‘The Asunta Case’ Recap & Summary Explained: Who Was Carlos Murillo?


The Asunta Case is a new crime thriller drama miniseries streaming on Netflix that is a direct adaptation of the infamous Asunta Basterra case from Spain. Through some plot and narrative deviations and some fictional retellings, the series presents the investigation that followed after a Chinese-born girl was found murdered in the Galician town of Teo. Although successfully solved by the police and the courts by 2015, the case still has a few seemingly inconclusive matters in it. The Asunta Case most definitely tries to play around with these very matters but is not really as effective or intriguing as it could have been.

Spoiler Alert

Who was Asunta Basterra?

Netflix’s The Asunta Case begins on September 21, 2013, in a moment of frenzy as a couple walks into a police station in the Galician city of Santiago, Spain. The couple was extremely worried about their only daughter, Asunta, being missing for quite some time now, and at around ten in the night, they finally decided to ask for help from the police. As the authorities listened, they were sure that tracking down the twelve-year-old girl would not be a difficult feat, for Asunta was actually of Chinese origin. Born in the Hunan province of China, Asunta was adopted by the Spanish couple in one of the earliest cases of international adoption in Galicia, so the girl’s physical features naturally stood out from the rest of the Spanish crowd. On the 21st night, during her desperate conversation with the police, Asunta’s adoptive mother, Rosario Porto, stated that the girl had been alone at her house doing homework while she had stepped out to run some errands. 

While the police found it a bit strange that Rosario was reporting the incident only after an entire hour had passed, this suspicion was answered by the fact that Rosario and her partner, Alfonso Basterra, had parted ways only a few months earlier and were living in separate apartments close by. Although Rosario and Alfonso had adopted little Asunta together as a couple, their relationship had ultimately broken down, but both wanted to stay close to their beloved daughter. While Asunta was officially staying with her mother, Alfonso had been living in a flat nearby, only so that he could spend enough time with his daughter. Therefore, Rosario had initially thought that the girl was visiting her father, and it was only later when Alfonso confirmed that he did not know of her whereabouts, that the two rushed to the police station.

The first place of investigation was Rosario’s apartment, but nothing significant could be found there. Similarly, Alfonso’s apartment was also searched by the police to see if there was any clue regarding where Asunta could have gone, but to no avail. However, only a few hours after the police began their official search for the missing girl, they received a call from two men in the Teo region, informing them that they had just come across the dead body of a young girl. The body was indeed identified to be that of Asunta, and in a strange turn of fate, the girl’s life, with a lot of bright promise as a student and as a piano player, suddenly ended. The manner in which Asunta’s body was found, with marks of tightly wound bonds on her legs and the very presence of some strands of orange-colored twine beside the corpse, made it clear that her death could not have been an accident. Thus, the police began an investigation into the murder of little Asunta, who could barely have any enemies who wanted to remove her from this world.

Could the orange twine lead the police to the perpetrator?

The orange-colored twine, some strands of which were recovered from beside the dead body, became the first major clue for the police in the entire case, as it led them in a specific direction. The exact spot where Asunta’s body had been dumped was not very far from Montouto, a small municipality where Rosario actually had a family country house. When the news of the girl’s body being found was broken to the parents, the mother, very strangely, stated, only now, that she had been to the country house in Montouto on that very evening in order to fetch some clothes of hers. Naturally, it seemed most likely that Asunta could go over such a far-away distance from her house in Santiago only with her parents, but Rosario and Alfonso stated that the girl had gone to the house with them quite a few months ago for the last time. 

When Investigating Judge, Luis Malvar, wanted to search this country house, matters became more sinister, as the parents suddenly seemed to be hiding too many things from the authorities. Upon arriving at the house, the police officer in charge of the scene noted that the alarm had been switched off once in the evening earlier, suggesting that Rosario was telling the truth about coming here. At this time, Rosario asked for permission to go to the washroom after the long and nervous journey, and she was obviously allowed to do so. But the officer was surprised that instead of going to the washroom on the ground floor, the woman started climbing up the stairs, moving towards the bedroom and the attached washroom there. Suspicious of what she might be up to, the officer followed Rosario and spotted her fiddling with a dustbin inside her bedroom. The shocking dustbin contained a fragment of an orange-colored twine, which was indeed very similar to the one found at the crime scene.

The police officer immediately detained Rosario for further questioning, and although she was released for a few days, the mother was once again arrested as the lead suspect in the murder of Asunta on the very day of the girl’s funeral. This marked the beginning of the parents, Rosario and Alfonso, becoming the lead suspects in the case, and the whole investigation remained targeted towards them since then. The manner in which the scene played out made it seem like Rosario had suddenly remembered about the remains of the twine in her bedroom, and she hurried to get rid of them when the police wanted to search the country house. The twine was examined, but the way in which it had been cut made it impossible to be proven to belong to the same reel with which Asunta’s legs had been tied. 

The police officials conducted thorough research on the twine and came to the conclusion that the exact quality of the twine reel was extremely rare in the area, suggesting that the strands found at the two spots, concerning the same murder case, were indeed related to one another. During the court trial, around a year later, the defense counsel tried to establish that the twine was quite common in the region, but this was quickly dismissed since their examination had been conducted only on the basis of the twine’s color. The defense wanted to prove that the twine, which was unrelated to the case, according to them, was the first instance of the police wrongfully suspecting Rosario and that the prosecution’s entire case was built on this very wrong idea. However, the twine, which initially seemed to be the most important clue in the case, could not be ultimately used by either side during the trial since it did not prove any theory, and no further evidence regarding it was found.

Who was Carlos Murillo?

When Asunta’s body was first found, certain traces of some human bodily fluid had been found on her t-shirt, which was immediately sent off for further analysis. This naturally made the police suspicious that the murder could have been an act of sex crime as well, and although the girl’s body did not immediately show signs of sexual assault, the angle was still kept in consideration. Eventually, when the fluid sample result came back, it was determined to be human semen, and the defense lawyers of Rosario and Alfonso jumped on this chance to claim that there was a third person involved in the matter. Soon, the semen sample was found to belong to a Colombian man named Carlos Murillo, and he even had a former case of sexual assault filed against him. For a moment, he became an important suspect in the case, with the theory that he had raped and killed Asunta.

The defense lawyers, Juan Jose Dominguez and Elena Garrido, tried to connect the sudden emergence of Carlos Murillo in the case with an incident that had taken place a few months earlier, in which a man had seemingly broken into Rosario’s house and had tried to kill Asunta. Although the lawyers wanted to probe whether Murillo could be the same man, it all ultimately ended up making the parents look all the more suspicious. When Murillo was questioned about his involvement in the murder, he readily cooperated and stated that the police case already in his name was a misunderstanding since the woman who had complained against him had originally given her consent before getting intimate. More importantly, Murillo claimed that he had been in Madrid on the night of Asunta’s murder, and all checks, starting from eyewitnesses at stores to photographs and credit card bills, proved that he was speaking the truth.

What seemed to have happened was a procedural error on the part of the forensics team, as a used condom from Murillo’s bedroom had been earlier collected as part of the investigation of his other criminal case. A semen sample from this piece of evidence somehow landed up on Asunta’s t-shirt, which was actually examined in the very same room not long after the condom was studied. The whole matter turned out to be an error made by the authorities, but this again worked against Rosario since she had never reported the incident of the break-in to the police. In fact, Asunta had even gotten bruises from being strangled by the supposed intruder, which a friend of Rosario’s saw as well, but the mother never reported the crime. In fact, the police found out that two dogs living in a neighboring flat, which always barked whenever anyone entered or exited the building, did not make any noise that night. Therefore, this incident was believed to have been the first attempt that Rosario took to kill Asunta, with or without the help of her ex-partner, Alfonso, but could not ultimately carry out.

What are the most probable theories behind Asunta’s murder?

Ever since the police suspected Asunta’s parents to be involved with her murder, the investigation gradually revealed more secrets about the couple, making it almost impossible to consider them to be innocent. Rosario Porto belonged to a very rich and esteemed family of lawyers in Galicia, and she herself had studied law too, making her quite a well-known figure. Her partner, Alfonso Basterra, had been a journalist by profession, but he no longer worked at the time of the major incidents. Around nine months before the murder of Asunta, Alfonso had found out that his beloved partner, Rosario, had been having an affair with a married man, and he was infuriated by this development. This was when the couple decided to split, and while Rosario already suffered from various mental health issues, these increased after this split. It was Alfonso who took up the responsibility of giving Rosario her lorazepam medicines for her anxiety, and incidentally, Asunta had been found to have consumed twenty-seven tablets of lorazepam on the day of her death. The daughter was indeed the only remaining link between the divorced partners, and Alfonso’s strict surveillance on Rosario might have pushed the woman towards the act.

There were mainly two probable theories with regard to the unusual death of Asunta, and both incriminated her parents. The first probability was that Rosario had carried out the entire act by herself, as she was struggling to deal with Alfonso’s reaction to her affair. Although the couple had separated, Alfonso still wanted to be with Rosario, and so he confronted her about having met her lover, Vicente, once again only a few days before September 21. As the confrontation took place on the 21st, Rosario was extremely hurt and occupied with the thought that she had wanted to take her own life by consuming numerous lorazepam tablets. She possibly mixed it all in a juice drink, and when Asunta asked for a drink at that very moment, she handed over the same glass to her daughter. Rosario was indeed found to have made such unmindful errors earlier, and in this manner, she drugged her own daughter. However, realizing what she had done, the woman then drove Asunta to her country house in Montouto, where she eventually suffocated the girl to death, ending her misery. Rosario then left the house and dumped the body in Teo before returning to Santiago and reporting her daughter to be missing.

The second possibility was that Alfonso was also very much involved in this plan, and it was all a premeditated decision by the couple. Although the exact motive behind the murder is still unclear, many theories, ranging from Asunta being the sole heiress to the wealth of her grandparents to Alfonso being a sexual predator and Asunta wanting to speak out against him, have been presented, but none have been proven. While security camera footage showed Rosario and Asunta driving towards Montouto on the 21st, it is possible that Alfonso was also present and hiding inside the car. The strange fact that Alfonso had also drugged Asunta about three months prior to her death with heavy doses of lorazepam probably meant that he was trying to test the efficiency of the drug against her.

Either way, both Alfonso and Rosario refused to say anything to the police and prosecutors, and they both resolutely defended each other despite having the chance to pin the blame on each other. Although they claimed to be innocent, their defense lawyers ultimately could not prove with substantiality that the charges against them could be refuted. Therefore, the Spanish court sentenced both Alfonso and Rosario to eighteen years in prison, each for having murdered their adopted daughter. While Rosario managed to commit suicide in 2020, Alfonso Basterra is still alive in prison, still claiming to be innocent in the case. 

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Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya keeps an avid interest in all sorts of films, history, sports, videogames and everything related to New Media. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies, he is currently working as a teacher of Film Studies at a private school and also remotely as a Research Assistant and Translator on a postdoctoral project at UdK Berlin.

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