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Case of woman known as 'The Throatslitter' putting Mexican justice to the test

Itzel García, 20, a woman who sells gum and candy in Mexico City's subway system stands accused of slitting the throats of nine people in a suburb of the capital city. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Itzel García, 20, a woman who sells gum and candy in Mexico City's subway system stands accused of slitting the throats of nine people in a suburb of the capital city. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)  (2009 Getty Images)

Outside Neza Bordo prison in one of the most violent suburbs of Mexico City, the relatives of 20-year-old Itzel García gather each day to protest.

The woman, who works as a gum and candy vendor on the Mexico City subway,  is accused of terrorizing the town of Chimalhuacán after slitting the throats of several victims with a sharp knife.

Mexican prosecutors say she killed two and wounded seven before her capture Monday, but friends and relatives are insisting, on signs and in protest chants, that she doesn't live up to her nickname, “La Degolladora” – the Throatslitter or Beheader.

In a country where nicknames tend to follow people their whole life, García and her supporters deny the allegations and demand that authorities present evidence and sentence her at an actual oral hearing. Such procedures are relatively new in a country that has tried to reform its opaque and much-questioned legal system.

"Until now, they only have accused her of attacking a work colleague on Sept. 13," David Salgado, García’s lawyer, told Fox News Latino.  However, García is being linked informally to several stabbings in the town, which is about 25 miles from the Mexican capital.

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The Chimalhuacán attacks began in September, and neighbors said they at first believed the Throatslitter was a transvestite because of accounts describing the assailant as a woman with the strength of a man.

"I was walking, and all of a sudden I felt some pricks and then the wound," said Rosa Jiménez Martínez, one of the survivors. "I fell, and then I ran away, but I could see that it was a young woman – not older than 25, skinny."

Even as city and state officials investigated, new victims appeared. Among them two dead: Rosario Lévano, 29, and Brenda Chantal, 16.

Another five were badly wounded: three women, a male truck driver and a man who worked with García who is known by the nickname "El Cepillo" (“The Brush”).

At the start of October, townspeople who said they were "sick of crime and impunity" threatened to take justice into their own hands if police didn't find and capture the Throatslitter.

As if on cue, a week later police arrested García, whose boyfriend accused her of having attacked El Cepillo.

"It's a lie – they are using Itzel as a scapegoat," said Rocío García, the accused's sister.

Criminal proceedings in Mexico are notorious for being opaque, overly bureaucratic and often manipulated. And nearly everything occurs behind closed doors.

"Here they convict people immediately, and afterward they discover that it wasn't the way they said it was, that the people are innocent," José Fernández Santillán, a political science professor at the Monterrey Institute of Technology who is currently scholar in residence at the University of Baltimore, told FNL.

"It's common to see trials run by fear, where the judges don't dare hand down sentences based on the law," Fernández said. "You see witch hunts, but this will be resolved with oral trials: They're fast, efficient and public."

On Monday, a judge gave prosecutors two months to finish the investigation and to prepare for an oral trial.

Through her relatives, Itzel García said it's "her hope" that her name gets cleared. Literally, because doesn’t want to continue to be known as the Throatslitter.

The authorities, however, say they plan to prove that that’s just what she is.

Gardenia Mendoza is a freelance reporter in Mexico City.