U.S. Attorneys Office abruptly halted prosecutions in 1993 - Brownsville Herald: Local News

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U.S. Attorneys Office abruptly halted prosecutions in 1993

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Posted: Saturday, March 7, 2009 12:00 am

After the bodies of 13 victims who fell prey to a drug-trafficking group that practiced black magic were uncovered in 1989, the U.S. Attorney's Office secured warrants of arrest and indictments against the group's members led by Alfonso de Jesus Constanzo, but these were abruptly dismissed in 1993 without a stated reason.

The U.S. Attorney's Office would offer no explanation.

Beginning April 14, 1989 the group's members were charged with several counts of conspiring, possessing and importing 1,800 pounds of marijuana from Mexico into the United States from March 1, 1989 to April 11, 1989.

April 11, 1989 is when the body of Mark J. Kilroy and 12 other victims were uncovered from the Rancho Santa Elena, about 20 miles west of Matamoros, Mexico.

By the time the charges were dropped in federal court on June 10, 1993 at the request of the U.S. Attorney's Office, two of the suspects, Constanzo and Martin Quintana Rodriguez had long died. Six of the suspects, Sara Maria Aldrete Villarreal, Alvaro de Leon Valdez, Serafin Hernandez Garcia, Elio Hernandez Rivera, David Serna Valdez, and Sergio Martinez Salinas, also had long been arrested by police in Mexico, and are still serving sentences for Kilroy's murder and that of other victims.

However, two of the suspects, Ovidio Hernandez Rivera and Malio Fabio "El Gato" Ponce Torres, were never arrested. They are still wanted in Mexico for Kilroy's murder, according to George Gavito, who is now police chief of the Brownsville Navigation District, but they are no longer wanted in the U.S.

The U.S. Attorney's Office directed The Brownsville Herald to case files, but these don't reflect why the charges were dropped against all the suspects, including the still-at-large Hernandez Rivera and Ponce Torres.

"I don't work for the federal government. I work for the state. That's really not a question for me to be able to answer," Gavito said.

He does believe, however, that the charges were initially filed in the U.S. in case the suspects were located here, they could be held.

None of the former assistant U.S. attorneys, who served in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas in 1989 and into the early 1990s and whom the Herald contacted, recalled the case. All declined to discuss the Constanzo case.

Gavito, who was a lieutenant with the Cameron County Sheriff's Department and joined in the search for Kilroy, believes that U.S., local, county, state and federal law enforcement dropped the ball after Kilroy's body was found.

In retrospect, then Cameron County Sheriff Department Lt. George Gavito, who now is the police chief at the Brownsville Navigation District, said that he and other law enforcement officers from the county and federal agencies could have done more.

"We could have put together a task force to follow this up, who knows, maybe we would have found other cults. There could have been a lot of information there, but I feel that we didn't do enough after the fact. I think we did everything we could up to the point that we found Mark, but I think afterwards, I think we all kind of dropped the ball," Gavito said.

He said the investigations didn't proceed because of jealousy between departments. "You had federal agencies that were kind of putting the task force together and there was just jealousy between departments back then and they just couldn't work together," Gavito said.

"I think we would have found out a lot more," Gavito said, emphasizing that the problems among law enforcement branches are long passed and that all today have a firm and cooperative relationship.

Gavito said that they could have found out who Constanzo was, who taught him to include human sacrifices in his rituals and why he did it. Gavito added further investigation could have shown "who did he teach that we didn't even catch or we don't even know about?"

"Remember we caught the people in Matamoros, but what about the people in Mexico City, the different groups that he might have had throughout the United States, throughout Mexico and Miami that might be doing the same thing or could have been doing the same thing?" he asked.

Constanzo, a Cuban-American, was raised in Miami and also lived in Mexico City.

But in the course of 20 years, apparently no one that Gavito knows pursued it, including himself. "I think a lot of people just wanted to forget it, put it behind them, a ‘it didn't happen type of thing,' and ‘let's just move on,' " Gavito speculated.

 

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