March 13

This Day in History

Crime

Mar 13, 1989:

Black magic, voodoo, and murder occurs at Rancho Santa Elena

Cult leader Adolpho de Jesus Constanzo sacrifices another human victim at his remote Mexican desert compound Rancho Santa Elena. When the victim didn't beg for mercy before dying, Constanzo sent his people out to find another subject for torture and death. When they abducted American college student Mark Kilroy outside a bar in Matamoros, Mexico, Constanzo inadvertently set in motion the downfall of his bizarre cult.

Up until then, Constanzo and his cult had ritually killed at least twenty people, and maybe as many as 100. He had escaped detection because his victims were almost exclusively prostitutes, homeless people and drug dealers. But when Mark Kilroy disappeared, it became an international incident that focused attention on Mexican law enforcement efforts.

Authorities in Mexico were pressured to step up their campaign against drug smuggling across the Texas border. On April 1, Serafin Hernandez, a cult member and the nephew of the leader of the Hernandez family drug-smuggling network, which had hired Costanzo to use black magic to bring them profit and protection, drove right through a police roadblock. Apparently, he actually believed that the magic potions Constanzo sold to drug dealers worked. Hernandez thought that he was invisible to the police and led the police directly to Rancho Santa Elena where officials found a large stash of drugs and guns.

Cult disciples who were arrested began to tell police about the human sacrifices at Rancho Santa Elena. Within a week, authorities had found 27 mutilated bodies, including Mark Kilroy, at or near the cult headquarters. When police raided Constanzo's Mexico City home, they found a hidden torture chamber and a large stash of homosexual pornography, but no sign of Constanzo himself.

The cult leader didn't turn up until May 6 when he panicked and opened fire on police who were going door-to-door in search of a missing child. An intense gun battle ensued, and as the police closed in, Constanzo insisted that one of his assistants, El Duby, shoot him. Constanzo was dead when police finally stormed in.

El Duby and Constanzo's other surviving cohorts were tried and convicted for the murders at Rancho Santa Elena.

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