From the dirt road that wound through the sorghum fields, the dilapidated shack bore no sign of the evil within.
This is where police said the ring of drug smugglers had ritualistically killed their victims. Close by was a large iron pot with blood and human brain matter, the parts of dead animals, oddities like horseshoes and coins, and a rusted machete.
A few feet away, 12 of the bodies had already been found and the digging would begin soon for more. Some of them had been skinned. Others had been decapitated. Still others had limbs hacked off and body parts mutilated.
Student Became Victim
One of the bodies found Tuesday, hours after four men had confessed to taking part in the mass murders, was that of Mark Kilroy, a University of Texas student. He had disappeared March 14 during a rowdy evening in this border city while celebrating his school's spring break.
His father, James, told a press conference Wednesday in Brownsville, Tex., just across the border, that he was not worried about his son any longer, because "our father in heaven loves him even more than we could."
U.S. law enforcement officials said the suspected ringleader of the cult and marijuana smuggling operation was a Cuban, Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo, who was believed to have fled into the United States. They said his nickname was "The Godfather."
"He was the one who directed that these people be picked up and sacrificed," said Oran Neck Jr., the resident agent in charge of the U.S. Customs Service.
Three other suspects are being sought, including two men and Sara Villareal Adrete, a 24-year-old Matamoros woman whose house was searched Tuesday night. Mexican police found a blood spattered sacrificial altar, blood stained children's clothing and a variety of voodoo paraphernalia.
At the remote ranch where the bodies were found, Cameron County Sheriff Alex Perez said cult members removed some victims' vertebrae to use them for necklaces.
"Very clearly they believe the human sacrifices and the animal sacrifices put a magical shield around them that protected them from evil or harm, even up to bullets," said Texas Atty. Gen. Jim Mattox.
In addition to Kilroy, the dead included a Matamoros policeman, a Mexican federal police volunteer and a 16-year-old. As many as three of the dead may be American.
The four men already in custody "didn't demonstrate any remorse at all," said Neck. "They were laughing and giggling."
The quartet was paraded onto a second floor balcony Wednesday at the Matamoros headquarters of the Mexican Federal Judicial Police, while more than 100 reporters from both sides of the border stood on the overgrown lawn below and shouted questions.
Sergio Martinez, 23, told the crowd that yes, he was guilty of kidnaping Kilroy.
Serafin Hernandez Garcia, 22, an American from Brownsville, said that he was part of the kidnaping team. He, unlike the others, spoke in English. "We took him to the ranch," he said. "I didn't do nothing, but the other ones, they killed him. They killed him with a machete."
Elio Hernandez Rivera, 22, whose father owns the ranch, said that some of the killings were out of vengeance, but others "we killed for protection." He said he shot and killed one victim and decapitated another.
David Serna Valdez, 22, said they had to give chase to Kilroy, after he tried to escape. Why Kilroy? "No reason, he just happened to be there," he said.
Mexican police said they had arrested a fifth suspect, but he was not brought forward. Mattox estimated that the ring smuggled about 1,000 pounds of marijuana a week into the United States.
James Kilroy said his son "was afraid of narcotics but it was narcotics that killed Mark. Marijuana was what killed Mark."