CRIME

Ritual murder

The police blamed drug smugglers

BARBARA WICKENS April 24 1989
CRIME

Ritual murder

The police blamed drug smugglers

BARBARA WICKENS April 24 1989

Ritual murder

CRIME

The police blamed drug smugglers

The four young Texans had decided to spend the spring break from their universities together last month. Driving to the southernmost point in Texas, they crossed the border on foot to spend the night drinking in Matamoros, Mexico, just across the Rio Grande River from Brownsville. Then, on the way back home at about 2 a.m., one of the four—21-year-old Mark Kilroy—disappeared. Kilroy’s friends searched for him for three hours before reporting his disappearance to police on both sides of the border. Finally, last week, Mexican police stumbled on the shocking truth behind Kilroy’s disappearance. His dismembered body was one of 13 discovered in a shallow grave by Mexican police engaged in a routine drug search at a farm about 30 km west of Matamoros. Mexican and American authorities said later that Kilroy and the other victims were apparently murdered by members of a bizarre religious cult who believed that ritual murders would protect their drug-smuggling activities.

At the farm, police arrested four male suspects. Police said that they showed no remorse and that they even laughed as police unearthed the bodies of their victims.

Police officials also said that the arrested men confessed to killing a total of 14 people and told them that Kilroy was held for 12 hours before being killed by a machete blow to his head. Police added that Kilroy’s brain and spine were removed and that his legs were cut off at midcalf. Still, R. C. Williams, an official of the Cameron County sheriff’s office, said that there was no evidence to support earlier reports that the killers had indulged in cannibalism.

For his part, Oran Neck, a U.S. customs agent in Brownsville, said the ritual aspects of the slayings suggested that the cult members might be followers of a form of voodoo introduced to the area from Haiti and Cuba. Neck said that the cult members—who had been smuggling up to 1,000 lb. of marijuana a week into the United States—apparently believed

that the killings put a spell around them that would protect them from bullets and from arrest. Mexican and U.S. police later issued warrants for four others—including a Cuban, Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo, whom those already in custody identified as their leader, and Sara Maria Aldrete, whom officials described as a college student.

Meanwhile, Kilroy’s friends and relatives struggled with their grief. James Kilroy, an engineer in Santé Fe, Tex., said that he found comfort in knowing that his son—who was a premedical student at the University of Texas in Austin—was not killed immediately. “Obviously there is a lot of terror and fear,” said Kilroy, “but it gives you a chance for real deep prayer.” For Kilroy’s friends, the memory of their trip to Matamoros was certain to remain a bitter one. Said Bradley Moore, 20, an engineering student at Texas A&M University near Houston: “It’s hard to imagine what he went through. I’m doing my best to deal with it.”

BARBARA WICKENS