By M.P. Pellicer | Stranger Than Fiction Stories
Mark Kilroy was murdered in March 1989, and for those living along the border of Mexico and the U.S.A. the crime has not been forgotten.
The reason for the attraction of Matamoros are three international bridges linking Brownsville, Texas to the notorious city where the good times are cheap.
On March, 3, 2023, four Americans were kidnapped in Matamoros in broad daylight. Authorities found two of them dead, and the other two were recovered alive, however one of them was wounded.
The story is being put out that they were caught in the crossfire of rival cartel groups, or that they were mistaken as Haitian drug smugglers. They claimed they had traveled from the Carolinas, so one of them could get a tummy tuck from a Matamoros doctor.
They were taken right after their white minivan, which they had driven from South Carolina crossed into the border town. It was crashed, they were fired on then hustled into a waiting pickup truck. The Mexican police frantically searched for them, but the cartel moved them around to several places.
They were found in a wooden shack east of Matamoros on the way to Baghdad Beach. They had been tortured, and two were dead.
The Scorpions, a splinter group of the Gulf Cartel (Cartel del Golfo – CDG) were blamed for the kidnapping and murder of the two American s on March 3 , 2023 in Matamoros.
However other facts have become known about the victims. In September, 2023 it was learned that Latavia Washington McGee's trip to Matamoros with three of her friends was to establish a drug connection for her husband Termario McGee. The "tummy tuck" story was a ruse to help her spouse, who is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence for trafficking drugs in South Carolina. Supposedly he needed LaTavia to get the drugs, which would be snuck into prison where he sells them. The couple have been dating for 10 years and married for 3 years.
Despite the twist in the incident in March, Matamoros has had a bad reputation for murders, especially for tourists. One of the most notorious came to light in April, 1989, when twelve people were brutally slain in Mexico. A cult expert said the killing was likely the work of followers of a Cuban group called abakua. It has a folklore reputation for human sacrifices.
Initially authorities in Mexico and the United States were searching for Aldolfo de Jesus Constanzo, a Cuban-American believed to be the leader of a group of drug smugglers, who were accused of the murder on the Santa Elena Ranch, west of Matamoros. Corpses unearthed by authorities indicated signs of torture and dismemberment.
According to Thomas Wedge, who gave seminars to law enforcement organizations on cult murders, the Matamoros killing followed abakua rites. Based on the mutilations and the tattoos on one of the suspects, indications were that at least the leader was an abakua follower.
Wedge has written that members of the cult have distinctive tattoos that "resemble chalices emitting lightning bolts, arrows, the weeping face of Christ, likenesses of Saint Barbara or facial teardrops similar to those displayed by Hispanic gangs in the Southwest."
Some tattoos denote the role the individual plays in the cult, others denote sexual preference.
The Texas authorities were also looking for a Brownsville college coed, named Sara Maria Aldrete Villareal who identified as a priestess and was linked to Constanzo.
Wedge described where rites are conducted immediately before a drug deal, in order to make sure it's successful.
Miami police said they were aware of abakua followers who were tied to a number of grave robberies, for persons seeking skulls to be used in their rites.
Detective Oscar Roque of Miami's Homicide Division considered the abakua cult "dangerous." He described where in Cuba when "abakua had their annual retreat, (people were told) you should not leave your children out, because they would take them for sacrifices." This date was June 24, known as the feast day of St. John the Baptist, which coincides with the summer solstice.
One of the victims found buried in the ranch was Mark Kilroy a pre-med student from Texas who had been missing since March. He had crossed the Mexican-American border during spring break to visit Matamoros.
His parents pressured the authorities in the U.S. and Mexico to search for him, and Mark's disappearance was featured on the show, America's Most Wanted. The investigation accidentally led to the other victims as well. Dozens of bodies were found mutilated and sacrificed.
Mark had been kidnapped because Constanzo known as "El Padrino" or "The Godfather" wanted a Caucasian Anglo as a sacrifice. Someone who was a doctor and intelligent.
Kilroy's remains showed where the top of his skull had been cut open, and his brain removed. He had been raped, his legs had been chopped off below the knees, and his spine had been cut open and threaded with wire, since Constanzo wanted to make a necklace out of his vertebrae. His body had been buried in a shallow hole, waiting for it to decompose. The student had been killed with a machete. His brains were found in a shack — boiled in a pot with a roasted turtle.
Carlos Tampia, Chief Deputy of Cameron County, Texas said, "I thought in my twenty-two years of law enforcement I had seen everything. I hadn't. As we drew near, you could smell the stench... blood and decomposing organs. In a big, cast iron pot there were pieces of human bodies and a goat's head with horns."
Other victims who were offered as sacrifices were abducted off the streets, others were drug dealers themselves. Besides Kilroy, 14 corpses were exhumed. All of them had evidence of torture: decapitation, burning, castration, being skinned alive and removal of the heart.
A 55-gallon drum was found, which was used to boil victim's flesh off their bones.
Not long before Kilroy was kidnapped, sixty persons had been reported missing in the area.
Constanzo had grown up steeped in the African-based religion of abacua and palo-mayombe, which was practiced by his mother and step-father. At one point, his mother was arrested for keeping 27 animals in her tiny apartment; the floors were covered in feces and blood. She would make him torture and kill animals, praising him for his cruelty when he did so.
In 1983, he pledged himself to Kadiempembe, the devil in the palo mayombe religion. By the time he was 21, he was a full-fledged priest and went to Mexico City where he was offered a modeling job, however he opened a shop in Mexico City's Zona Rosa known for being welcoming to gays like Constanzo. He derived his main income from the various rituals he performed as a palero. His clients included drug dealers, police officials and other wealthy and powerful people.
He started to work with drug kingpins assuring them he could cast spells to make them invisible to the law, and in return they paid him well.
Unknown to them, Costanzo was bribing the police to protect his clients, thus convincing them that he was a powerful palero.
In 1986, the head of Interpol in Mexico at the time, Florentino Ventura, introduced him to the head of the Calzada family, one of the most powerful crime families in Mexico. Two years later, Florentino Ventura committed suicide, killing his wife and friend as well.
Costanzo then made a proposition to be made a full business partner in the Calzada cartel's operation. The cartel rejected his offer. In April 1987, Guillermo Calzada and six members of his household mysteriously vanished. Police found remnants of palo mayombe ritual items in Guillermo's office.
Constanzo met Sara Aldrete Villareal a native of Matamoros in 1987. She was an honors student and cheerleader at Texas Southmost College, and was Gilberto Sosa's girlfriend. He was a drug dealer linked to the Hernandez clan to which Constanzo wanted an introduction. Aldrete went on to become the main recruiter for the cult.
Later it was found that Constanzo and Aldrete were influenced by the 1987 film The Believers, which was about a New York City cult clearly based on rituals performed in palo mayombe, where children were sacrificed in order to gain money and power.
Rolling Stone magazine wrote: “[There is]…a story making the rounds that tells of the night Aldrete persuaded three male friends to screen a video of The Believers. After the film say the students, Aldrete stood up and began to preach in strange tones about the occult. ‘They had been drinking and they just thought she was trying to be spooky,’ says one student who knows the boys, ‘but they look back on it now and think she must have been serious.'”
In 1988, Constanzo took over a ranch owned by the Hernandez brothers, situated as a stopping point for the illegal drug trade. It was very close to Brownsville, Texas and the American border. It became known as the Devil's Ranch.
After the discovery on the ranch Constanzo fled with his lover and Aldrete, leaving all his followers to face the authorities. Police searched for the group, suspecting they might have escaped to the United States. In the meantime exhumations continued, and the body count mounted to 23.
Wanted posters and a reward were posted, but the weeks slipped by without either one being spotted.
The police asked an anthropologist who specialized in palo mayombe for help. He told them to televise the burning of the nganga and the shed where the ritual items and altars were at. A TV crew filmed the fire and the cauldron being dumped out and incinerated as well.
Constanzo was living with Aldrete, Martin Quintana his current lover and two more followers in a luxury condo in Mexico. He became distraught when he saw the nganga and the shed go up in flames.
Police responded to the apartment on May 6, 1989, after reports of a disturbance were received.
The source of the report was Constanzo who had started to act erratically. When he saw police at the door he began shooting at them. Police fired back, and a gunfight broke out that lasted 45 minutes.
When police finally entered the apartment, they found Constanzo and his lover dead in a closet. Constanzo had ordered one of his followers, Alvaro de Leon, who was a hitman known by the nickname of "El Duby" to shoot him and Martin Quintana.
Aldrete, de Leon, and Omar Francisco Orea Ochoa, who was Costanzo's other lover, were found unharmed and hiding in a bedroom.
Later Aldrete told a press conference that Constanzo became desperate, urging one of his followers to kill him and his lover. “He was shouting, ‘Do it! Do it! If you don’t, things will go badly for you in hell.’"
Maria de Lourdes Guero Lopez, 29, and Maria del Rocio Cuevas Guerra, 43, who had been renting the apartment on behalf of Constanzo were arrested soon after.
Costanzo became known as "El Narcosatanico de Matamoros (the Narcosatanist of Matamoros)."
Sara Aldrete, Elio Hernandez and his brother Serafin were sentenced to over 60 years each. Aldrete's behavior was so contradictory, police believed she displayed symptoms of multiple personality disorder.
Omar Orea, Constanzo’s "wife" was convicted of the murder of Ramon Esquivel, a transvestite in Mexico City. However Orea died of AIDS before he could serve the 35 years he was sentenced to.
Eleven other cult members were charged with different crimes. Two remained at large.
Of the Mexican victims, only nine were identified, and police suspected there were others that were never found.
In 1989, Constanzo's body was shipped back to Miami and he was autopsied a second time. His body was riddled with 16 bullet holes. He had several strange tattoos.
Rumors were that his body was cremated. Another is that he was buried at Our Lady of Mercy, the only Catholic cemetery in Miami in 1989. The location is secret, for fear that it would attract individuals seeking to become one of his followers even after death.
As of 2024, Matamoros is considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world.
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