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Police Arrest Man Who Worked at Ranch Where 13 Bodies Unearthed

February 15, 1991

MATAMOROS, Mexico (AP) _ A man arrested on charges he took part in a drug ring that killed at least 13 people, some of them in occult rituals, is denying any wrongdoing, a court official says.

Baudelio Chavez Lopez, 49, who faces homicide and other charges, is the ninth person arrested in the case. Authorities said three more suspects are still fugitives.

Chavez told authorities it has been years since he worked at the ranch where 13 bodies were found two years ago, Jose Elias Gallegos Benitez, an official at a federal court in Matamoros, said Thursday.

He also said Chavez denied working for the drug ring and did not know he was wanted by the law.

Authorities allege Chavez worked for the drug ring at Rancho Santa Elena just south of the Rio Grande until bodies were discovered there in April 1989. Two other bodies discovered at a nearby farm also are believed to be victims of the same ring.

Chavez was working in an automobile body repair shop when police arrested him Saturday in the border city of Rio Bravo, about 40 miles west of Matamoros, said Jose Gabriel Andrino Hernandez, commander of the Mexican Federal Judicial Police in Matamoros.

Some members of the family that owned the ranch are charged in the case, accused of being principal figures in a criminal organization headed by the late Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo. Constanzo has been described as the cult’s charismatic ″godfather.″

The Miami-born Constanzo and his accomplices killed rival drug dealers and innocent victims, police say. Some of the victims allegedly were sacrificed in rituals designed to protect the smuggling operation with spirits invoked through the Afro-Caribbean religion Palo Mayombe.

Constanzo and an associate were killed by another member of the ring, purportedly at Constanzo’s orders, while police were closing in on their Mexico City hideout in May 1989.

Chavez was in a state prison in Matamoros on Thursday. His attorney, Cesar Ceballos Blanco, wouldn’t comment. Charges include homicide, kidnapping and drug trafficking.

Eight others had already been arrested in connection with the murders. Six are in jail, one was released on bail and another died of AIDS while in jail. Three more suspects are fugitives, authorities said.

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