Violence Against Women: Murders Continue, Suspects Captured

Anne Marie Mackler, FNS Editor

Four Women Murdered In Border City

In a month that took the lives of many young Juárez men believed to be involved in gangs or drug trafficking, the lives of four women were also taken. These crimes brought the total number of women murdered during 1999 up to 23 , according to some statistics, the annual average of murdered women is 32. Citizens and authorities alike are concerned by the increasing violence in the border city.

On October 16 the stabbed and half-naked body of a woman believed to be a transient and approximately 40 years old was found in the same empty lot near Pemex that other victims have been found. The woman was stabbed to death and believed to be raped. No suspects have been named.

On October 17, a married couple was found stabbed to death during a fight outside a Cd. Juárez, and five people allegedly involved in the incident were arrested.

On October 19, the body of Blanca Estela Vásquez Valenzuela, 44, was found shot to death in a colonia south of Cd. Juárez. Her face was destroyed by the blast of a .38 caliber weapon. She is believed to be from the U.S., and although no suspects have been named, the crime appears to be drug related.

On October 24, Nelly América Gómez Holguín, 22, was stabbed to death by a client. The assailant confessed to the crime when caught at the bus station where he had planned to board a bus out of town. He said he killed Gómez because she had made him angry.

State Prosecutor’s Office Being Scrutinized

In early September it was reported in El Paso Times that Chihuahua officials received a harsh report from the Mexican National Commission on Human Rights for the way the office has handled the investigations of women who were murdered in Cd. Juárez. The federal commission, still waiting for the state office to comply, is maintaining “an open and active file on the Juárez homicides,” said commission spokesperson Victor Azcoitia referring to a report generated earlier in the year and made public recently.

The attorney general’s office in Chihuahua said that most of the complaints actually relate to the previous administration under PAN governor Francisco Barrio. The attorney general Arturo González Rascón said “We have not had any unsolved sexual murders since October (1998).” However Barrio claims that his administration was doing their best.

The human rights investigation was requested by Alma Vocovich Seele, federal legislator who was responding to numerous complaints from Cd. Juárez NGOs and city council representatives.

Security officials in Juárez announced several plans, including “A Safe Juárez,” to make the city a safer place. Included are prevention measures, punishing criminals and improved cooperation with all prevention groups as well as regulating the sale of liquor.

Cd. Juárez, according to the report, is considered one of the most violent cities in the country.

Suspect Finally Captured

Edgar Omar Sánchez, 19, the suspect in the murder, rape and torture of two young sisters in 1996, was finally caught on September 30 by the State of Chihuahua’s special prosecution office. The victims were found in December of 1996 tied up and shot in the head at close range after approximately ten days of alleged abuse. The older sister was Sanchez’ girlfriend.

Sánchez confessed committing the crime, however, he said he did not remember doing it. Although a suspect since the discovery of the victims’ bodies, authorities believed he had fled to the U.S. As a result of enhanced investigations by Suly Ponce Prieto, Chihuahua’s special investigator of the murders of women, Sánchez was found. He was serving in the Mexican army in his home town of Parral, Chihuahua when he was detained.

The increased effort on the part of the prosecutor’s office is, according to Esther Chávez Cano, leading human rights activist, a way for the authorities to “retrieve some of the credibility they have lost before the community.”

Gang Leader Denied Protection

A judge in the sixth district of Chihuahua has denied protection and refuge to Víctor Moreno Rivera (El Narco) who is accused of homicide in the sexual murders of five women in Cd. Juárez earlier this year. Moreno maintains his innocence and appeared on TV apologizing to his family for the shame this trouble has brought them. Moreno claims he signed a confession because he was tortured by the arresting police.

The suspect is accused of being the liaison between Abdel Latif Sharif Sharif, a convicted murderer who was serving time in the prison in Juárez, and the bus drivers, a group of four men believed to have worked under Moreno in the murders. Allegedly Sharif hired the bus drivers through Moreno to kill young girls creating the illusion that he could not be the serial murder responsible for the deaths in Juárez if the crimes continued while he was imprisoned. Moreno claims he never knew Sharif and saw him for the first time in prison. He knows all the bus drivers, but never worked with them.

“You know that I am innocent of the charges,” he said in front of the television camera where he also accused the authorities of robbing personal items from his home and harassing his family. “The only thing I did wrong was leave El Paso and come back to Cd. Juárez.”

Bus Driver’s Wife Hasn’t Appeared As Prosecutor’s Witness

In a related story, a judge in the eighth district sent an order for the apprehension of maquila bus driver Jesús Manuel Guardado Márquez’ wife who is needed as a witness in his prosecution. El Tolteca, as Guardado is known, is the accused assailant of “Nancy,” a survivor of a sexual murder attack. He is accused, along with other bus drivers, in the sexual homicides of five women.

Tolteca’s wife, María del Carmen Flores de la Rosa, has not been located in her hometown of Durango according to the authorities there. Previously Flores had said that her husband was a drug addict and had talked about the murders he had committed.

The alleged assailant was captured in Durango shortly after Nancy named him as the man that raped her and attempted murdering her, leaving her for dead. Police found him at home when they answered Flores’ call for emergency assistance because Tolteca was beating her. She miscarried the three month old fetus she was carrying.

The second district court continues waiting for the results of psychiatric tests taken by Guardado.

Sources: El Diario, El Norte de la Ciudad Juárez, El Paso Times

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