U.S. and Mexican authorities, stunned by the discovery of 12 mutilated bodies--including that of a missing American college student--on a ranch, searched today for a Cuban "godfather" who headed a drug-smuggling ring that used voodoo human sacrifices to make its members invulnerable.
The bodies were found Tuesday in seven graves on a ranch 20 miles west of Matamoros, Mexico, just across the Rio Grande from Texas. The bodies were mutilated, and authorities found candles and kettles full of body parts and animal bones.
Grisly Search to Continue
Confessions by members of the ring indicated that there are at least two more bodies, and work crews hoped to get through muddy fields later today to resume their grisly search.
Four men were arrested at the ranch Sunday by Mexican narcotics police searching for illegal drugs. Later Sunday and on Monday one of the suspects told officers of the human sacrifices, and on Tuesday two of them led authorities to the graves.
At a news conference today, U.S. Customs Agent Oran Neck said the four men already arrested identified the ringleader and four others involved in the cult.
The ringleader, Neck said, is Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo, a Cuban national in his late 40s and a resident of Matamoros. The man was known by cult members as Padrino, the godfather.
Neck said that Jesus Constanzo imported the religion Santaria from Cuba and that he and members of his cult and drug-smuggling ring practiced it at the ranch and apparently at a residence in Matamoros.
At least one victim was kidnaped in Brownsville within the last month, and as many as three of the dead may be Americans, officials said.
The only victim identified so far is 21-year-old University of Texas student Mark Kilroy, who vanished last month in Matamoros while on spring break and had been the subject of an intense search.
Kilroy apparently was chosen at random after the cult members "were told to pick one Anglo male that particular night," Sheriff's Lt. George Gavito said.
One suspect said Kilroy was abducted at gunpoint, driven to the ranch and fed bread and water for 12 hours, then sacrificed, apparently with a blow from a machete. After his death, Kilroy's legs were amputated at the thigh.
Evidence of Black Magic
Neck said that the home of one suspect in Matamoros was searched early today and that inside was found "an altar like the one found at the scene of the slayings." Mexican police said in the house they found blood splatters and evidence of black magic and voodoo.
Neck, present during the search all day Tuesday, said today the four men arrested believed the voodoo sacrifices would make them invulnerable.
"They showed absolutely no remorse," Neck said.