Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Ciudad Juarez:The Serial Killer's Playground

Los Choferes

The first quarter of 1999 brought with it the usual catalog of carnage: at least eight more female victims. Abdel Sharifs trial for the murder of Elizabeth Castro began on March 3, but if authorities thought it would solve the case, they were sadly mistaken.

In the predawn hours of March 18 a 14-year-old girl staggered up to the door of a strangers home on the citys outskirts. Bloody and sobbing, she told her story of rape and near-murder. She said she had been assaulted and nearly choked to death by the hands of a maquiladora bus driver named Jesus Guardado Marquez. His nicknames were El Dracula and El Tolteca. A background check on Guardado revealed one prior conviction for sexual assault. By the time police went looking for him, he had vanished from Ciudad Juarez with his pregnant wife.

Authorities in Durango arrested Guardado a few days later. Guardado later claimed that he was beaten by police on arrival in Ciudad Juarez; the officers countered with claims that Guardado confessed to multiple murders and named four accomplices. The other men in custody were: Victor Moreno Rivera (El Narco), Augustin Toribio Castillo (El Kiani), Bernardo Hernando Fernandez (El Samber) and Jose Gaspar Cerballos Chavez (El Gaspy). All were maquiladora bus drivers, collectively dubbed Los Choferes (The Chauffeurs). Police claimed that Moreno was the ringleader of the rape-murder team, collaborating with Abdel Sharif in another copycat scheme intended to spring Sharif from prison.

Charged with a total of 20 murders, all the Los Choferes denied any role in the crimes. They said that there confinement was brutal, that they had been beaten, choked and shocked with electricity. It was the torture, they said, that accounted for their incriminating statements. The statements could not be trusted because they were given under duress. Sharif, for his part, denied any contact with Los Choferes and maintained his   innocence.

While police were convinced of their latest conspiracy theory, the facts contradicted the theory. The media reported in May 1999 that nearly 200 women had been murdered since 1993--a substantial jump over October 1998s body count of at least 117. Retired FBI profiler Robert Ressler had already come and gone from Ciudad Juarez, leaving more questions than answers in his wake. A team of active-duty G-men also tried their luck at profiling the Juarez Ripper, with no success. Steve Salter, the Mexican official who enlisted the FBIs help, told the Dallas Morning News, These homicides are up to a point where we have to do whatever is possible to resolve it.

With another desert summer approaching, police and civilians alike feared that the situation would only get worse.

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