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Gunmen Shoot and Kill Federal Prosecutor Who Worked on Assassination Case

August 20, 1996

TIJUANA, Mexico (AP) _ Gunmen killed one of the first federal prosecutors to interrogate the man who assassinated Mexico’s leading presidential candidate in 1994, raising more questions Monday about the still-unresolved case.

The body of Jesus Romero Magana, 48, was found Sunday at the front door of his house, state police Cmdr. Antonio Torres Miranda said.

Romero was hit by 14 bullets from at least two weapons, apparently late Saturday night, Mexico City newspapers reported Monday.

There were no signs of a struggle, leading police to think Romero knew his killers. No arrests were reported, and police have not disclosed any possible motive.

Romero was the fifth senior federal law enforcement official from Baja California state to be shot to death this year. He had served as the attorney general’s liaison between federal and state law enforcement agencies in the northwest Mexican state.

Romero’s murder was expected to fuel conspiracy theories about the March 1994 killing of Luis Donaldo Colosio, presidential candidate of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party.

Many Mexicans suspect that Colosio was the victim of high-level conspiracy within the PRI. The party has been torn in recent years between reformers and hard-liners who want to maintain power at any price.

Colosio, seen as a reformer, had been expected to win the presidency. The PRI has not lost a presidential election since its 1929 founding.

Romero interrogated the confessed gunman, Mario Aburto Martinez, shortly after Colosio’s shooting at a Tijuana campaign rally. Aburto was later convicted and is serving a 40-year prison sentence.

Despite the gunman’s conviction, the Mexican government is determined to prove a conspiracy was behind the killing _ a goal that now has eluded three special prosecutors.

Romero’s questioning of Aburto was his only role in the Colosio case, according to El Sol de Tijuana newspaper. Romero had worked for the agency for 18 years, most of it in Baja California state.

Police have yet to solve the April shooting death of Jose Arturo Ochoa Palacios, former chief prosecutor in the attorney general’s regional office.

Ochoa was removed from that post without explanation weeks after the Colosio assassination.

This year’s killings started on Feb. 23, when gunmen in Mexico City killed Sergio Armando Silva Moreno, former operations chief for the federal judicial police in Baja California. Five days later, prosecutor Rebeca Acuna Sosa was shot to death in Tijuana.

In mid-May, the bodies of Sergio Moreno Perez _ a former federal prosecutor who handled drug cases in Baja California _ and his son were found in a western suburb of Mexico City. They had been shot and showed signs of torture.

In another case that raised suspicions, Tijuana police Chief Federico Benitez, who had also been involved in the investigation of the candidate’s assassination, was shot dead on April 28, 1994 while investigating a bomb hoax at the city’s airport.

Last week, Pablo Chapa Benzanilla, special prosecutor overseeing the probe of Colosio’s assassination, was dismissed because of a lack of progress in solving the case.

Update hourly