Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Ciudad Juarez:The Serial Killer's Playground

Kill Zone

The arrest of Los Rebeldes changed nothing in Juarez. The brutal murders continued and community groups accused police of negligence or worse. At least 16 female victims were slain between late April and November 1996. Eight   remain unidentified. Five were stabbed, three shot, and one was found in a drum of acid. In several cases advanced decomposition made determinations about cause of death or sexual assault impossible.

The following year there were 17 unsolved murders of females. Again they ranged in age from 10 to 30 years, and seven of the dead were never identified. While rape was confirmed in only four cases, the position and nudity of several other corpses suggested sexual assault. In the cases where the cause of death could be determined, five   were stabbed, three were strangled, three shot, and two   beaten.

Statistically, 1998 was the citys worst year yet. There were 23 on the books by December. Six remained unidentified. The killings reflected the usual pattern of stabbings, stranglings, bullets and burning. Rocio Barrazza Gallegos was killed on September 21 in the parking lot of the citys police academy. She was strangled inside a patrol car by a cop assigned to the murdered women case. Authorities described the death of 20-year-old Rosalina Veloz Vasquez, found dead on January 25, as similar to 20 other murders in the city.

And indeed, by 1998 the long-running investigation had become a numbers game. In May, media reports referred to more than 100 women raped and killed in Ciudad Juarez. A month later, reports from the same source (Associated Press) raised the number to 117. In October 1998 another AP report placed the official body count at 95, while a woman's advocacy group, Women for Juarez, placed the total at somewhere between 130 and 150.

Mexicos Human Rights Commission issued a report in 1998 castigating the police. But politicians suppressed it to avoid any adverse impact on upcoming state elections. Still clinging to suspect Abdel Sharif, Attorney General Arturo Chavez told Reuters on June 10, 1998 that police think another serial killer may be at work due to similarities in three crimes this year. At years end, on December 9, the Associated Press reported: At least 17 bodies show enough in common--the way shoelaces were tied together, where they were buried, how they were mutilated--that investigators say at least one serial killer is at work. And 76 other cases bear enough similarities that investigators say one or more copycats may be at work.

In fact, all that anyone really knew was that the murders were continuing.

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