The Cuban-American "godfather" of a drug-smuggling and satanic cult accused of 15 slayings ordered one of his followers to kill him and his right-hand man as police closed in on their Mexico City hide-out, arrested cult members said Sunday.
Sara Aldrete Villarreal, 24, the so-called "witch" of the cult, told reporters that her boyfriend and leader, Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo, "demanded to be killed because he said everything was finished."
Recounting the final minutes before their capture in a shoot-out with police Saturday, Aldrete told a press conference that Constanzo became desperate. "He was shouting, 'Do it! Do it! If you don't, things will go badly for you in hell,' " she said.
Before a crowd of reporters at the Mexico City attorney general's office, Aldrete pointed to fellow cult member Alvaro de Leon and said: "He killed him. (Constanzo) ordered him to do it."
Police found the bullet-riddled bodies of Constanzo, 27, and Martin Quintana Rodriguez, 25, in the closet of a Mexico City apartment Saturday afternoon. They said Constanzo was identified from fingerprints and from his U.S. passport.
Aldrete, De Leon, 22, and Omar Francisco Orea Ochoa, 23, were arrested at the apartment, the attorney general's office said. Later in the day, officials said they arrested Maria de Lourdes Guero Lopez, 29, and Maria del Rocio Cuevas Guerra, 43, who had been renting the apartment for Constanzo.
All five were presented to reporters at the attorney general's office, where they stood behind a table bearing confiscated cult items, including artifacts allegedly used during religious rituals in the apartment. Among them were black candles, a blindfolded statue of St. Anthony, jagged swords, a wax skull draped with beads, women's black clothing and singed $20 bills.
U.S. and Mexican police had sought Constanzo and Aldrete since early April, when the first of 15 bodies was found at a ranch outside Matamoros, a border city across from Brownsville, Tex.
Among the victims found at the border ranch was Mark Kilroy, 21, a University of Texas student who disappeared March 14 in Matamoros.
The Constanzo group practiced Santeria, a Caribbean religion with West African roots whose adherents usually sacrifice animals but not humans. However, Constanzo and his followers reportedly made the ritualistic human sacrifices to seek the devil's protection from police for their marijuana-smuggling activities.
Choice Seemed to Be Random
Kilroy apparently was selected at random when Constanzo ordered his henchmen to bring him an Anglo male.
De Leon, a bearded man dressed in slacks and a dirty white shirt, showed reporters arrow-shaped tattoos that he said Constanzo had drawn on his shoulder as part of a cult ritual. De Leon said he joined the cult for protection after committing another, unrelated, murder in Matamoros.
He said Constanzo told his followers that the human sacrifices would make things "go better for us in the future, that we would receive protection."
De Leon said he took part in the killings of Kilroy and some of the others on the ranch. But he and Aldrete indicated that Constanzo had carried out most of the killings himself.
Asked who killed Kilroy, Aldrete said: "Adolfo."
De Leon said Constanzo "went crazy" when he realized that the police had found them at the apartment.
"He grabbed a bundle of money and threw it and began shooting out the window," De Leon said.
'I Had to Obey'
"He ordered me to kill him and Quintana Rodriguez," De Leon said. "He told me that he was the boss and that I had to obey . . . . I didn't have any choice. I had to do it."
Aldrete denied any involvement in the cult's slayings and said she was not even aware of them until she saw the bodies of some of the victims on television.
"When I saw the things on the television, watching all the sacrifices and all that, I just . . . . It was amazing," Aldrete said.
Asked if she was in love with Constanzo, she said: "I did not love him, but I followed him."
Aldrete said she was sorry about the deaths of Kilroy and the others.
"I feel sorry because when he disappeared I was trying to help the (Kilroy) family," she said in response to reporters' questions. She did not elaborate.
"If I had known it was like this, I wouldn't have been in it," she said of the cult.
Constanzo and Aldrete, missing since the first bodies were uncovered on the Matamoros ranch, were among 11 people named in the United States in a four-count drug indictment.
Charges Include Homicide
Aldrete, De Leon and the others are being held here on charges that include homicide, criminal association, wounding a police agent during the arrest and damage to property, Assistant Atty. Gen. Abraham Polo Uscanga said.
The Associated Press reported that in Brownsville, American law enforcement officials expressed relief that the five were arrested in Mexico, not the United States.
"They committed the crimes in Mexico," said Oran Neck, chief U.S. Customs Service agent in the city at Texas' southern tip. "If they committed murder in Mexico, we can't charge them here."
FBI agent Bob Nixon in Brownsville agreed. "It's great," Nixon said. "It will save us from having to extradite them" to Mexico.
"The only reason we were looking for them was so we could extradite them to Mexico so they could be tried there," Nixon said. "The only purpose of the drug indictments here was to have probable cause to pick them up and turn them over to Mexico."
Under Mexican law, the maximum punishment any of the suspects could receive is 50 years in prison.
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