Anna Marie Arguello
This is one of the more odd cases that I have come across. Of course we have all heard about cases that have been prosecuted without a body being found and this is one of them but I am not sure that I have seen very many in which there is little proof that there was an actual murder. Now, that does not mean that I do not think that there were suspicious things in the case against Anita Vega and that she should not have been charged with anything. Another thing I found interesting was the fact that it is alleged to be one of the most gruesome crimes and yet little can be or has been verified. Details are sketchy and disputed by some. And, when I say sketchy I mean it seems no one can agree when the crime even happened.
I have lived in Indiana my entire life and so I found it interesting that I had never heard of this case. In 1994 when this case went to trial I was living in Indianapolis, just less than an hour south of Frankfort where the alleged crime took place. In fact, much of the information I found through articles came out of Indianapolis because not only was it fairly close but it was also the largest city in the state, let alone nearby. I stumbled across this case when doing a search of notorious cases in different states.
In September 1992 a woman by the name of Margarita Booth walked into a police department in Lafayette Indiana to report a murder. She would claim that reoccurring nightmares had brought her to the station and that the murder she was reporting had occurred in either 1969 or 1970. The only other way to narrow down a time was that the ground allegedly to hard to dig, at least that is what Margarita would claim she heard her stepfather, Luis Vega say. Luis had already apparently died, but that was ok because Margarita was only accusing him of disposing of a body. She would claim that her mother, Anita Vega had committed the murder and the victim was her two year old sister, Anna Marie Arguello.
Allegedly on the day of the murder Anita had her oldest daughter, Margarita, stay home presumably to care for the youngest child while her other children went to school. I cannot say how many children there were at that time aside from nine year old Margarita and Anna Marie but, by 1994 it was said that Margarita had nine siblings alive, “three of whom” were in jail. One of the siblings that fell into the latter category was likely Luis Vega Jr., but he was not born until 1972, after Anna Marie had already died. But, Margarita's story was not dependent on how many siblings she had in 1970 or in 1994. The only sibling that matter that day was apparently two year old Anna Marie. She went on to claim that on that day Anita was punishing Anna Marie for wetting her bed. Margarita claimed that the punishment began with Anita hitting and kicking Anna Marie and then ordering Margarita to run a cold bath for the child. Margarita stated that instead of a cold bath she had run a warm one and Anita lashed out at her for that and made her start again. While this was being done Margarita claims Anita continued to beat Anna Marie for a period of five to ten minutes. When she was done the child allegedly had blood coming from her nose and mouth. After placing Anna Marie in what now had apparently turned into a cold shower Margarita was allegedly told to wrap the child in a towel or blanket and place her in what they called the cold room because there was no heat in the room. When the other children came home from school that day they were told that Anna Marie had died and that the funeral had occurred while they were at school. Later which her stepfather, Luis Vega (although he was yet married to Anita) and seeing him talk to her mother Margarita claims that he went outside, got a box and came back inside. As Luis was leaving the home carrying the box once more Margarita claimed she saw the towel in which Anna Marie had been wrapped in sticking out. A while later Luis returned home once again without the box and she overheard him tell her mother the ground was too hard to dig to bury anything.
There was another story that involved a bag, dirt and bones but it is not clear which, if either, of the stories was true and when it happened. Some versions say that upon his return on the night of the murder Luis had shown Margarita a bag that contained dirt and on top of it some bone fragments. She claims she was either told, or led to believe that the bones belonged to Anna Marie. In another version in 1985 Anita called Margarita to come to her home saying she had a surprise for her. When she got there Anita pointed to a brown sack. When Margarita opened the bag, seeing dirt with what looked like bones on top she dropped the bag, scream and left the house. She claims that a few months later she went back to the home and asked her mother about the bag. She was told that it was buried in a local cemetery and claimed that Anita took her to the cemetery and pointed to where the sack was buried.
Authorities admitted that the only real proof that Anna Marie even existed at all was a birth certificate issued in Michigan showing her date of birth as September 12, 1967 and a picture of the child given to Margarita by an aunt. As far as proof of her death there was even less. There had been no reports of any kind and definitely not a death certificate issued. But, authorities contacted law enforcement in the next county over to discuss the case. They did not make their way to talk to Anita Vega until June of 1993. When she was first interviewed Anita was asked the names of her children. When she did not mention a child named Anna Marie she was asked by investigators and Anita denied having a child by that name. When she was confronted with the birth certificate she continued to deny that child was hers. Then she finally confessed that she had had a child named Anna Marie but she denied that she had beaten or murdered the child.
Anita would go on to claim that after giving Anna Marie a shower she found her unconscious near a space heater. She said she wrapped her in a blanket and laid her on the bed until Luis came home. It appears that by this time the child had died. Anna claims that it was Luis who did not want to contact authorities as he was worried that being an illegal immigrant he would be sent back to Mexico. It was never made completely clear if Anita too was in the United States illegally or if this status only applied to Luis. At any rate Anita claimed that Luis put Anna in a box and took off walking towards a field near railroad tracks close to the family home. Apparently authorities were not buying the new story Anita was telling and eventually would charge her with involuntary manslaughter.
As is the case, the investigation continued right up until Anita's trial but Anna Marie's body was never found. Theoretically if Anita's story was true, and she had never had Luis show her where her child was buried, then only Luis, who was already deceased would have known.
It seems apparent that the area in which Margarita told authorities her mother told her the body was buried had been searched to no avail.
I cannot say for certain when Anita went to trial other than to say that it occurred in 1994. This is another reason that I find it odd that this case was listed as being a notorious case in the state. I have searched many cases before and after this time successfully and obtained many articles and yet I found few for this one. The defense apparently continued to argue what Anita had told authorities about finding Anna Marie not breathing and Luis not wanting to call authorities. They also claimed that Margarita had accused her mother because at some point Margarita had accused Luis Vega of molesting her and she did not feel as if her mother had supported her and taken her side in that issue. None of Anita's other children ever claimed they were ever abused and all proclaimed that Anita was a wonderful mother. Margarita was forced to admit that every one of her her nine siblings were now alienating her, one was quoted as calling Margarita her “ex-sister” while singing Anita's praises.
Despite the fact that it seemed the only evidence the prosecution had was the word of a woman who was nine years old when her sister was allegedly murdered by her mother and had waited nearly twenty-five years to tell anyone, it did not seem to be a hard case for the jury. They rendered a verdict of guilty in a matter of forty-five minutes. But, again, I found very little on a sentencing other than she was given 1-10 years based on the laws in 1969/1970. I did find an appeal from 1995 that was apparently denied and a cursory note that by January of 2000 she had “recently been released” from prison. However, I found nothing pertaining to her in the Indiana Department of Corrections despite the fact that they show current and past inmates. I first used the Vega name. There were several inmates by that name and this is where I found Luis Jr. He was released from prison in 2000 after his second conviction of rape. I then attempted to use the Arguello name thinking I could have possibly found Anita there. I did not, however I did seemingly find the other two siblings that were said to be doing jail time in 1994. I do believe it to be them based on their birth years and the fact they came out of Clinton County, where Frankfort is located. In 1989 Margarito Arguello Jr. was convicted on two counts of dealing cocaine and sentenced to two sentences of thirty years. He was released in 2001. Tony Arguello has a fairly long rap sheet. In 1989 he was convicted of theft and resisting arrest. In 1992 he was convicted of child molestation and in February of 2017 he was convicted again, this time in another county and on six counts of child molestation. He will spend the rest of his life in prison as his earliest release date is not until December of 2140.
In 2014 Mary Arguello Fickle passed away. In her obituary it stated her mother, Anita Vega as surviving her. Also listed were five brothers and two sisters, Margarita was not one of them. She was neither listed as a survivor or as preceding her in death. Using this information I also attempted to use the Department of Corrections website with Anita's maiden name of Cuevas. Mary was the sibling that had referred to Margarita as her “ex-sister.” Interestingly I noticed that Mary was born in September of 1968 which means she too would have been home on the day of Anna Marie's death, but obviously too young to remember anything.
I have to admit that this case troubles me. Not only did a jury, in my state no less, need less than an hour to convict a woman on the charge of murder almost solely on the word of her daughter, so much seems lost in this case. This is not a case that came to fruition that very long ago. Yes the alleged crime was committed more than forty years ago, but not the conviction. There should be much more information, including a record of Anita being in prison than I am finding. And, if somehow she was successful in an appeal or even on the off chance she was granted some sort of pardon or clemency there should still be information on that. And yet there is nothing.
Obviously something happened to Anna Marie Arguello but when and what is not clear.