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Woman Held in Slaying Alleged to Be Serial Killer

January 26, 2006|Sam Enriquez and Carlos Martinez | Times Staff Writers

MEXICO CITY — A female wrestling promoter was arrested here Wednesday on suspicion of strangling an 81-year-old woman with a stethoscope, and authorities alleged that she was a long-sought serial killer of 10 elderly women.

Juana Barraza Sampiero, 48, was not immediately charged. But Mexico City Atty. Gen. Bernardo Batiz said she was the killer that Mexican tabloids name Mataviejitas, or Little Old Lady Killer.

"There is a 99% chance that she is guilty of 10 homicides, plus an attempted murder," he said.

Barraza was arrested about 2:30 p.m. after a neighbor saw her running from the home of Maria de los Reyes in a neighborhood near the international airport on the city's east side, authorities said. Police found Reyes dead, the stethoscope still wrapped around her neck, said Joel Ortega, Mexico City's police chief.

"Yes, I did it!" Barraza yelled to reporters as police held her at the scene. She denied involvement in any of the other slayings of elderly women investigated by police over the last three years.

"Just because I'm going to pay for this," Barraza said, "that doesn't mean they're going to put all the crimes on me."

One reporter asked how many she had killed.

"This is the first," she said.

Barraza was carrying identification that linked her to a city-sponsored welfare program serving the elderly, authorities said, but they would not comment on whether the I.D. was authentic. She was also carrying a sphygmomanometer, as well as the names and addresses of elderly women who received monthly relief checks.

Police began circulating an artist's composite after the son of an elderly woman said he saw the killer in October. Authorities said the attacker entered the home of the woman, believing she was alone. But her grown son, who was recovering from a broken leg, was also there and prevented a slaying, they said.

Police believe the visitor was posing as a nurse and examined an X-ray of the son's leg, leaving behind a partial fingerprint. That print matches fingerprints found near the sites of five other homicides of elderly women, authorities said. Authorities had not immediately said that Barraza's prints were a match, and they gave no details on what they believed connected Barraza to the other slayings.

The son believed that the killer was a man posing as a woman. Police later that month rounded up dozens of transvestites to take their prints, but no match was found.

Barraza, who sporadically worked as a wrestler in addition to promoting matches, is being held by the attorney general's office, police said. Authorities have 48 hours to file charges.

Cecilia Sanchez of The Times' Mexico City Bureau and Associated Press contributed to this report.

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