Editor’s Note: Frontera NorteSur’s latest report on the ongoing murder trial of six femicide suspects in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Special thanks to Marisela Lozano for this story.
The bodies of most of the 11 alleged victims of sex trafficking and murder were discovered in a remote area of the Juarez Valley, detectives and forensic experts testified Thursday in the trial against six men accused of selling and killing several young women.
Javier Torres Gonzalez, a detective with the Chihuahua state prosecutor’s Crimes against Women Unit, took the stand as a witness for the prosecution. On Jan. 26, 2012, Torres testified, authorities received an anonymous phone call alerting them to human remains in the Las Arcinas vicinity of the rural Juarez Valley.
“Several detectives and I drove there from Praxedis G. Guerrero. We found that the road was very steep, so we walked on foot and it took us about half an hour to reach the site,” Torres said. “It was an area almost impossible to reach.”
Torres, who said he had four years of experience as a detective, said they found pieces of a skull, calves, and thigh bones discarded across the weeds.
“We secured the area, so forensic experts and anthropologists could examine and retrieve the remains,” Torres said.
The Mexican Federal Police and soldiers assisted in securing the crime scene. Then on Feb. 17, 2012, Torres said, they searched the Navajo Arroyo area, which is about three miles from Praxedis G. Guerrero, as part of an investigation into women who were reported missing in Juarez. The area so rugged that the detective had to use an all-terrain vehicles to scour the site, Torres said.
“It took us at least 40 minutes of driving, and we walked almost six hours to reach the site,” Torres said. “We discovered a skull and thigh bones, as well as a piece of rotted red rope.”
The remains were scattered and out in the open, Torres added. According to officials with the Chihuahua state prosecutor’s office, the bodies of 11 young women that were reported missing in Juarez were found dead in 2012.
Authorities identified the victims as María Guadalupe Perez Montes, Lizbeth Avilés Garcia, Perla Ivonne Aguirre Gonzalez, Idaly Juache Laguna, Beatriz Alejandra Hernández Trejo, Jessica Leticia Pena Garcia, Deisy Ramirez Munoz, Andrea Guerrero Venzor, Monica Liliana Delgado Castillo, Jessica Terrazas Ortega, and Jazmin Salazar Ponce.
The remains of other victims that were found on Jan. 20, 2011 in the same area have not been identified.
The defendants in this case are Manuel Vital Anguiano, Edgar Jesus Regalado Villa, Cesar Felix Romero Esparza, Jose Gerardo Puentes Alba, Jesus Hernandez Martinez and Jose Antonio Contreras Terrazas.
All of them are on trial on charges of sex-trafficking and aggravated murder. All the defendants denied the allegations, and are held at a detention facility without bond. They face up to life in prison if they are convicted.
Roxana Enriquez, an anthropologist for the state prosecutor’s division in Juarez, also testified for the prosecution. Enriquez said she and her team checked over several bones on Jan. 20, 2011 that belonged to a female.
Enriquez said she and one of her colleagues were summoned to the Navajo Arroyo, which is about two miles away from the Juarez-Porvenir Highway 58 marker, a very remote area.
“Based on what we saw, we concluded that the area was not feasible to live in, or to hang out or anything else, so we were sure that the victim was taken there by a second party,” Enriquez testified.
Enriquez said she and her colleague were able to tell that the victim had died around six or eight months before her remains were discovered. The investigators found clothing and an artisan’s necklace that allegedly belonging to the victim. During the hearing, prosecutors demonstrated 45 photographs of the bones and teeth.
The skull had some blood residue, Enriquez said. It’s unclear, though, if the victim was killed there or if she was already dead when her body was taken to the site. The trial against the six began on April 14, 2015. As many as 215 witnesses are expected to testify during the proceeding. So far, 30 witnesses, among them victims’ relatives, detectives, and police officers have testified.
Prosecutors and defense lawyers both said they are confident that they are going to win.
“Of course the defendants are going to be convicted,” said Manuel Torres, a spokesman for the state prosecutor’s office. “We have proof that those men forced (the victims) into prostitution and then killed them.”
Yesenia Jacquez, a lead defense lawyer for the defendants, said her legal team expects to get the suspects acquitted. Authorities alleged that the victims were lured with job offers at a modeling and
advertisement company in downtown Juarez, and were coerced into the sex trade.
The trial is expected to continue for several weeks.
-Marisela Ortega Lozano