Mexican soldiers present Edgar "El Ponchis" Jimenez Lugo to… (Antonio Sierra, Associated…)
Reporting from Mexico City — The "boy killer" who for many became a symbol of the lawlessness and social deterioration of Mexican society because of the nation's drug war was sentenced Tuesday to three years in prison for killing four people in Morelos state.
Edgar Jimenez Lugo, alias "El Ponchis," was 14 when he was arrested by the Mexican army in December. The teenager admitted before news cameras at the time that he began killing at age 11 and that a cartel paid him $200 a week to do it. He claimed to have beheaded four of his victims.
Three years is the maximum sentence for underage criminals in Morelos state, said Juan Carlos Castro, a Juvenile Court spokesman. However, because of time served, Jimenez will spend two years and five months behind bars, Castro said.
Jimenez was arrested Dec. 2 while attempting to board a flight to Tijuana from the city of Cuernavaca, presumably planning to escape to the U.S. after details of his alleged exploits began appearing in Mexican newspapers. He was born in San Diego but grew up in Jiutepec, a small town near Cuernavaca where he was "kind of forgotten," his father, David Jimenez, told The Times last year.
The case shook Mexico. Good schools and good jobs remain out of reach for many young people, leaving up to a million youths drawn to the easy money and dubious street glory of the drug trade, university studies have shown.
The tale of "El Ponchis" was especially chilling. Jimenez was charged with four cartel-related executions — "I cut their throats," he said at the time — as well as carrying illegal weapons and trafficking in cocaine.
The teenager appeared remorseless after his arrest. Even as Jimenez's father attempted to defend his son before reporters last year, the boy responded to a question about his parents by saying, "They're dead."
Jimenez's sentencing came on a day when violent incidents roiled Mexico amid President Felipe Calderon's 4 1/2-year assault on organized crime.
On Tuesday morning, the body of a missing journalist was found decapitated near the port city of Veracruz, the latest in a growing number of attacks on journalists in Mexico.
Yolanda Ordaz de la Cruz, a police reporter, worked at the same newspaper that employed Miguel Angel Lopez Velasco, a columnist who criticized local politicians. He was killed in an ambush at his home in late June, along with two members of his family.
Veracruz state authorities made an early denial Tuesday that Ordaz was killed for her "journalistic work," hinting at "links to organized crime" but not elaborating.
Also on Tuesday, in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, 17 people were reported killed after a riot in the municipal prison.
Hernandez is a news assistant in The Times' Mexico City bureau. Cecilia Sanchez in the Mexico City bureau contributed to this report.