Suspect Suggests Jail Guard Was Target of Juárez Killings

By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr. (New York Times)
Published: March 31, 2010

MONTERREY, Mexico — A reputed gang leader arrested in connection with the killings of three people linked to the United States Consulate in Ciudad Juárez has told investigators the killers were searching for the car of a guard at the El Paso County Jail, the authorities said in a statement released late Tuesday.

The account given to investigators by Ricardo Valles de la Rosa, a 45-year-old member of the Barrio Azteca prison gang, suggests the target of the assassination on March 13 was Arthur H. Redelfs, not his pregnant wife, Lesly Ann Enriquez, an employee of the consulate.

Mr. Redelfs and Ms. Enriquez were ambushed by several gunmen as they left a child’s birthday party in Ciudad Juárez. Their 7-month-old daughter was found wailing in the backseat. The gunmen also attacked a second car leaving the party, killing the husband of a second consulate worker and wounding two children.

The Mexican authorities say Mr. Valles de la Rosa told them he had been ordered several days earlier by unnamed leaders of the gang in El Paso to track down Mr. Redelfs’ white sport-utility car in Ciudad Juárez. He found it, he said, on March 13 at a business that organized children’s birthday parties.

According to the statement, Mr. Valles de la Rosa confessed that as the car pulled away from the business, he contacted other members of the gang, who ordered him to follow it. He trailed the car until it reached Avenida La Ribereña near the city hall, when he received an order to drop back, because other gang members in another car had picked up the target.

Moments later, he heard the rattle of gunfire and then passed the white car; Mr. Redelfs lay dead in the driver’s seat and a woman was shot to death in the passengers seat, he said, according to the statement.

Mr. Valles de la Rosa, a native of Juarez who has a lengthy criminal history in the United States and was deported in 2007, also confessed to participating in four other murders, the statement said.

“The information the suspect has given is still being verified, so the authorities are not releasing, for the moment, other information about probable participants or the material and intellection masterminds of the double homicide, nor their probable motive,” the statement said.

Indeed, the motive for the attacks remained murky, and authorities on both sides of the border have declined to speculate. One line of investigation is that the Aztecas, as the gang is known in Mexico, were angry with Mr. Redelfs for some action he took in the El Paso County Jail, where many members of the gang have been incarcerated. That theory is bolstered by the fact that the second car that was attacked was also a white S.U.V.

Mr. Valles de la Rosa, who goes on the street by the names El Chino and El 29, was born in Ciudad Juarez in 1964, but left for El Paso with his parents at age 6 and lived there for 30 years.

The statement said he joined a gang and was jailed in El Paso in 1995 and came into contact with the Aztecas while in jail. He was deported to Ciudad Juarez in 2007, and there he worked as a lookout and enforcer for the Aztecas, whom authorities say work for the Juarez drug cartel run by Vicente Carrillo Fuentes on both sides of the border.

In addition to being charged late Tuesday with taking part in the killings in Juarez, he is also charged with killing four members of rival gangs, “Los Mexicles” and “Los Doble AA.”

Across Mexico, the fighting between drug gangs and the military continued unabated, with at least 40 people dying violently on Tuesday. At least 15 people died in firefights between soldiers and gunmen in the border towns of Reynosa, Rio Bravo and Diaz Ordaz, where the Gulf Cartel and a splinter group, Los Zetas are vying for power, Milenio newspaper reported.

Seven people were found executed in Cuernavaca, just south of Mexico City. Four of the bodies were wrapped in blankets and with a placard that delivered a blunt warning to an important capo in the Sinaloa Cartel, Edgar Valdez Villarreal, known as El Barbi, who has been feuding with other members of his organization.

In Ciudad Juárez, at least 13 people were found murdered. In one incident, gunmen burst into a workshop and adjoining house and killed five men and a baby girl. The motive in the shooting was still under investigation, police said.

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