Amid femicide epidemic, Mexico prosecutor charged with cover-up in a single mom’s death

Feminist groups in Mexico City march and hold signs to protest the slaying of Ariadna López.
Feminist groups in Mexico City march to protest the slaying of Ariadna López, whose body was found dumped in the state of Morelos.
(Marco Ugarte / Associated Press)

Mexico City prosecutors and federal troops have arrested the chief law enforcement officer of the neighboring state of Morelos on charges that he covered up the killing of a woman whose case dramatized what some call an epidemic of femicides — the murder of women because of their gender.

Scores of Mexico City police accompanied by Mexican marines brandishing assault rifles swooped down Friday on the home of Uriel Carmona, the Morelos attorney general, as Carmona, in telephone interviews with journalists from his residence in the state capital of Cuernavaca, professed his innocence and said he was a victim of politics.

Carmona’s cinematic arrest — he was led from his home donning a bullet-proof vest and placed inside an armored vehicle — stemmed from the controversial case of Ariadna Fernanda López Ruiz, whose battered remains were found last Oct. 31 on a road outside the town of Tepoztlán.


Carmona was charged with obstructing the investigation into the killing of López, 27, a single mother from Mexico City who had worked as a waitress and beautician.

Her death — and what authorities allege was a cover-up by Carmona — dramatized for many in Mexico how rampant corruption and a deep-rooted culture of machismo have long thwarted justice in femicides.

The gruesome killing of Ariadna López shocked Mexico, spurred protests in the capital and highlighted the nation’s epidemic of violence against women.

March 8, 2023

An average of 10 women or girls are slain in Mexico each day, according to the government. Surveys of those 15 or older show that 70% have experienced some kind of violence.

López was found Oct. 31 lying on her back, dumped in weeds near a bridge in Morelos state — her beige dress pulled up above her waist, a white high-top on her right foot. She had no ID, no belongings.

A still from security camera show Rautel Astudillo Garcia carrying the body of Ariadna López.

The case would enrage the public with the release of gruesome video of a man hauling off her body, the emergence of dueling autopsies and accusations from Mexico City’s then-mayor that Carmona had covered up a femicide. The Times wrote about López’s life, death and the allegations swirling about the case earlier this year, interviewing Carmona, as well as relatives and friends of the victim.


In November, after an autopsy in Morelos, Carmona announced that López had been intoxicated and choked to death on her own vomit. He said investigators had found no “signs of violence.”

Ariadna López was found murdered on the side of a road in Mexico, one of thousands of women murdered every year in the country. But her death outraged the country like never before.

March 20, 2023

The autopsy noted more than a dozen recent bruises on her body but nothing life-threatening. In an interview with The Times earlier this year, the state’s chief medical examiner said two bruises on the back of López’s head had caused internal bleeding in her skull, but were consistent with a fall.

The findings outraged relatives and friends of López, who accused Morelos’ authorities of blaming the victim for her own demise.

Her family took the issue to authorities in Mexico City, where a forensic team found that López had died of “multiple trauma” from an assault — contradicting the findings in Morelos.

Mexico City investigators also found video from a Mexico City apartment building that showed a bearded, balding man lugging López’s body — her legs stiff with rigor mortis — through a hallway and then a garage. He carried the corpse on his right shoulder toward the rear of a black SUV, then hurried to the driver’s side.

The protest, held on International Women’s Day, focused on femicide — a term used to describe the killing of women because of their gender.

March 8, 2022

At a Nov. 6 news conference, Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum identified the man in the video as the scion of a prosperous family in Morelos state. Self-styled playboy Rautel Astudillo García, who drove a black SUV and traveled with bodyguards, knew López from the restaurant where she worked as a hostess, friends and colleagues told The Times.


Sheinbaum accused Astudillo of driving the body away and dumping the remains on the roadside — an allegation that prosecutors later said was backed by analysis of his cellphone records. The mayor said Astudillo presumably chose to dispose of the corpse in neighboring Morelos state because of his “relationship” with Carmona, whom she accused of a cover-up.

A memorial for Ariadna López shows images of her along with sunflowers.
A mural in Mexico memorializes Ariadna López, showing her with sunflowers, her favorite flower.
(Family photo)

“They tried to blame the victim,” Sheinbaum said. “Never again should a femicide be covered up and a woman smeared and victimized.”

In January, Mexico’s attorney general agreed with the Mexico City prosecutors. The cause of death, the attorney general found, was head trauma from a “blunt instrument” or contact with a flat, hard surface.

The conclusion of Morelos examiners that López’s death was linked to profligate alcohol consumption “was not sustainable,” the attorney general ruled. Investigators concluded that she died in Astudillo’s Mexico City apartment on the evening of Oct. 30 between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. Astudillo and his girlfriend, Vanessa Flores, are currently in jail in Mexico City facing trial in López’s death.

The Morelos prosecutor, Carmona, denied any wrongdoing, labeling his state’s forensic work as “impeccable” and dismissing the attorney general’s finding as an “opinion.”


Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum aims to succeed President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and shares his policies, ideology and even speech patterns.

June 22, 2023

He and Sheinbaum, now a front-runner for president in next year’s elections, hail from rival political camps, and Carmona said their differences were behind her accusations that he was trying to shield the chief suspect.

“I don’t know him or his family,” Carmona said of Astudillo in an interview with The Times in January. “There’s no cover-up.”

Now Carmona says he is the victim of a political conspiracy involving Morelos Gov. Cuauhtémoc Blanco, a former soccer star and an ally of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Carmona, a vocal critic of the president, has alleged that the governor has ties to drug traffickers. Blanco has repeatedly denied the charges.

In Mexico, as in other Latin American nations, feminists, human rights advocates and others have long argued that the murder of women has not been a law enforcement priority.

Feb. 14, 2020

Activists in Mexico call for a national women’s strike to call attention to a rise in femicide, a term used for some homicides targeting women.

March 6, 2020

In various interviews as law enforcement authorities surrounded his home, Carmona blamed his impending arrest on the governor, on López Obrador and on the president’s protégé, Sheinbaum — who recently resigned as mayor to seek the presidential nod for López Obrador’s Morena party. Carmona expressed shock at the huge law enforcement contingent dispatched to arrest him.

“It looks like they’re coming for El Chapo,” Carmona told Mexico’s Reforma newspaper, using the nickname of the former Mexican drug kingpin now serving a life sentence in the United States.

Sheinbaum denied Carmona’s claims that he was being railroaded in a high-publicity bid to help her campaign. ”This is not a political issue,” Sheinbaum told reporters. “This is an issue of justice.”


Special correspondent Cecilia Sánchez contributed to this report.

Bryant Rivera, 30, of Downey was arrested in connection with the death of one woman but is a suspect in two others, said the Baja California attorney general.

July 7, 2023