Sat, Jan 08, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Gang members sentenced in the slaying of 12 women

AP , CIUDAD JUAREZ, MEXICO

Ten alleged gang members were convicted in the killings of 12 women, some of the hundreds who have been found slain in this border city in recent years.

Four bus drivers, all thought to be loyal to a criminal gang known as "Los Toltecas," were sentenced Thursday to between 40 and 113 years in prison for premeditated homicide, aggravated rape and criminal association in the slayings of six Ciudad Juarez women.

In a verdict delivered by a different judge, six members of another gang, "Los Rebeldes," received between 24 and 40 years in prison for similar convictions in the deaths of six other women, said Rene Medrano, a spokesman for the state attorney general's office in Chihuahua, which includes Juarez.

The Los Toltecas members were arrested in 1999, after the reputed leader of their group, Jesus Manuel Guardado, alias "El Tolteca," was identified by a 14-year-old girl as the man who sexually assaulted and tried to kill her.

Guardado, whose nickname comes from inhabitants of an ancient civilization that predates the Spanish conquest, received 113 years in prison, while the other four were sentenced to 40 years. Under Mexican, law 40 years is the longest any inmate can be held behind bars.

One other alleged member of the group was found not guilty and released, Medrano said.

According to government tallies, more than 300 women have been killed in this city across from El Paso, Texas, since 1993, though human rights leaders say the number is much higher. At least 100 of those slayings appear to fit a pattern where a young, slender woman was sexually abused, strangled, and dumped in the desert outside Juarez.

Many of those cases remain unsolved and only two men have been convicted for nine of the slayings. The first person found guilty was Abdel Latif Sharif, a US resident and Egyptian-born chemist, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Women continued to turn up dead in and around Juarez after Sharif's 1996 arrest, and police alleged he paid members of "Los Rebeldes" street gang to continue raping and killing other women to deflect suspicion away from himself.

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