Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Team Killers, Part Three

Death Priests

Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo & Sara Maria Aldrete Villareal
Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo & Sara Maria Aldrete

Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo was the High Priest and Sara Maria Aldrete his High Priestess. What they were doing was uncovered after a 21-year-old college student, Mark Kilroy, turned up missing. A student at the University of Texas, he went with three classmates to Matamoros, Mexico, just over the border. It was March 1987, and they went from bar to bar, as students on spring break will do. But Mark disappeared.

His family instigated a search, which failed to turn up anything until they got a tip about a drug raid on a remote homestead called Rancho Santa Elena. Apparently a blond man from the states was seen bound and gagged in a van at the ranch. A search turned up an altar of some kind in a shed, along with bloodstains, human hair and something else organic that was later identified as part of a human brain. A severed goat's head indicated that the people who lived here were involved in a religious cult, which turned out to be a Satanic form of Santeria. In this religion, human sacrifice was performed to protect them from police attacks, and Mark Kilroy had been among them. His headless torso was discovered in a mass grave containing the decapitated and mutilated bodies of 14 other men and boys.

All of these people had been killed on the orders of the cult leaders, Constanzo and Aldrete, who had fled before the raid. They had insisted that prior to any major drug deal, they needed the heart and brain of a human victim to boil and consume. Many hapless victims had served that purpose.

The two elders were traced to Mexico City in 1989, but police were too late to grab Constanzo. He had ordered his cult members to shoot him while he was locked in an embrace with his homosexual lover, and they had obeyed. Aldrete fled the apartment but was caught. She denied having any part in the human sacrifices, but she was indicted, along with other surviving members of the cult.

In the end, she got six years for her association in the crimes, and in another trial was convicted of multiple murders. For that, she got a sentence of 62 years. Her four accomplices from the ranch got 67 years a piece.

It was believed that Constanzo had long practiced his black magic openly, taking two dozen sacrifices around Mexico City during one year. When he demanded full partnership in a powerful drug family and was rejected, all seven high-ranking members turned up dead, with evidence of pre-mortem torture. He was not one to be trifled with, believing he had supernatural powers, but in the end, his mistakes ended his long string of murders.

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It's likely that killers will continue to team up, using a partner to affirm a plan or to assist with some devious activity that requires more than one person to accomplish. Criminologists would do well to study this dynamic in more depth than has yet been done, so as to try to understand how such teams develop and operate. The "compliant accomplice" theory goes only so far. Much more needs to be done in this area.

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