MEXICO CITY – Mexican police had two accused serial killers in custody Thursday — a female ex-wrestler suspected in the deaths of at least 10 elderly women, and a former soldier accused of torturing and killing at least four gay men.
The news was shocking to a city that, although accustomed to crime, rarely sees serial killings.
On Wednesday, a former professional wrestler, originally mistaken for a man, was captured while fleeing a house where an 82-year-old woman had been strangled with a stethoscope.
Mexico City Attorney General Bernardo Batiz said Thursday that Juana Barraza, 48, has been linked to the deaths of at least 10 elderly women in Mexico City, raising hopes that the capital's notorious "Little Old Lady Killer" was finally in custody.
Authorities say they have enough evidence to believe that Barraza is the "Mataviejitas" who has been terrorizing elderly residents here for two years.
She was captured while running from a house where Ana Maria Reyes had just been strangled. During her arrest, she told police and reporters that she killed Reyes but not the other victims. Officers allowed reporters to interview the suspect at the scene, a standard practice in Mexico.
"Yes, I did it," she said, smiling at the television cameras. She quickly added: "Just because I'm going to pay for it, that doesn't mean they're going to hang all the crimes on me."
Batiz told the Televisa network that Barraza admitted killing three other women. He said Barraza's fingerprints matched those left at the scenes of a total of 10 killings and one attempted murder.
Police had suspected that the killer was a man dressed as a woman, and they spent months detaining, questioning and fingerprinting transvestites.
But now they say the stout Barraza is their prime suspect. She resembles police composite profiles and a sculpted rendering of the suspected serial killer — including a similar haircut and facial mole.
Ismael Alvarado Ruiz, one of two policemen who made the arrest, said a neighbor alerted them to Barraza.
"My partner and I caught her by the arms and took her back to the patrol car," Alvarado Ruiz said. "We went back to the house, and everything was scattered all around."
Police said Barraza was carrying a bag with a stethoscope, pension forms and a card identifying her as a social worker. Police have long believed that the killer gained access to victims' homes by offering to sign them up for pensions or other programs for the elderly.
But Barraza said she went to the victim's home to ask for work doing laundry.
"That's a lie. I wasn't carrying the documents they have there," she said.
She did not offer a motive, but told reporters, "You'll know why I did it when you read my statement to police."
One of Reyes' neighbors, 73-year-old Lourdes Medina, remembered the victim as a tidy, hardworking woman.
"This is very sad. It's not fair," Medina said. "This could have happened to me. I'm scared to walk on the street."
In a news conference Thursday, the other suspect, Raul Osiel Marroquin, described killing four gay men before his arrest Monday in Mexico City. Although there had been some reports of attacks against gays increasing, Marroquin's arrest was the first confirmation of a serial killer targeting homosexuals.
"I snuffed out four homosexuals that in some way were affecting society," he said while denying being homophobic.
He told reporters he would kill again, if given the chance, but he would "refine his methods." Police said he lured his victims away from bars, tortured them and hanged them. He allegedly carved a star into the forehead of one victim.
Marroquin also was accused of kidnapping two other gay men, but he released them after being paid a ransom of up to $11,500.