Ciudad Juarez:The Serial Killer's Playground
By January 2003 published estimates of the body count ranged from nearly 100 to 340. No one tried to tabulate the missing anymore. The number of suspects was anyones guess. Some additional suspects were speculated about in press reports, including:
Angel Resendez-Ramirez - Awaiting execution in Texas, he remains a candidate for some of the Chihuahua murders. Both Candice Skrapec and profiler Robert Ressler have named him.
Pedro Padilla Flores - A former resident of Ciudad Juarez, convicted in 1986 for the rape-murders of two women and a 13-year-old girl. He confessed to other slayings but was not charged. Padilla escaped from custody in 1991 and remains at large.
Armando Martinez (AKA Alejandro Maynez) - Arrested in 1992 for the murder of a woman in Chihuahua City, he was accidentally released and subsequently vanished (along with his police file). Murder defendant Ana Benavides, accused of killing and dismembering a Ciudad Juarez couple and their child in 1998, claims Martinez committed the triple-murder and framed her for his crime.
Carlos Cardenas Cruz and Jorge Garcia Paz Former Mexican federal agents turned fugitives, they are sought for questioning in the 1998 disappearance of 29-year-old Silvia Arce and 24-year-old Griselda Mares, who was allegedly killed by police in a mistaken dispute concerning stolen guns.
Pedro Valles - He was assigned to investigate the Ciudad Juarez murders when he killed his girlfriend at the state police academy in 1998. He remains a fugitive.
Dagoberto Ramirez - Another Ciudad Juarez policeman, fired in 1999 after he was accused of murdering his lover. Ramirez was released after he claimed that the woman had committed suicide. Police officials did not reinstate him.
Julio Rodriquez Valenzuela - The former police chief of suburban El Sauzal, accused in April 1999 of attempting to rape a 16-year-old girl near the site of two previous murders. Chihuahua authorities report that he fled to El Paso or New Mexico, and he remains at large.
Sergio Hernandez Pereda - A Chihuahua state policeman until 1997, he fled the next year shortly after his wife was murdered. He remains a fugitive.
Melchor Baca A former federal policeman who has been on the lam for eight years. He fled after killing a male friend of his wife at the courthouse where they both worked.
Also rushing to fill the vacuum are the conspiracy theories. Among them:
Satanic cults - Reviving memories of the drug-cult murders committed by followers of Adolfo Constanzo at Matamoros in the 1980s, some Chihuahua residents profess to see an occult hand at work.
Organ harvesters - An urban myth echoed in a few movies and novels, it has grisly resonance in Ciudad Juarez. Rumors claim that vital organs were removed from some of the victims.
The Police - At least ten women in Ciudad Juarez have accused police officers of kidnapping and sexual assault in the past five years. No charges have been filed. But investigators do say they suspect an unnamed policeman in the 1995 murders of 29-year-old Elizabeth Gomez and 27-year-old Laura Inere.
Drug cartels - Authorities suspect that some of Chihuahuas murdered and missing women were addicts or small-time smugglers, executed because they knew too much. An FBI report last November blamed unnamed narco-traffickers for the February 2001 torture slaying of 17-year-old Lilia Garcia, found 100 yards from the spot where eight other victims were discovered in November 2002.
Wealthy sadists - Some lawmen still blame the murders on a cabal of rich and powerful men whose wealth makes them untouchable by the police.
As for Abdel Sharif, problems with evidence in the case of Elizabeth Garcia won him a judicial review in February 2003. The murder conviction was upheld, but Sharifs 30-year sentence was cut to 20. Both sides vowed to appeal the ruling, and prosecutors claimed that Sharif might be charged with additional murders.
Despite all the suspects, all the conspiracies, all the reassuring words from public officials, it is clear that the case is nowhere near resolution. The only thing that will come from this state of affairs is more bodies in the desert.