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12 Bodies Found Near Border Called Drug Cult Victims

April 12, 1989|J. MICHAEL KENNEDY | Times Staff Writer

BROWNSVILLE, Tex. — Twelve mutilated bodies, including that of a Texas college student who disappeared over spring break, were unearthed just outside the neighboring Mexican border city of Matamoros Tuesday, victims of a satanic cult of drug smugglers, officials said.

The digging began early Tuesday morning after Mexican federal police extracted confessions from four men who told them where the bodies were buried. One of the victims was Mark Kilroy, 21, a University of Texas student who disappeared March 14 while on a drinking foray with friends in Matamoros.

The graves were discovered at a remote ranch. Authorities also found the remains of human sacrifice, including brains and blood in an iron pot. They also found candles and the skulls of small animals.

Sheriff's Lt. George Gavito said the cult had been involved in human sacrifice for about nine months as part of Satan worship, aimed at seeking the devil's protection from police. Kilroy was apparently chosen at random by the drug smugglers. They "were told to pick one Anglo male that particular night," Gavito said.

The disappearance of Kilroy, a premed honor student, became something of a cause celebre in Texas, prompting law enforcement officials on both sides of the border to work long hours in an attempt to find him.

Cameron County Sheriff Alex Perez said some of the other victims may also be Americans. He also said one victim was believed to be a Mexican police officer.

"This is just sick," said Oran Neck Jr., the resident agent in charge of the U.S. Customs Service. "It's just unimaginable."

As it was recounted Tuesday after the confessions, Kilroy was lured to a passing truck by a man who spoke English. When he was close enough, the student was yanked into the truck and taken to the ranch, where he was eventually killed with a blow to the head by a machete.

On Sunday, Mexican Federal Judicial Police, armed with a search warrant, went to a ranch where the bodies were found on a tip that marijuana was being stored there.

Perez said the policemen showed a picture of Kilroy to one of the men they were interrogating and he responded that he had seen the student tied up in a nearby shed sometime earlier.

On Tuesday, American and Mexican agents began digging at the ranch. Eventually, a backhoe was called in to assist with the excavation of the 3-foot-deep graves.

"We started off with shovels, but we just couldn't do the work with them," said Neck, who also explained for the first time that U.S. Customs agents had become involved in the search on a volunteer basis because Kilroy's uncle is a Customs special agent in Los Angeles. Almost all the bodies, including Kilroy's, had been dismembered.

"In a way, I'm glad this cult was found," Perez said. "After Mark was killed, there were two more who were killed. All this media attention didn't stop them. I'm glad they are in jail. It was like a human slaughterhouse."

The Matamoros slayings are one in a series of apparently drug-related mass killings discovered near the border in the last few weeks.

On March 29, Mexican authorities found the bodies of three women and six men on an abandoned ranch near Agua Prieta, Mexico, just across the border from Douglas, Ariz.

Five were at the bottom of a well and four in an earthen septic tank. All nine were bound and had been tortured and mutilated, officials said. Mexican and U.S. investigators said the slayings were drug-related.

On April 1, the bodies of three more men killed in similar fashion were fished from the well. All were believed to be Mexican nationals.

On March 27, two people from Arizona and three from the Mexican state of Sonora were found bound and stabbed in a shed in Tucson. Those deaths were also called drug-related.

Officials told the Associated Press that it was possible the Tucson and the Agua Prieta cases were linked.

Herbal medicine and the use of witch doctors is common in Mexico. Most markets in Mexico City have stalls where herbs are sold for cures, to cast or remove good or bad spells or to cleanse a home of evil.

Human sacrifice, common in the country's pre-Columbian Indian cultures, is little known now, but is not unheard of. It is said to be used occasionally in rituals in which one person is killed as part of curing another. One such case was reported earlier this year in Mexico City.

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