Plea deal criticized after man arrested in woman’s slaying

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ROME (AP) — The mayor of a northern Italian city on Sunday called for stiffer laws to protect women, a day after the slaying of a woman by her ex-boyfriend, who had recently been given a plea deal for repeatedly stalking her after their breakup.

Mayor Luca Vecchi of Reggio Emilia rallied fellow citizens for a silent sit-in in a city park where the body of Juana Cecilia Hazana Loayza, 34, and a native of Lima, Peru, was found a day earlier with her throat slashed.

“Italy can no longer ignore this grave problem” of femicide, the killing of women by current or past spouses or boyfriends or male relatives, said the mayor. ”We need stronger laws and more stringent controls.”

Mourners placed candles and flowers on a park bench. “Why does my freedom frighten you?” read a banner held by several woman during the memorial protest.

A 24-year-old Italian man, from the nearby city of Parma, was arrested hours after Hazana Loayza’s body, stabbed and showing signs of strangulation, was found, Italian media reported.

This month, a court opted to suspend the man’s two-year sentence for stalking her, despite two court orders to keep his distance, news reports said. Corriere della Sera reported that, with the plea deal, a previous order forbidding him to come near the woman no longer was enforceable.

Mirko Genco was arrested by Carabinieri paramilitary officers and his arrest was upheld after he was questioned by a prosecutor, Corriere della Sera said. It was not immediately known if he had a lawyer.

Hazana Loayza lived with her mother and a young son from a different relationship, news reports said. Apparently, she had dated Genco only briefly.

Sky TG24 TV reported that the suspect’s mother was slain in 2015 by her ex-companion, who first beat her, then immersed her in a tub of water before leaving her for dead at the entrance of their home.

To help abused women call for help, an Italian supermarket chain has begun printing the number of a nationwide telephone hotline at the bottom of its cash register receipts. The chain’s cashiers are also now sporting a big red metal button featuring the hotline’s number.

Mayor Vecchi said the sit-in aimed to remember Hazana Loayza, who had lived for several years in Reggio Emilia, but also “to seek justice” for her.

Women have struggled for years to eradicate deeply rooted patriarchal attitudes in Italian society. Until a few decades ago, Italian still courts meted out mild sentences to men who carried out “honor killings” or who slayed their partners out of jealousy.

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