Thursday, March 23, 2017


By Juan Montoya
It was during Texas Week during Spring Break in March 1989 when University of Texas premed student Mark Kilroy vanished on the streets of Matamoros, Mexico.

He disappeared during an outing to Matamoros on March 14. For weeks, police searched for the missing spring breaker with no success. His parents Jim and Helen Kilroy came to Brownsville hoping against hope that their son would be found safe and well. It would not turn out that way.

On April 11, through the work of Mexican police in coordination with U.S. and Cameron County authorities, the truth slowly came out, painting a horrific picture of psychotic drug runners who practiced a perverted form of a Caribbean Santereia they called Palo Mayombe.

It was revealed that the 21-year-old student was taken by his abductors to the Rancho Santa Elena where he was murdered in a human sacrifice ritual. Forensics indicated that he was killed with a machete blow and then had his brain removed and boiled in a pot. His killers then inserted a wire through his backbone, chopped off his legs, and buried him at the ranch along with 14 other people who had been killed there before him.

The leader of the cult, Adolfo Constanzo, had convinced his followers that human sacrifice granted them immunity from law enforcement for their drug smuggling operations. The killing drew worldwide media attention and an international police manhunt because of the unusual circumstances of the crime.

It also propelled some local figures into the spotlight. Foremost among these was Sheriff Investigator George Gavito, a charismatic (and often controversial) lawman and his fellow investigators Abel Perez and  Ernesto Flores. Although Gavito sometimes accompanied U.S. investigators to the Mexican side during the investigation and the grisly discovery, department employee Rolando Rivas was also a go-between Mexican authorities and U.S. lawmen. (That's Gavito at left standing to the right of Mexican federal judicial commander Juan Bentitez, center, and Oran Neck, of  U.S. Customs, is at right.)

Another local personage who was cast into the spotlight was Dr. Anthony Zavaleta, then an anthropology professor at Texas Southmost College. Gavito and Zavaleta were often the people that the worldwide media sought to gain a perspective on the motives behind the cult.

Another person who gained infamy was Sara Aldrete, a TSC student said to have been the witch of the group, or Narcobruja, who was said to have participated in the ritual killings the group performed in the belief that they would be protected.

"I've investigated over 250 murders," Gavito told a writer who came back to Brownsville 20 years
after the Kilroy murder. "This here is what you call your career case. Something nobody will ever deal with. You cannot be trained. You can't take any courses or classes to prepare for this."

Rivas, who had was given possession of Aldrete's Taurus (in photo) by the sheriff's depatment for 90 days, said that the car was "spooked."
"Things kept going wrong one after another. First the air conditioning started spewing freon, then a tire flew off, and all kinds of things were happening. After a while I just decided that I didn't want anything to do with it. It was spooked."

Zavaleta also remembered those horrific days and retold of his emotions when he visited Santa Elena.

"I never until that moment felt the presence of evil. It was tangible. I hadn't even gotten to the place yet. I'm still 50 yards from it, but there was just a foreboding and sense of evil."
What's more, Zavaleta's son was also on Spring break and in Matamoros the same night Mark disappeared.

"When the news broke that Mark Kilroy's remains had been found and that he been a victim of a horrible murder and human sacrifice it just sent a shudder through my body as a father. Realizing my son was over there on the streets while these people were prowling, looking for a victim."

Helen and Jim Kilroy have dedicated their lives to drug prevention education with The Mark Kilroy Foundation. It's grown into a communitywide effort to help students that includes after school and summer programs.

Constanzo was killed in a shootout in Mexico City where he was hiding. Aldrete was sentenced to 62 and remains incarcerated. She has written a book accusing the Mexican police of sensationalizing the case and of torture an rape while she has been in prison. Cult members Elio, Serafín Jr., Martínez Salinas, and Serna Valdez, received 67 years each. In an interview with the press, Kilroy's parents stated that they were relieved to hear that the cultists were sentenced. 

The charges were multiple homicide (31 years), possession of narcotics (12 years), involvement in organized crime (5 years), police impersonation (2 years), illegal body desecration (2 years), illegal possession of firearms (10 years), and illegal possession of weapons exclusive to the Mexican Armed Forces. (5 years). Elio was sent to a prison in Cuidad Victoria, Tamaulipas. The other two were sent to a federal prison in the State of Mexico.

Only two suspects remained at large, Ovidio and Ponce Torres, and were wanted for Kilroy's murder in Mexico.

Gerardo Danache, a Mexican attorney, said that after Kilroy's murder, Spring Break was no longer a viable economic boon for Matamoros and that it was the beginning of the takeover by the cartels in northern Mexico.
"After that, things went down in Matamoros until we have what is there now," he said. "Mark's death was the beginning of the end."


Anonymous said...

So what?!

Anonymous said...

There are still people working at sheriff's office that got to work that case.
Maybe you can interview them, some real reporting would be nice

Anonymous said...

You missed one Juan, El Duby de Leon, check that out, there a good history behind that guy

Anonymous said...

Oh, bullshit, Juan. Spring Break is Spring Break, buey! Get your hands off your dick and go to SPI.

Anonymous said...

What! - A pro-Gringo story by Mexican Juan Montoya? lawdy, lawdy.

Anonymous said...

Spring break has been more negatively impacted by the cartel violence than this one isolated satanic murder. Spring Break and Bike Fest will never be the same because the participants can't safely visit Mexico...a big part of past visits to the valley. And, calling George Gavito "charismatic" is far from the truth. He and Tony Zavaleta saw themselves as "special" and their egos were overblown by their roles in this case.

Anonymous said...

The "Narcosatanicos" and "La tienda Amigo" collapse are the two major stories of modern 20th century here in Brownsville that gave our town international exposure. Unfortunately, NEGATIVE.
Charro Days is NOT of international interest anymore.
I live through both of these episodes. NOT a nice thing to remember.

Anonymous said...

The island started coming paring itself to Daytona Beach the prices are outrageous our airports are too expensive the taxi service is embarrassing and the bars and clubs charge way too much!
It's cheaper to fly internationally to Cancun, they have better bars, clubs, a lower drinking age and the hotels in Cancun are world class and way cheaper. And that is what happened to the island's cash cow.

Anonymous said...

Spring break goes on! The children drink and drug themselves into a stupor. Lots of sex, some consensual and some not. Kids run over kids with cars, kill themselves trying to climb the outside of building and die by drug overdose. In general they degrade and demean themselves and think it is fun.

There have been only one killed by a Satanic Mexican drug cult, but spring break goes unabated.