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2 more grupera singers slain in Mexico

A popular performer is strangled and another is shot in a hospital. Over 18 months, seven others have been killed.

December 04, 2007|Hector Tobar | Times Staff Writer

MEXICO CITY — Authorities recovered the strangled body of a popular grupera singer Monday, just two days after the slaying of another grupera singer in her hospital bed, officials said.

Sergio Gomez, lead singer for the group K-Paz de la Sierra, had been kidnapped in the southern state of Michoacan late Saturday and had been missing for two days before officials found his body. Zayda Pena was killed in her hospital bed in the border city of Matamoros on Saturday, hours after surviving an assault.

At least seven other performers of the grupera genre, a form of folk music that blends norteno and tropical rhythms, have been killed over the last 18 months. Some groups in the genre sing songs associated with drug-trafficking, but Gomez and Pena are better known as singers of romantic ballads.

Pena, 28, headed the group Zayda y Los Culpables (Zayda and the Guilty Ones). She was first shot Friday night in a Matamoros hotel, along with two other people: a friend and the hotel manager. The others died at the scene.

With a gunshot wound to the back, Pena was taken to a hospital. She underwent surgery, then was taken to a room in the intensive-care unit. An assailant entered the room and shot her twice in the face, killing her, according to news reports.

Gomez had just performed with his group in Morelia, the capital of Michoacan, when he disappeared. The day before, he had received phone calls warning him not to appear at the concert, according to news reports. Gomez redoubled his security and performed anyway.

After leaving the concert, Gomez was kidnapped along with two businessmen who were later released.

Mexico's business, political and cultural elite have long been targeted by kidnappers, mainly for financial gain. Among the most notable were the 2002 kidnappings of two sisters of the actress Thalia: Both were released after a ransom was paid. In 2005, Soccer coach Ruben Omar Romano was kidnapped but rescued by police. And just last month, several Mexican federal senators received phone calls saying their relatives had been kidnapped.

Gomez's body was found on a highway some six miles outside Morelia, authorities said Monday. He had been strangled, and there were several burn marks on his body. His family and associates apparently had not received any demand for ransom.

The motive for Pena's killing had not been determined, authorities said.

One of her biggest hits was the song "Tiro de Gracia" (Coup de Grace"). Some media outlets suggested Monday that the song referred to an execution, although its lyrics describe nothing more violent than a failed relationship.

Still, the public manner of Pena's death -- reminiscent of many other assassinations in recent years -- suggested that organized crime might be involved.

The most notable killing of a musician attributed to organized crime was the November 2006 assassination in Reynosa of Valentin Elizalde, known as the Golden Rooster. Elizalde sang narcocorrido ballads that were often taken up as anthems by the so-called Sinaloa Cartel of drug traffickers and its leader, Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman.

Trigo Figueroa, a singer, also was killed after a concert in Reynosa in August 2006. In December 2006, Javier Morales Gomez of the band Los Implacables del Norte was shot to death in a Michoacan park.

And in February, gunmen shot to death four members of the musical group Banda Fugaz after they performed in Michoacan.

hector.tobar@latimes.com

Cecilia Sanchez of the Times Mexico City bureau contributed to this report.

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