Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Adolfo Constanzo

'They'll Never Take Me'

Constanzo read betrayal in his tarot cards on April 18, 1989. He knew informers must have sold out Serafin Sr., and now he eyed his friends more warily. He kept an Uzi close at hand and rarely slept for more than a few minutes at a time. Increasingly, he threatened those around him with a power exceeding that of the police. "They cannot kill you," he insisted, "but I can."

On April 22, nocturnal arsonists struck at Rancho Santa Elena, burning Constanzo's bloodstained ritual shed to the ground. The next morning he flew into a rage, watching on television as police conducted a full-dress exorcism at the ranch, sprinkling holy water over the graves and smoldering ashes. Constanzo stormed about the small apartment where he slept with Aldrete and the others, smashing lamps and overturning furniture, a man possessed.

Black magic shed burned by police
Black magic shed burned by police

On April 24 police arrested cultist Jorge Montes, raiding his home three blocks from the site where the Calzada family was slaughtered in 1986. Like the others arrested before him, Montes spilled everything he knew about the cult, naming Constanzo as the mastermind and chief executioner in a string of grisly homicides.

Three days later, Constanzo and his four remaining cohorts settled into their last hideout, an apartment house on Rio Sena in Mexico City. Aldrete, fearing for her life, penned a note on May 2 and tossed it from a bedroom window to the street below. It read:

Please call the judicial police and tell them that in this building are those that they are seeking. Tell them that a woman is being held hostage. I beg for this, because what I want most is to talk—or they're going to kill the girl.

A passerby found the note moments later, read it, and kept it to himself, believing it was someone's lame attempt at humor. Upstairs, in the crowded flat, Constanzo began laying plans to flee Mexico with his hard-core disciples, perhaps starting fresh somewhere else. "They'll never take me," he assured his followers.

Those plans unraveled on May 6, 1989, when police arrived on Rio Sena, going door-to-door and asking questions. As luck would have it, they were searching for a missing child—a completely unrelated case—but when Constanzo glimpsed them from a window he panicked, opening fire with his submachine gun. Within moments, 180 policemen surrounded the apartment house returning fire in a fierce exchange that lasted some 45 minutes. Miraculously, the only person wounded was an officer struck by Constanzo's first shots.

Constanzo & Quintana dead in closet
Constanzo & Quintana dead in

When Constanzo realized that escape was impossible, he handed his weapon to El Duby and issued new orders. As the hit man later told police, "He told me to kill him and Martin. I told him I couldn't do it, but he hit me in the face and threatened that everything would go bad for me in hell. Then he hugged Martin, and I just stood in front of them and shot them with a machine gun."

Constanzo and Quintana were dead when police stormed the apartment, slumped together in a closet, Constanzo dressed in shorts as if for a day at the beach. The three survivors—El Duby, Orea and Sara Aldrete—were promptly arrested and rushed off to jail. In custody, El Duby admitted shooting Constanzo, but he cheerfully informed police, "The godfather will not be dead for long."

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