CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico – A Texas man accused of sexually assaulting 19 women in Mexico was a chemical engineer who lived with his wife in El Paso, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Jorge Alberto Mendez spent about 11 months crossing into the Mexican city of Ciudad Juarez to assault women and girls in their homes, usually on a Tuesday or Friday, said Alejandro Pariente, regional deputy attorney general.
Mexican police arrested the naturalized U.S. citizen Saturday as he tried to cross the border again into Ciudad Juarez. He has been formally charged in just one case — the rape of a 15-year-old girl in April 2008 — but police suspect he was involved in 18 other similar attacks. The youngest victim was 13 years old.
Pariente said Mendez usually talked his way into his victims' homes and threatened them with a gun.
One of Mendez's alleged would-be victims thwarted his attack. Pariente said that Mendez persuaded the 18-year-old woman to let him in her home by posing as a neighbor looking for electric cables, but he fled when she began screaming.
Another victim managed to write down her assailant's license plate number, which eventually led to Mendez's arrest. Police found pornographic magazines underneath his car seat, along with the clothes he wore when he allegedly attacked the women: shorts and a dark gray shirt.
Pariente said Mendez, 42, was married and worked as a chemical engineer in an unspecified El Paso company. He is being held in a Mexican prison.
Prosecutors said they could not reveal the name of Mendez's lawyer because it could endanger the attorney.
Ciudad Juarez has a history of violence against women. In a similar case in 2007, a New Mexico man was accused of repeatedly crossing into the city and raping at least 13 women in their homes.
During the decade that ended in 2003, more than 100 women disappeared in the city. Many of them were young women last seen in the city's downtown area or after boarding buses. The victims' bodies were often dumped in the desert outside the city.
Last year, a Mexican citizen who allegedly confessed to killing at least 10 women in Ciudad Juarez was extradited from the United States to stand trial for aggravated homicide.
The city of 1.3 million people is one of the most violent in Mexico, a battleground in the drug war where 1,600 people were killed in 2008.
Threats and attacks have left the police force in disarray, with more than half quitting, retiring or getting fired last year alone.
Last month, the government deployed thousands of extra soldiers to patrol the city, and the troubled police force was disarmed. The government has said homicides have dropped since troops took a tighter grip on policing.