Netflix's latest compelling documentary, Murder by the Coast, sheds a light on how bias and heightened media attention can sway the narrative of a murder trial. The Spanish-language film, which dropped on the streamer on June 23, centers around the 1999 disappearance of Rocío Wanninkhof from her hometown in Costa del Sol.
The 19-year-old went missing while she was walking from her boyfriend's house to her own home, and she was found dead in an area less than 20 miles away about a month later.
Maria Dolores "Loli" Vázquez, who had a long-term relationship with Rocío Wanninkhof's mom, Hilaria "Alicia" Hornos, was identified as a suspect early on. Though she had an alibi for the night of Rocío Wanninkhof's disappearance, there was a lack of evidence to link her to the crime scene, and she reportedly had a positive relationship with Alicia Hornos' children, Loli Vázquez was arrested.
The Netflix documentary details the crime, how Vázquez was unfairly portrayed throughout the trial, and how another murder ultimately helped to exonerate her.
'Murder by the Coast' covers Maria Dolores "Loli" Vázquez's arrest and her trial.
After Rocío Wanninkhof's body was found in early November of 1999, there was pressure in the village to identify the perpetrator. Because her body was in such an advanced state of decomposition, it was difficult to determine many factors about the crime, including whether she had been sexually assaulted.
However, there was a lot of evidence left behind, including fingerprints on bags located near the crime scene, tire marks from a car that was no longer produced, and clothing fibers on Wanninkhof's body.
The authorities believed that the positioning of her body was staged at the crime scene, so they identified "hatred and revenge" as motives.
They felt as though Wanninkhof's killer was someone who she knew, and that it was a "crime of passion" because she was stabbed multiple times. The investigators interviewed her loved ones, including Loli Vázquez.
Vázquez had a relationship with Alicia Hornos for years, and she had helped to raise her girlfriend's three kids. She continued living with Hornos and her children for years after their breakup.
A witness told the investigators that Vázquez had been seen stabbing one of Rocío Wanninkhof's missing posters. A narrative later emerged that Vázquez was jealous of the fact that her ex had moved on with a new boyfriend, and that she sought revenge by killing her daughter.
Vázquez's character was questioned, and she was portrayed as calculating, aggressive, and spiteful. Her sexuality was also the subject of a lot of media attention. Arguments were made that she was ashamed of her past relationship with Hornos, and that this could have caused her to be violent.
Though there wasn't evidence tying her to the crime, the attack to her character proved to be persuasive to the popular jury.
She was convicted of the killing in 2001, and she began serving out her 16 year sentence. In 2003, while Vázquez was behind bars, 17-year-old Sonia Carabantes was murdered, and the scene resembled what happened to Wanninkhof. The killer, who was later identified as Tony Alexander King, left behind DNA. It matched evidence from the Wanninkhof crime scene.
Where is Maria Dolores "Loli" Vázquez now?
Tony Alexander King was convicted of killing Sonia Carabantes and Rocío Wanninkhof in 2005 and in 2006, respectively. He confirmed that he carried out the latter murder alone, which exonerated Vázquez.
She was released from prison after serving 17 months, and the case was officially dropped in 2004. Though she did seek financial compensation for the miscarriage of justice, an agreement was never reached. Vázquez has not received money or an apology from the Spanish government.
There are reports the Vázquez now lives in the United Kingdom, but it's unclear where she is now. After dealing with such a high-profile trial, she likely is trying to lead a private life.
Murder by the Coast is available to stream on Netflix now.