Missing Woman's Family: 'We Just Want Her Home'

Maria Duchi holds a poster with her aunt, Lilia (Esperanza) Aucapina's photograph on it. Ms. Duchi spoke at a press conference about Ms. Aucapina's disappearance, along with Ms. Aucapina's brother, Victor Parra, left. Taylor K. Vecsey

The family of Lilia "Esperanza" Aucapina, the Sagaponack woman who went missing on Oct. 10,  are asking for the public's help to find her. 

"We just want her back home, that's what we want," said Ms. Aucapina's niece, Maria Duchi of East Hampton, at a press conference at Southampton Town police headquarters in Hampton Bays on Wednesday afternoon. 

It's been nearly 12 days since Ms. Aucapina, a 40-year-old mother of two, was reported missing. Lt. Susan Ralph said police have received information that a woman fitting Ms. Aucapina's description was seen walking west on Montauk Highway, as far west as Water Mill, on the day she went missing. 

Her last known whereabouts were in the parking lot of a medical complex on Montauk Highway in Wainscott on the morning of Oct. 10, when a male friend brought her there to pick up her car. Her estranged husband, Carlos R. Aucapina, soon showed up and confronted the man. She had an order of protection against him, and he was arrested in the days after she went missing, charged with violating that Family Court order.

Carlos Parra, a brother of Ms. Aucapina, was also present at the press conference, but declined to speak. He was among the last people to see her, as he was present during the confrontation on the morning she went missing. 

Her family reported her missing 12 hours later. 

Lieutenant Ralph declined to say whether police had any evidence to indicate a crime had taken place, or whether her husband was considered a suspect. She also would not comment on whether he had been cooperative in the investigation.

Police have searched in and around Sagaponack and Bridgehampton for her daily, with the use of all-terrain vehicles, K-9 units, and helicopters. Her family has been distributing posters around the South Fork and praying for her safe return. 

Her niece said the family's strong Christian faith is sustaining them. "We believe, you know, that's she safe, she's alive. . . . We just have faith," Ms. Duchi said, though she added, "we have our days where there is doubt." 

Ms. Aucapina, who has lived on the South Fork for 20 years since leaving Ecuador, was devoted to her children, ages 14 and 21, both honor roll students, her family said. "She's a good mom. Every event the kids had, anything, any little thing, anything at all, she would be there," Ms. Duchi said. "We're just very sad they have to have gone through this whole situation."

Her children are staying with Ms. Duchi's family, and she said they are trying to keep life as normal as possible for them.

"We're a very close family. Our bond is not just any type of family — we're very close to one another. We love one another. We look after one another," Ms. Duchi said. 

Through a translator, one of Ms. Aucapina's older brothers said he appreciated the community's help so far. "We just want them to do the same and a little more." He said the family is in shock over his sister's disappearance, "because she is a good woman, and we never expected she would not come home, and we have no explanation for it." 

Those with information may contact police at 631-702-2230 or email crimetips@southamptontownny.gov.

Maria Duchi said police are "working very hard to help us find my aunt." Taylor K. Vecsey