Filed under: The Occult
In April of 1989, a south Texas border community was brought to its feet by the discovery of bizarre, ritualistic and torturous killings which occurred in a small ranch outside of Matamoros, Mexico. One of the 13 mutilated bodies discovered was that of Mark Kilroy, a 21 year old student at the University of Texas at Austin. Kilroy had been tortured mercilessly; his skull split open and his brain removed. Authorities later discovered Mark Kilroy’s brain in a cast-iron cauldron called a Nganga among other remains which included: various animals, spiders, scorpions, a horseshoe, a turtle shell and a human spinal column – all which had been boiled in blood.
The mastermind behind the murders was a Cuban immigrant and drug-smuggler named Adolfo Jesus de Constanzo. Constanzo and company sacrificed their victims and used their body parts in magical incantations and rituals – rituals that were very loosely based on a religion known as Palo Mayombe. (In truth, however, many of the cult members who participated in the slayings practiced a combination of Palo Mayombe, Roman Catholicism and Santeria.) Palo mayombe, according to Wikipedia, originated in central Africa but was spread to Cuba by slaves. In the mid 19th century, Palo Mayombe spread to Haiti and the Dominican Republic and to other Afro-Latino communities in the United States, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia and Puerto Rico. The focus of worship revolves around a consecrated religious receptacle or alters known as Nganga. Just as was found in Adolfo’s site of sacrifice, the Nganga is usually filled with sticks (palos), human remains and other items. As an infant in Cuba, Constanzo’s father convinced a Palo Mayombe practicing priest that his son was a “chosen one” who was “destined for great power”. With the full blessings of his Palo Mayombe-practicing mother, Constanzo began an apprenticeship with a Haitian priest in Miami when he was only 10 years old.
Constanzo’s mother Delia Aurora Gonzalez was often in trouble with the law but always managed to elude prosecution. Delia believed that her religion gave her magical powers to evade punishment for her crimes. She would often move from place to place with her son, often leaving homes despoiled and blood-stained, often littered with remains of animals which had been sacrificed. Obviously, this had a profound effect on Adolfo and he too began to believe that Palo Mayombe provided magical protection from harm. When he was 19 years old, Constanzo pledged his allegiance to Kadiempembe, an African-based deity most often associated with the Christian version of Satan. With the blessing of his mentor, he devoted himself to the worship of evil for profit – specifically using his religion to help his own drug dealings and cursing and/or killing members of rival gangs.
Mark Kilroy wasn’t the first to be sacrificed, but he was the one victim who inadvertently brought about the downfall of this dangerous murdering cult. Unlike the other victims, Mark Kilroy was an American; he was Anglo, came from a well-to-do family and had an uncle in the U.S. Customs Service. Immediately after his disappearance, his family made television appearances and offered a $15,000 reward for anyone with information regarding his disappearance. Adolfo and his gang soon realized that they had picked on the wrong guy. Many of their victims at that time had been rival drug dealers, members of their own cult, or individuals who were simply not missed. Unfortunately for the Kilroy family, Adolfo had killed Mark Kilroy almost immediately upon taking him to the ranch known as Rancho Santa Elena.
Rancho Santa Elena was discovered when farmers around the area reported hearing “strange noises” coming from the site during the middle of the night. In fact, people around the area were afraid of the site because they believed it was evil and heard that “witches” would often congregate there. Fearful, many who knew those details remained quiet for a long time. When the discovery was made, however, all hell broke loose and the media frenzy began.
At the time, I was 9 years old and vividly remember the panic that ensued right after the grizzly discovery. The timing of such a case was extraordinary as Geraldo Rivera (as many of you remember) was in the midst of scaring Americans to death with his reports that Satanists were all over the country sacrificing babies and such. This case at the time only solidified the belief that Satanists were in fact real and sacrificed individuals without remorse – all in the name of Satan. To make matters worse, this was happening in my very own backyard. In order to quantify the panic, you need to understand that I was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley, located at the southernmost tip of Texas. Predominantly Hispanic, the area to this day is serious about their Catholicism and uber-sensitive to anything involving the supernatural. In addition, the area is considered one of the poorest regions in the United States and not surprisingly, many are also poorly educated. So not only was Geraldo Rivera scaring the shit out of well-informed, educated Americans – he was also doubly scaring those who simply didn’t know any better. This was evident by the rampant rumors that soon started after the revelation that people had, in fact, been sacrificed – and all just a stones throw away from our own homes.
News channels in the area reported that schools across the Rio Grande Valley had begun to receive calls that children were to be kidnapped and sacrificed in retaliation for disturbing a sacred site. In fact, schools really were receiving threats, but many of these were later attributed to sick individuals bent on having a little fun at everyone else’s expense. To make matters worse, Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo and his disciples had not been caught. The gang was on the run and numerous sightings across the region and as far north as Chicago were being reported almost daily. In my particular case, the doors of my school were locked and every single student was corralled into the cafeteria. The only way we were allowed to leave was if our parents personally came to the school and signed us out. Cities along the border instated curfews and many required that all children be accompanied by an adult. News agency’s also reported that children should not be left outside to play unsupervised – even in the middle of the day! This scene was repeated at almost every school and city across the Rio Grande Valley, a large region that runs 100 miles east and west along the Rio Grande River, extending out to the Gulf of Mexico.
Some time during the big brouhaha, a church in Pharr, Texas was burned to the ground by angry locals because it was believed to be a Satanic Church. Rumor had it that this church was responsible for the kidnapping threats and had ties to the Constanzo cult. Although the church had existed within the community for 16 years, its name dealt its fate. The Church of Fire, as it was unfortunately named, was in fact a Bible-based Christian church. Many of its members’ homes were also threatened with the same fate despite this fact. As this case illustrates perfectly, panic trumped all reason.
The communities affected by this bizarre case tried desperately to return to normal to no avail. Those who were capable of committing such a horrendous crime time and time again were still out there. On April 24, 1989, one of the cult members Jorge Montes was arrested in his home and wasted no time in implicating Adolfo as the mastermind behind the murders. Unfortunately, he proved to be no help in locating Adolfo and other cult members. On May 2nd at a hideout in Mexico City, Sara Maria Aldrete, one of the cult members wrote a note on a piece of paper and threw it out the window because she feared for her life. The note 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.”
Unfortunately, the note fell into the hands of a passerby who believed it to be a joke and did not report what he had found. On May 6th, police began going door-to-door looking for a missing child from an unrelated case. When the police approached Adolfo’s hideout, he assumed they were there for him and opened fire with a machine gun. Ala-Hitler, Adolfo instructed one of his cronies to kill him and another member – and if he didn’t, things would go bad for him in hell. With that prompt, Adolfo was killed by his own machine gun.
Three remaining members were found alive in the home and were immediately arrested and sentenced between 35-67 years in prison. In a Mexican prison, that’s as good as a death sentence. Additionally, 11 other members were indicted on various charges related to the murders at Ranch Santa Elena. When the remaining members of Constanzo’s crew were interviewed, they explained that the true inspiration for human sacrifice came from the motion picture, The Believers (1987) which Adolfo made them watch 14 times. In the movie, a high-priest uses human sacrifice to gain supernatural powers.
Arrested cult members
The true number of victims will never be known. Police discovered 13 mutilated bodies at the ranch. However, according to crimelibrary.com, Mexico City reported 74 unsolved ritualistic killings between 1987 and 1989 with 14 of them involving infant children. Police suspect that Constanzo’s cult was responsible for 16 of those – all of which involved children or teenagers, but the lack of evidence prevented the authorities from pressing charges.
Things slowly returned to normal in this south Texas region but remnants of that experience remain to this day. The following year, many schools across the region decided to tone down any attempt at celebrating the occult (i.e. Halloween) and banned all costumes which contained an “occult” theme, this included fairies, ghosts, smurfs, witches (good and bad) – even Casper the Ghost was banned! Some schools banned Halloween altogether and many of these districts still enforce the bans to this day.
For more in-depth information about the killings, check out the following links:
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