Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Adolfo Constanzo

Blood Rites

Martin Quintana Rodriguez
Martin Quintana

A modeling assignment took Constanzo to Mexico City in 1983, and he spent his free time telling fortunes with tarot cards in the city's infamous Zona Rosa, a popular hangout for prostitutes. Before returning to Miami, Constanzo recruited his first Mexican disciples, including Martin Quintana Rodriguez, homosexual "psychic" Jorge Montes, and Omar Orea Ochoa, who had been obsessed with the occult from the age of 15. In short order, Constanzo seduced both Quintana and Orea, claiming one as his "man" and the other as his "woman," depending on Adolfo's romantic whim of the moment.

Omar Orea Ochoa
Omar Orea Ochoa

In mid-1984 Constanzo moved to Mexico City full-time, seeking what his mother referred to as "new horizons." He shared quarters with Quintana and Orea, in a strange ménage à trois, collecting other followers as his "magic" reputation spread throughout the city. It was said that Constanzo could read the future, and he also offered limpias—ritual "cleansings"—for those who felt enemies had cursed them. Of course, it all cost money, and Constanzo's journals, recovered after his death, document 31 regular customers, some paying up to $4,500 for a single ceremony. Constanzo established a menu for sacrificial beasts, with roosters going for $6 a head, goats for $30, boa constrictors for $450, adult zebras for $1,100, and African lion cubs listed at $3,100 each.

True to the teachings of his Florida mentor, Constanzo charmed wealthy drug dealers, helping them schedule shipments and meetings on the basis of his predictions. For a price, he also offered magic that would make gangsters and their bodyguards invisible to police, bulletproof against their enemies. It was all nonsense, but smugglers drawn from Mexican peasant stock and a background of brujeria (witchcraft) were strongly inclined to believe. According to Constanzo's ledgers, one dealer in Mexico City paid him $40,000 for magical services over three years' time.

At those rates, the customers demanded a show, and Constanzo recognized the folly of disappointing men who carried Uzis in their armor-plated limousines. Constanzo was well established by mid-1985, when he and three of his disciples raided a Mexico City graveyard for human bones to start his own bloody caldron. The rituals and air of mystery surrounding Constanzo were powerful enough to lure a cross-section of Mexican society, with his clique of followers including a physician, a real estate speculator, fashion models, and several transvestite nightclub performers.

Adolfo Constanzo aka El Padrino in 1986
Adolfo Constanzo aka El
Padrino in 1986

Perhaps the most peculiar aspect of Constanzo's new career was the appeal he seemed to have for high-ranking law enforcement officers. At least four members of the Federal Judicial Police joined Constanzo's cult in Mexico City: one of them, Salvador Garcia Alarcon, was a commander in charge of narcotics investigations; another, Florentino Ventura Gutierrez, retired from the federales to head the Mexican branch of Interpol. In a country where bribery permeates all levels of law enforcement and federal agents sometimes serve as triggermen for drug lords, corruption is not unusual, but the devotion of Constanzo's disciples seemed to run deeper than simple greed. In or out of uniform, they worshiped Constanzo as a minor god, their living conduit to the spirit world and ambassador to Hell itself.

In 1986, Ventura introduced Constanzo to the drug dealing Calzada family, then one of Mexico's dominant narcotics cartels. Constanzo won the hard-nosed dealers over with his charm and mumbo-jumbo, profiting immensely from his contacts with the gang. By early 1987 he was able to pay $60,000 cash for a condominium in Mexico City and buy himself a fleet of luxury cars that included an $80,000 Mercedes Benz. When not working magic for the Calzadas or other clients, Constanzo staged scams of his own, once posing as a DEA agent to rip off a Guadalajara cocaine dealer and then selling the stash through his police contacts for a cool $100,000.

At some point in his odyssey from juvenile psychic to high-society wizard, Constanzo began to feed his nganga, or caldron, with the offerings of human sacrifice. No final tally for his victims is available, but 23 ritual murders are well-documented and Mexican authorities point to a rash of unsolved mutilation-slayings around Mexico City during the same period, suggesting that Constanzo's known victims may be only the tip of a malignant iceberg. In any case, his willingness to torture and kill total strangers—or even close friends—duly impressed the ruthless drug dealers who remained his foremost clients.

In the course of a year's association, Constanzo came to believe that his magical powers alone were responsible for the Calzada family's continued success and survival. In April 1987 he demanded a full partnership in the syndicate and was curtly refused. On the surface, Constanzo seemed to take the rejection in stride, but his devious mind was plotting revenge.

On April 30, 1987 Guillermo Calzada Sanchez and six members of his household vanished under mysterious circumstances. They were reported missing on May 1 and police noted melted candles and other evidence of a strange religious ceremony at Calzada's office. Six more days went by before officers began fishing mutilated remains from the Zumpango River. Seven corpses were recovered in the course of a week, all bearing signs of sadistic torture: fingers, toes and ears removed; hearts and genitals excised; part of the spine ripped from one body; two other corpses missing their brains.

The vanished parts, as it turned out, had gone to feed Constanzo's nganga, building up his strength for greater conquests yet to come. By July 1987 he already had his next targets in mind.

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