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Desperate Families Look for Missing Relatives among Cult’s Victims

April 15, 1989

MATAMOROS, Mexico (AP) _ Families who traveled hundreds of miles from across Mexico viewed mutilated corpses on Friday to learn whether their missing loved ones were among the 13 victims of a cult’s human sacrifices.

″From all over the country, families have been coming here. They’re still coming,″ said Hector Olvera Garcia, an employee of a funeral home, El Rosario, where seven bodies were taken after being dug up at a ranch west of this border city.

Authorities found 12 bodies buried there Tuesday and forced one of the five suspects in custody to dig up the 13th victim on Thursday.

Investigators have used bulldozers and other heavy equipment to excavate more of the ranch, but did not find any more bodies, said Juan Benitez Ayala, chief of the Mexican Federal Judicial Police in Matamoros.

The suspects told police they killed 14 people because they believed it would protect them from harm. Authorities say they belonged to a bizarre cult that smuggled more than a ton of marijuana into the United States each week.

Five of the 13 victims had been identified by Friday, and federal charges were filed against four men in custody in Mexico; a man and a woman thought to be the cult leaders and believed to be in the United States and two newly indentified suspects also believed to be in the United States.

The four at large in the United States were Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo, 26, nicknamed ″the godfather;″ Sara Maria Aldrete, 24, ″the godmother;″ Olvidio Hernandez Rivera, 26; and Alvaro de Leon, in his early 20s.

Police on both sides of the border searched for the Constanzo and Aldrete, the suspected leaders of the cult who last were seen in Brownsville Tuesday.

Illinois State Police were given a description of the car Friday after authorities in Brownsville, Texas, just across the border from Matamoros, learned the pair have friends in the Chicago area.

″We think they might be coming this way,″ said Illinois State Police Master Sgt. Clifford Mann, who added that Constanzo, known as the cult’s ″godfather,″ and Ms. Aldrete, its ″witch,″ had not yet been seen.

Constanzo has homes in Miami and Mexico City.

The pall cast by the discovery of the gruesome human sacrifices remained most evident at the funeral homes in Matamoros.

More than 60 people came in search of missing relatives, Olvera Garcia said. His clothes smelled of decomposing flesh after he showed the bodies to several people looking for relatives who had disappeared in recent months.

The worst fears of the family of Ernesto Rivas Diaz, 23, came true.

″It’s something very sad,″ said Rivas Diaz’s brother, Efrain, who was picking up a death certificate for the young man who was exhumed from a shallow grave at the Santa Elena Ranch 20 miles west of Matamoros.

The certificate listed the cause of death as ″Irreversible lesion to a vital organ (brain).″

Police said most of the cult’s victims either died from blows with a machete or a hammer. Some suffered horrible mutilations, including the removal of brains and other organs in what suspects have described as sacrificial rites of a cult seeking magical protection for their drug-smuggling activities.

The body of Mark Kilroy, a 21-year-old University of Texas student, was returned to the United States on Thursday, officials said. His family returned to their hometown, Santa Fe, where a funeral mass is planned for Saturday.

The other identified victims were Victor Sauceda Galvan, 22, of Matamoros, Mexico; Ruben Vela Garza, 30, of La Pesca, Mexico, and Gilberto Garza Sosa, early 20s, nationality undetermined.

One woman, Maria Cristina Cobos, traveled nearly 1,000 miles from the southern city of Loma Bonita, Oaxaca, after reading news reports. Her son, Enrique Grau Cobos, 38, has been missing since Nov. 27. She did not find him at El Rosario, and went with her daughter to another funeral home where other victims remained.

″Not knowing where he is is worse than finding him dead,″ said Mrs. Cobos, 71, dressed in black, her eyes filling with tears. ″It’s unbearable.″

Jose Luis Martinez, a Mexican living in Brownsville just across the Rio Grande, said relatives of his missing cousin, Francisco Martinez, 22, were traveling from the western state of Durango.

Martinez disappeared in Matamoros two months ago, he said.

″We’re here to see if he might be one of them,″ Martinez said. ″The family needs to know.″

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