Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

ROBERT K. RESSLER: TAKING ON THE MONSTERS

An Abundance of Victims

In Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, during the month of November 2001, eight women were found murdered and dumped in cotton fields. These killings appeared to be part of a decade-long wave of kidnappings and murders that had reportedly claimed nearly 200 victims. Since 1993, 50 bodies have turned up and dozens of men have been interrogated in this border town across from El Paso, Texas, but the murders continued. Many victims were young women who worked in assembly plants that supply the U.S.

Robert K. Ressler portrait (Louis Myrie/LMI)
Robert K. Ressler
portrait
(Louis Myrie/LMI)

In 1998, a women's group from Mexico City had brought media attention to the fact that nothing was being done about these murders. Authorities contacted Robert Ressler, criminologist and former FBI profiler, to get help narrowing down suspects in their investigation and to train their task force in the psychology of serial killers. Ressler went over all the documentation and concluded that not all of the murders were linked by similarities.

"They were talking in excess of 100 women at the time," he recalls, "and saying that someone was running amuck and had killed them all. When we sorted all the cases out, we ended up with 76 homicides of concern. I did a preliminary VICAP assessment and determined that a number were connected and a number were not. Some suspects were clearly family members and some were gang members. They had one guy in custody, an Egyptian national named Sharif Sharif who had a horrendous record in the United States for rape and assault, and when he was run out of the country, he started up again in Mexico. He was charged with a dozen homicides [but convicted in only one]. I also believed that some of the murders were done by peoplepossibly a teamcoming over the border from El Paso. So we also met with the El Paso police to get their cooperation."

Ressler set up a surveillance of the buses that let young female workers off at night. "I went behind the buses with cops and saw that they were dropping these women in dark locations. Anyone interested in abducting them just had to follow the buses. Some of the bus drivers knew the routes and they could easily come back later when they weren't driving to get these girls."

The following year, five bus drivers were arrested for thirteen of the murders and disappearances, and became suspects in five others.

In the most recent spate of killings, it was bus drivers once again. A witness identified a man he had seen dumping a body in the same field where seven others were then found. That led to the arrest of two bus drivers, Victor Uribe and Gustavo Gonzalez, who both confessed to kidnap, rape, and murder. One even said that he had killed three more, although those bodies were not located. Together these two men would get intoxicated and when they spotted a vulnerable woman, would force her into their van to rape and kill her.

While crime shows on television generally indicate clear patterns in serial homicide, criminal profiling can be complicated by many factors and only those with experience can come into a crime scene of such magnitude and provide helpful assistance.

 

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