Investigation, Manhunt Continue in Drug-Cult Murder Case
BROWNSVILLE, Texas (AP) _ The international investigation of a murderous cult of suspected drug smugglers continued Wednesday, officials said, but the reported high priest and priestess of the group remained at large.
Fifteen people found last month buried west of the border city of Matamoros, Mexico, are believed to be victims of the drug gang. Some of the dead were mutilated in human sacrificial rites intended to bring magical power to the contraband business, officials and suspects said.
Four of the five men in custody in Matamoros said the cult leaders were Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo, 26, and Sara Aldrete Villarreal, 24. Constanzo and Ms. Aldrete, missing since the first 12 bodies were uncovered April 11, are among 11 people indicted in the United States on a four-count drug indictment.
The pair flew from McAllen to Mexico City on April 11, officials have said. In the Mexican capital, the investigation has led to searches of residences where occult altars were found.
Only one of the 11 indicted in the United States, Serafin Hernandez Rivera, 45, of Brownsville, is in U.S. custody. Hernandez, who has pleaded innocent, is being held without bond, awaiting a trial set for May 30 in Brownsville.
Oran Neck, agent-in-charge with U.S. Customs in Brownsville, said U.S. officials daily discuss the investigation with the Mexican Federal Judicial Police.
″In fact, I have two people over there right now talking to them,″ Neck said Wednesday.
He said in the United States, the probe continues to involve the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Cameron County Sheriff’s Department and customs.
″Every day we’re getting more stuff together on the case,″ Neck said.
Cameron County Sheriff’s Lt. George Gavito also said the manhunt continued Wednesday. ″We’ve gotten some leads,″ Gavito said.
Comandante Juan Benitez Ayala, of the Mexican Federal Judicial Police in Matamoros, was away from his office and could not be reached for comment Wednesday.