Flor Alba Núñez Vargas

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A gunman shot Flor Alba Núñez Vargas in front of the radio station La Preferida Estero where she worked in the southern city of Pitalito, according to news reports. Col. Santiago Camelo, the police commander of surrounding Huila state, said Núñez was shot once in the back of the head and died at a local hospital.

Footage captured the murderer firing the shot before fleeing the scene with an accomplice on a motorcycle.

Núñez, 25, hosted an hour-long daily news program called Red Noticias (Network News) at La Preferida Estero station. She also reported for the local Channel 6 station and was a correspondent for Nación TV, based in Neiva, the capital of Huila state. Hugo Joven, the director of La Preferida Estero, told CPJ that Núñez had not told anyone at the station that she had been threatened.

On September 26, 2015, authorities arrested Juan Camilo Ortiz, who was the suspected gunman, in the nearby town of Los Palmiros, according to news reports. The Attorney General’s Office charged him with murder the following day.

Initially investigators said Núñez could have been killed because in a radio broadcast she criticized a decision by a local judge to release Ortiz from jail in early September, the national daily El Tiempo reported. Ortiz had been accused of attempted murder of a resident and arrested in July. He was released without charge in early September. He had previously served more than two years in prison for illegal possession of firearms, El Tiempo reported.

In late 2015, investigators said they believed Ortiz was acting on the orders of a third party, according to local news reports. According to court reports cited by the daily El Espectador Ortiz was accused of being been paid about 6 million Colombian pesos (US$1,800) to commit the murder.

Investigators said the motorcycle suspected of being used as the getaway vehicle was found in the house of one of Ortiz’s family members, El Tiempo reported. Police named Jaumeth Albeiro Flórez as being the suspected driver, according to news reports.

María del Carmen Villalba, Nuñez’s colleague at Nación TV, told CPJ that Nuñez had reported on the arrests and trials of drug traffickers and other local criminals and that many of her recent reports had sparked controversy and that she had received threats. The Bogotá-based Foundation for Freedom of the Press, or FLIP, said one possible motive for the murder was that Nuñez had recently posted photos on her Facebook page of a criminal band that carried out robberies in Pitalito.

Villalba told CPJ that in August 2015 Núñez reported on how several men in Pitalito, who claimed to have been attacked by a bull terrier, hung the dog from a lamppost. Núñez also posted pictures of the dog and its alleged killers, whom she later interviewed, on her Facebook page. The story went viral in Colombia, and Núñez began receiving threats from the alleged killers, Villalba told CPJ.She said animal rights activists were also upset with Núñez for having interviewed the dog’s alleged killers.

In October 2015, the Attorney General’s office obtained an audio file from a WhatsApp message in which Núñez accused political leaders in Pitalito of bribery and corruption, according to press reports.

In August 2017, a criminal court found Ortiz guilty of murdering Núñez, and a month later sentenced him to 47 years in prison, according to news reports. In March 2018, Colombia’s Attorney General’s office arrested Flórez and charged him with aggravated homicide and illegal possession of arms in connection with Núñez’s murder, according to the attorney general’s website. According to the reports, Flórez drove the motorcycle carrying Ortiz when he shot Núñez.

In January 2020, a criminal court convicted Flórez for Núñez’s murder, and sentenced him to 39 years in prison, according to news reports.

Also in January, the Criminal Chamber of the Superior Court of Neiva confirmed Ortiz’s prison sentence, according to news reports.

As of January 2020, authorities had not publicly identified a motive for Núñez’s murder or the person who may have ordered it.