told him that her name was Leonela Ibarra, and she was 21 years old. She told him she was looking for new friends and she had come across his profile by chance on Facebook. He caught her eye, and so, she added him as a friend.
Then Bimbo started asking her questions.
[Diana]: He said, “Why don’t you barely have any pictures?” or “why can’t I call you?” or “why can’t we talk on the phone or do a video call?” I told him that it was because I couldn’t because I had a really big problem and I still didn’t trust him enough. Then I said that as we got to know each other I would tell him why I was being so secretive.
[David]: In reality, Diana didn’t know what story to make up. At the time she just needed time to gain his trust so she started with something basic.
[Diana]: I told him that I lived with my parents, that my dad had a company, they had trucks for moving furniture, food, anything. So I was helping him.
[David]: On his end, Bimbo…
[Diana]: He started telling me that he lived with his dad and a brother. That his dad worked at a bakery and that he did, well, whatever came his way.
[David]: But he also started telling her more personal things.
[Diana]: That he didn’t matter, that he was ugly. I mean, his self-esteem was always very low. So, let’s say, I took advantage of that to make him feel like he was a worthwhile person, and that everything he was doing or had done in his life wasn’t wrong, that it wasn’t his fault… but rather other people’s, or the people who surrounded him.
[David]: On the third day of talking, Bimbo asked her again why she couldn’t talk on the phone or do video calls. Diana had to make something up so he wouldn’t get suspicious.
[Diana]: “The truth is I have house for prison.”
[David]: House for prison, meaning house arrest.
[Diana]: He said: “Oh, I thought it was something more serious.” That’s the way he put it. I remember it so well. And I got so… I was so angry at the moment that I wanted to grab him through the computer and strangle him, if I could have strangled him.
[David]: But at least he had believed her. And since she had asked the SIJIN investigators for some advice for how to speak Bimbo’s language, she added a few other things to the story: she told him that she had belonged to a gang in Kennedy, a nearby locality.
[Diana]: I lied and told him that I had had a partner and that he had gotten me wrapped up in all that, and I was a lookout for the “turns.”
[David]: In other words, the killings. That she wasn’t in charge of killing people, but…
[Diana]: I was the person who gave them the weapon, but I made sure that the turn was done right. So I’m under arrest because we got caught on a turn. I wasn’t the shooter, but I was there. My boyfriend was the shooter so I’m under house arrest until my trial comes.
[David]: Bimbo told her again that he didn’t think it was a big deal. In fact, he understood perfectly what she was going through. Then he told Diana what she already knew: that he belonged to a gang in Bosa, that he had been with them for two years and that he was a hit man. He also told her that he was getting tired of what he was doing and was thinking about retiring.
By that point, Diana was accomplishing what she had set out to do.
[Diana]: What I wanted was to be as much like him, for him to feel like a soulmate, like I was his soulmate. Like what I had with Giovani, but in his style.
[David]: While she was talking to Bimbo, Diana started looking up the other gang members’ information in the hospital’s database. She did it in the early morning, when she had spare time and there weren’t so many people asking her questions.
She managed to find their full names and their relatives. But she realized that even though some phone numbers showed up in their records, it was hard to know who used them and their addresses weren’t very clear either.
So Diana told her older son what she was doing so he could help. At the time, he worked at a large mobile phone, internet, and cable TV company and he had access to their customer database. With the information Diana got from the hospital, her son could check who owned the telephone lines and the addresses on record for those people.
For example, Diana found one gang member in the database and his nuclear family: his wife, mom, dad, siblings. Then she passed all of those people’s information along to her son, and he could find out which of them had cellular, internet, or TV plans and their addresses.
[Diana]: I printed all of it, to have a record, and I checked it with my son every day. “So, so-and-so has so many people in their nuclear family, they have so many telephone numbers. This one has a plan. This one doesn’t have a plan, and four or five addresses are coming up for them.”
[David]: And they did that for every member of the gang.
[Diana]: With my son it was a much easier task because in a week we had found everyone in the gang and their phone numbers. These people, the main ones, I mean, the real heads of the gang, they have a lot of phone lines.
[David]: You can just go and do that because personal information is protected by Colombian law. But the SIJIN investigators knew what Diana was doing, and she and her son had the institution’s backing to access and share that information. The prosecutor was also updated on the situation. They were part of a very important legal investigation, and their collaboration was crucial.
Diana recorded all the information to hand it over to the SIJIN agents. She was just missing one thing: she needed Bimbo to tell her what had happened, but she couldn’t ask him so directly. First she had to come up with something.
[Diana]: All my ideas came to me day-to-day. I mean, it wasn’t like I was planning out today what to tell him tomorrow. And, I don’t know, everything was coming together, I mean everything. I didn’t take it out, I didn’t see it in a telenovela. I didn’t read it in a magazine, no. It all came together.
[David]: And very quickly. A week after they started talking, Bimbo posted on his Facebook that he was in a relationship with her. With that gesture, Diana was sure she had his trust. So it occurred to her to tell Bimbo that a friend of hers from the gang had told her that a man from Bosa had gone to buy drugs in Kennedy. And that the gang members were worried because no one knew him and they thought he might be an undercover cop. Bimbo asked if she knew the person’s alias so he could see if he knew them.
[Diana]: And I said, “They’re telling me his alias is El Picotazo.” El Picotazo is the recycler he was going to kill.
[David]: The investigators had given her that name…
[Diana]: He said, “Oh, yeah, I know him.” When he said, “I know him,” I said, “I’ve got him.” He said, “Yes, I used to sell him drugs, and a year ago I spared him his life.
[David]: Diana asked him for the details, but Bimbo started being evasive and she didn’t push it because she didn’t want him to get suspicious. The next day, she pretended to be very angry with him. She ignored him or gave him very basic responses. So, Bimbo asked her what was wrong.
[Diana]: I said, “No, it’s just I don’t like lies. You told me that had happened… the thing with that Picotazo guy had happened a year ago, and this guy came again, and my friends were talking with him, and he told them a different version of the story. I want to know what happened.”
[David]: Bimbo admitted that it had been in February of that year, three months earlier. He explained that his boss had sent him to collect money from the recycler for drugs, and that if he didn’t pay, he had to kill him. Bimbo told her that the recycler had started running, and that when he went to shoot him, the gun didn’t work. Someone who was at one of the houses saw what he was doing and was closing the door to his garage.
At that moment, Bimbo told Diana…
[Diana]: “So I decided to kill him instead of Picotazo, because he was a snitch and witness. And you know that you can’t leave witnesses to a turn. The truth is that this guy was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
[David]: That guy was Giovani.
Diana couldn’t believe it. Bimbo was confessing to Diana’s boyfriend’s murder in writing, and on top of that, he was doing it as if it was routine, an occupational hazard.
[Diana]: I asked him if he regretted it and he told me he didn’t, that he never regretted anything he did. And he didn’t want to talk about it anymore because it had already happened.
[David]: Diana didn’t push any further. She already had what she wanted: now the recycler’s, the taxi driver’s, and the SIJIN investigators’ stories all matched.
[Diana]: That was a very hard day for me: reading what he said to me. And the first thing I did was go to Giovani’s parents’ house to tell them: “Look, I have the proof I have been looking so hard for.” That day the three of us cried. It was a tri… a triumph amid so much pain.
[David]: The next day, Diana went to see the investigators to hand over all the information she had gathered: names, relatives, phone numbers, addresses.
[Diana]: When I sat them down, they only sat and listened to me for about an hour. When I finally got to him, I told them: “And I have the… the statement in which he confesses that he killed Giovani.”
[David]: She gave them the conversation with Bimbo. Printed out.
[Diana]: They told me that it did work, but that any lawyer could tear it apart. Because any lawyer could say that I had made it up. If I managed to get the… the confession, but in audio, because the voice was easier, they could compare it and they’d know that it was him because I couldn’t fake his voice.
[David]: And they also told her that they needed her to get more information about the gang, like places where they sold drugs, names of new members, and other things about their business.
[Diana]: So I told them OK, well, if that’s what I had to do, well, I was going to keep at it.
[David]: So Diana continued having a relationship with Bimbo. She would worry about him and ask him about his family. When he offered to go to her house, Diana told him that her dad didn’t let her have visitors as a kind of punishment for her sentence. But she would promise that they were going to see each other in late July because supposedly a judge was going to set her free on that date. When that happened, she assured him that they were going to have a life together, and they even planned to have kids.
She had to keep up the act really well, so when Bimbo started to ask for photos, Diana sent pictures of that other person so she could trick him. But when he started asking for nude photos, Diana told him that her ex had abused her and had forced her to have sex for money, and she felt very insecure. The most she could do was send him photos in her underwear without showing her face.
But she did send romantic pictures, poems, songs. He did the same thing on his Facebook page and tagged her. She responded with very loving comments.
[Diana]: Sometimes I felt like I was betraying Giovani’s memory, in a way, because I was telling him I loved him. And for me, telling him that I loved him was terrible.
[David]: They spoke every day and the routine was always the same: they started talking around noon. Then, at four in the afternoon, Bimbo would go to sell drugs and do other things with the gang, and since he didn’t have his phone during that time, they would connect again the next morning. All of this was really affecting Diana.
[Diana]: Sometimes I cried, sometimes I would throw myself to the ground in a fit. And I was always alone in the morning because my kid always came after three in the afternoon. I mean, I had my mornings open so I could cry, throw fits, whatever I wanted, but by the time my kids came I had to get myself under control, because I didn’t want my children to see me like that.
[David]: They knew what their mom was doing, and even though they didn’t do much to step in, they told her to be careful. Diana didn’t tell them what she was talking to him about because she didn’t want to worry them, and they didn’t ask her. But what was certain was that Bimbo was telling her all of the details of her criminal life. Diana, of course, passed that information along to the investigators.
[Diana]: So they started, the SIJIN agents, started to… to track everything I put in front of them. They started to have people followed.
[David]: Different members of the gang. They couldn’t always do it themselves because they might raise suspicion, so again they asked Diana to help them. And again, she agreed.
Sometimes they called her to follow a gang member, record what they were doing, and confirm their address.
[Diana]: No matter what time. If I had to follow them at night, I did it at night; if it was during the day, it was during the day.
[David]: Sometimes she even followed Bimbo.
[Diana]: What was I interested in? Seeing who he talked with, how he moved, what he did. At the time he was still always talking to me: “Babe, I’m making dinner. Babe, I’m going out. It’s four already. I’m leaving.” Then I would say, “Where are you going to be?” “I’m going to be at such-and-such park selling.”
While he was saying goodbye to me, I was already ready to go in the street and since he lived two blocks away, I would arrive… when he was closing the door, I was already on the corner. I took my dog out, and I would bring my dog to the park where he was, but I would always keep my back turned to him.
[David]: And she didn’t have to camouflage herself much.
[Diana]: Like any passerby. I was cold in that regard. I always went dressed differently: I look very different in my uniform, if I wear my hair up I look different, if I wear it down I look different, if I wear heels I look different. So I always look very different.
[David]: She followed the other gang members from the spots where they sold drugs from their bars to their houses. She even went in her hospital uniform to the addresses she had recorded, she would tell the neighbors that she was coming from the hospital to check a baby’s vaccines or some medical treatment, and asked if the person she was looking for lived at the address she had.
People confirmed the locations and so she was able to figure out exactly where the slipperiest members of the gang lived. The ones who had escaped the SIJIN agents for two years.
While she was tailing people, Diana went back to Bimbo and asked him to buy a phone so he could send her audio messages.
[Diana]: I told him that I was very tired and I wanted to hear him. He did buy the phone and in a few days we started talking on his phone. So he was sending me voice messages.
[David]: One day, in late June of 2017, four months after Giovani’s murder, Diana felt worse than ever.
[Diana]: I remember that day I felt worse than any of the other days. That day I refused to talk to him. I didn’t want to know more about that guy anymore. It hurt my soul to have to tell him I loved him every day. That guy was writing to me and writing to me. I refused to answer.
[David]: The next day, when Diana was feeling up to it again, she answered saying she was very upset because she had learned that one of her dad’s employees was related to the person he had killed.
[Diana]: “It’s a small world,” I wrote, “My dad’s worker is a relative of the guy you killed. And hearing him talk about that day, in tears, seeing him cry,” I told him, “that was terrible for me. I can’t deal with this. How did you get the idea to kill him? I don’t know what to believe anymore. I don’t know if you’re really telling me the truth or what kind of person I want to build a future with, because I want a future with you.”
[David]: She told him that she had looked into it a little and had realized that the man he killed worked in a hospital in Bosa. Then, Bimbo responded. This is the voice message he sent her…
[Robinson Murillo]: I haven’t told you many versions, babe. But then that… They told me he was a taxi driver, he was a taxi driver, he was a taxi driver. But so you know: yes, he was a nurse.
[David]: You can’t hear it very well, especially because toward the end he seems to be yawning, but Bimbo tells her that someone assured him that the man was a taxi driver, but it turns out he was a nurse.
Diana responded saying something like this:
[Diana]: “You didn’t realize he was with someone else? He was with his wife.” That’s how I said it. “You could have killed another innocent person.”
[David]: Bimbo said he had…
[Robinson Murillo]: Yes, he was supposed to… the guy was walking in with the woman.
[David]: But he didn’t show any guilt.
[Robinson Murillo]: There was nothing I could do, I didn’t even know the guy or anything because I was… I was after the guy with the cart. And I didn’t even get a chance to see the woman because when I saw them open the door, they drove in and everything. I was on the corner.
[David]: Then he told her, whatever the case may be, his version of the story was the same:
[Robinson Murillo]: But the versions of the story aren’t changing at all. The… the guy with the cart was there… I mean, the guy with the cart showed up and he pushed the cart there. I mean, the car was there to the side and he came and stood by where the man was.
[David]: The guy with the cart is the recycler. Bimbo says he left the cart , or the shopping cart with the recycling, in front of the witness’s house. Then what we already know happened: when Bimbo tried to shoot, the gun didn’t work and the recycler took off running.
[Robinson Murillo]: I got there and I ran to the other corner, and that was when he saw me.
[David]: He’s saying: “And I got there and I ran to the other corner, and that was when he saw me.”
[Robinson Murillo]: And I’m at the door and the man comes and closes the door while I shoot. I shot the door four times through the window.
And that was everything. I’m not giving you a fake version or anything. And what I’m telling you is the truth. And I’m not telling you any lies.
[David]: I’m not telling you any lies, Bimbo clarifies.
Then he explained that one of the reasons the police hadn’t done anything to him was because of what he did with the gun.
[Robinson Murillo]: I mean, I had already gotten rid of the weapon, the murder weapon, and what they needed was the murder weapon. The weapon was… I mean, I gave it to one… one of the guys I work with and he… and they took it away… to. where?… away, outside of Bogotá.
[David]: Diana asked him to tell her if anyone had ordered him to kill Giovani. If he had been paid to do it.
[Robinson Murillo]: No, babe. They were killing me… they were paying me to kill one guy, but you know that when there are witnesses you can’t let the witnesses live.
[David]: Bimbo confessed, also over voice message, to three murders he had committed. The first had been in Medellín. He doesn’t say the exact date, but he says he lived there and he didn’t have any money and was having a hard time. So someone offered him money to kill someone. He doesn’t specify who.
[Robinson Murillo]: That came my way and I did it and I came here. They paid me there to… so I could come here. And that’s cheap, it’s 200,000 pesos that… 250,000 pesos get you that there. That’s what they pay for a hit there.
[David]: That’s about 70 dollars.
The second was in Bogotá. He killed a guy around his age because of a personal fight.
[Robinson Murillo]: The woman I was with before was… cheating on me with him. And one day I was drinking and right then the guy shows up, and I say, “Come, right now, say it to my face, my girlfriend is cheating on me with you isn’t she, and blah blah blah.” And the guy came and said to me: “Yes, well, I did eat your woman, and this and that”. And he laughed in my face. So, I grabbed a knife and stabbed him twice in the chest, one of the stab wounds punctured his heart and the other one got his lung. That was what happened, babe.
[David]: He told her that they were alone when it happened and they found his body next to a bridge. Then he clarified that no one knew that he had done it.
[Robinson Murillo]: No, babe, no one found out, no one, no one knows. You’re the only one who knows.
[David]: The third murder was in a town that’s very close to Bogotá called Soacha. It was during fight over a drug deal.
[Robinson Murillo]: I got in a shoot out there in Soacha Compartir. Some guys were trying to take control of the area, and well then… and then me and another guy started shooting at each other… and I killed him. That was it.
[Diana]: He talks as if, I don’t know, you step on a cockroach and leave it there. He speaks without any morals. And what I wanted was to demonstrate, with what he was telling me, that he was the one who shot. Because he told me himself that he couldn’t leave witnesses. In other words, he was aware of what he was doing. He used all five of his senses to do the harm he did to us.
[David]: Diana saved all of the audio files on a flash drive and gave them to the investigators. With all the evidence she sent them over those months, the Attorney General’s office authorized the arrest of 13 members of the gang Los Moros. It was late July 2017, before dawn. But Diana wasn’t going to let that happen without seeing it herself. She went with the SIJIN agents to see for herself those people captured.
[Diana]: I didn’t sleep that night. I went with them every step I could. They recorded it. From a helicopter, they sent it to me, and I was on land. It’s like a movie, and it’s very serious. You can hear the helicopter. They knock down the door. They go in. They throw everyone to the floor. They read them their rights. They check the whole house to see if there are weapons, guns, things like that.
[David]: Bimbo was with them.
[Diana]: They took him out in handcuffs, and put him in the car, and took him away. Smiling the whole time. They didn’t care.
[David]: Because they know that those arrests first have to be authorized by a judge, and if there isn’t enough evidence, they can go free. In December of the previous year, 2016, they had already been captured, and for precisely that reason, they were set free.
So on the one hand, Diana was relieved after the five months of so much effort and having finished her work on the investigation. But she also knew that she still couldn’t declare victory.
The next day, they had the first hearing. Diana was there with Giovani’s parents to know what the judge would decide.
The gang members didn’t look scared.
[Diana]: They were shoving each other. Giving each other pats on the back. Every once in a while the judge had to say “order in the court,” or this or that. They laughed because they thought they didn’t have any evidence.
[David]: Surely they were thinking about what had happened the previous December.
[Diana]: And they thought that this time would be the same: that they had captured them again on July 27th, and the next day they could be leaving.
Thank God, I have never seen a woman as determined in her work as that prosecutor.
[David]: Diana knew who she was and knew that she was the person in admitting all the evidence she collected, but she’d never seen her. That day, before the hearing started, the prosecutor went up to her and said,
[Diana]: “It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m the prosecutor for the 47th circuit. I’m the one who will be leading this case. You’ll see that none of these criminals is going to get out today, and that’s a promise,” she told me. And with determination as soon as I started to cry she said to me, “Calm down, don’t give them satisfaction.”
[David]: At the hearing, the prosecutor read every one of the arrestees everyone one of the crimes they were there to address. Bimbo was accused of aggravated conspiracy to commit with the intent to traffic drugs, trafficking, manufacturing, or possession of firearms or munitions, and homicide, including Giovani’s murder.
The next day, she presented the evidence against each of them, and that was when…
[Diana]: They stopped laughing as much. When they started pulling up recordings of conversations, when they started to… to put on screen the videos of them selling.
[David]: When Giovani’s case came up, she read the written statements from the recycler and the taxi driver who picked up Bimbo. Then she read Diana’s written statement about what happened that night. And they told them what happened after that: that this person had contacted Bimbo over social media, and in addition…
[Diana]: She got him to fall in love with her and got all the information from him.
And they played the audio.
[David]: In which he confesses to the murder.
[Robinson Murillo]: And this guy closed the door and was locking it when I shot him.
[Diana]: When he first heard his own voice, he threw himself to the floor and held onto his head. And the other hooligans, of course, the others were hitting him. They were saying: “This fag, sonofabitch, snitch,” in the middle of the hearing.
All I felt toward him was an intense anger. I am still in a lot of pain.
The act of seeing him means…. means reliving that moment. Seeing that cynical face of his, hurts a lot.
[David]: And she also noticed how angry Bimbo was in that instant, but most of all how disappointed he was.
[Diana]: I don’t know what he would be thinking. I think it never crossed his mind that the person who he had been talking to for three months, who was his girlfriend and who he was going to have kids with, was the person who had gotten that information from him. Not just Giovani’s murder, but the other murders, and everything the gang was doing.
[David]: And just then, without his knowing that she was watching, Diana felt like she had accomplished what she wanted.
[Diana]: My first goal was to get the truth, my second was to get my revenge. The only future he saw was the future I offered him at the time on social media. I really took advantage of the situation, and got him to fall in love with me. And in a way I took away the one thing he loved so much, which was Leonela. Leonela never existed. There was no love. There was no future. There weren’t going to be any kids. There wasn’t going to be anything.
[David]: In a way, Diana did the same thing he had done to her: she robbed him of his dreams, of his future.
In the end, the judge authorized the arrest of the 13 gang members and ordered them to continue their trial in jail. Sometime later, two of the women in the gang were set free because they had small children, though they had to continue the trial. According to Diana, the leader of the gang ended up reaching a deal with the Attorney General’s office for having helped to take down another gang, and continuing to provide information, so they let him go free and lifted the charges.
Bimbo’s trial went on for almost two years because of deferred hearings and other bureaucratic issues. In all that time, Diana had to help the new prosecutor in charge to organize the whole case, to classify evidence, to identify who was in the gang, to reconstruct the crime. Bimbo ended up accepting the charges.
And on May 24th of 2019 he was sentenced to 18 years in prison. The last thing he wrote on her Facebook profile, almost a year before his sentencing, was: “I’m not dead.”
[Daniel]: Bimbo is now facing a new trial for another of the homicides. According to the law, if he studies, works, and has good behavior in prison, his sentence could be reduced, and he could get out early. But people only have access to this benefit if they indemnify their victims.
When we closed this story, Giovani’s parents, who are direct victims of Bimbo’s, were in the process of demanding monetary reparation. According to Diana, that amount would be more than 210,000 USD. But really, they don’t intend on getting any money, but since they know he can’t pay them, he’ll have to carry out his full sentence.
Diana doesn’t work in the hospital anymore and left Bosa to protect her children from possible reprisals from the gang. Currently, she isn’t afraid for her safety, and she even continues to help investigators get information in similar cases. She changed the name on her fake Facebook profile, and even though she hasn’t used it since, it’s still open so she doesn’t lose the evidence of the murder.
David Trujillo is a producer with Radio Ambulante. He lives in Bogotá.
This episode was edited by Camila Segura and me. The sound design is by Andrés Azpiri with music by Rémy Lozano. Andrea López Cruzado did the fact-checking.
The rest of the Radio Ambulante team includes Lisette Arévalo, Jorge Caraballo, Victoria Estrada, Miranda Mazariegos, Patrick Moseley, Laura Rojas Aponte, Barbara Sawhill, Elsa Liliana Ulloa, and Luis Fernando Vargas. Carolina Guerrero is the CEO.
Radio Ambulante is a podcast by Radio Ambulante Estudios, and it’s produced and mixed on the program Hindenburg PRO.
Radio Ambulante tells the stories of Latin America. I’m Daniel Alarcón. Thanks for listening.