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Details Emerge in Slaying of Mexico Family

Crime: Author, husband and children were killed by servants avenging sexual abuse, prosecutors say.

December 25, 1996|MARK FINEMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MEXICO CITY — In the months that writer Yolanda Figueroa and her husband, Fernando Balderas, basked in prominence after the August release of their book on a powerful Mexican drug cartel, there were darker forces at work far closer to the couple's posh home here, prosecutors say.

Indeed, it was about when the couple launched the campaign to sell their muckraking expose on Gulf cartel boss Juan Garcia Abrego that investigators now say Balderas had also turned the family's maids into "sexual hostages."

Behind the walls of the couple's home in the stately Pedregal district of the capital, Balderas, a former investigator for the Mexico City prosecutor's office, had been sexually abusing the two servants for months, authorities say.

In September, he was quietly charged with rape. But for reasons authorities still cannot explain, he was never arrested.

And as the couple's book was selling out in bookstores nationwide, Balderas' behavior at home was raising the fury of the maids' husbands, who worked as the family's drivers.

Finally, on Dec. 2, the drivers and one of the maids plotted the murders of the couple, investigators say.

Three days later, at 1:30 a.m., they carried out the killings in brutal fashion: One by one, they beat to death Figueroa, Balderas and their three children as they slept in their beds, investigators say. The suspects then allegedly argued over the family's cash and jewelry.

As police searched Tuesday for one of the family drivers and his maidservant wife, authorities here declared the scandalous case all but closed, alleging that the fugitive couple and another driver now in custody murdered Balderas, Figueroa and their children for revenge.

"The motive for the murders was personal shame," said Mariano Herran Salvatti, Mexico City's deputy attorney general, who unveiled the results of an intensive, two-week investigation at a news conference here late Monday. "Fernando Balderas raped [the two maids] while holding both women sexual hostages."

The results of the investigation shot holes in the theories of several analysts here, who had initially likened the slayings of the writer and her investigator husband--both of whom had been cast by some as anti-drug crusaders--to the lawlessness spawned by the drug trade in Colombia. These analysts had theorized that the killings were attributable in some way to Figueroa's book.

In blaming the attacks on the servants, investigators instead bolstered the theory of other Mexican analysts and anti-narcotics activists: They had said they doubted that Mexico's drug mafias would risk the public outrage and intense police scrutiny that would result from slaying three children along with their parent-targets.

*

Now, as a result of the police scrutiny at a crime scene rich with evidence, Mexican prosecutors have described a case--rare for its detail and quick resolution--that casts deep shadows on the actions and reputations of the dead couple.

Displaying models of the family's large home and an iron bar allegedly used in one of the killings, city prosecutors said they had gathered 69 blood samples and 139 hairs from the murder scene that implicated the family servants.

Further, at their news conference late Monday night, they presented Alejandro Perez de la Rosa, one of the drivers. He was found, beaten unconscious, at the murder scene when the bodies were discovered. Prosecutor Herran said Perez de la Rosa, whose head was bandaged, confessed to his role in murdering the family. He in turn implicated Martin Hernandez, a fellow driver, and Hernandez's wife, Josefina.

Prosecutors explained Perez de la Rosa's injuries, saying he was beaten by Hernandez and his wife during a post-killing dispute over the family's cash and jewelry.

Herran declared the killings solved but the case not closed.

That is because Balderas--besides being charged but never arrested for rape--had an unsavory reputation as a man with ties to the underworld. He was under investigation for alleged links to drug traffickers. And now, investigators say, they are running traces on six luxury cars found at the couple's residence. Authorities suspect the vehicles may lead to auto-theft or extortion rings.

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