In Juarez, Mexico, authorities say a suspect they detained last week in connection with the March 13 murder of two US citizens has told them the reason for the killing may have to do with treatment of jailed gang members across the border in El Paso, Texas. One of the victims worked as a jailer in El Paso.
Investigators in Mexico say the detained suspect Ricardo Valles de la Rosa, 45, claims the ambush of a US couple near the Juarez city hall on Saturday, March 13, was carried out as an act of retribution against Arthur Redelfs, who worked as an El Paso County Sheriff's detention officer and was accused by gang members of mistreating their compatriots there.
Redelfs and his pregnant wife, Lesley, who worked at the US consulate in Juarez, died in their white sport utility vehicle after being shot multiple times. Around the same time, a Mexican man who had been at a social event with the couple just minutes before was killed in similar fashion at another location.
According to Mexican authorities the second victim was also in a white sport utility vehicle and since the gunmen were not sure which one was Redelf's car, they decided to kill the occupants of both vehicles. Such callousness is not unusual in Juarez, where drug-related violence has claimed the lives of more than four thousand, 800 people since 2008. The violence has claimed around 600 victims so far this year.
El Paso County Sheriff's Department spokespersons say they have no information to collaborate the reports coming out of Mexico, but they have said that Redelfs was a well-respected professional. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and other federal law enforcement agencies are providing assistance to Mexican authorities in this investigation, but they have declined to comment on the developments in Mexico.
Federal agents and local El Paso authorities have targeted the Barrio Azteca gang in this investigation, detaining some two dozen gang members on warrants issued against them for other crimes and also questioning them for leads in the case. The gang, which was formed in U.S. prisons, works in league with the Azteca band in Juarez, which is affiliated with the Juarez drug smuggling cartel headed by Vicente Carillo Fuentes.
In an effort to reduce the number of violent criminals in Juarez, the United States has stopped deporting released prisoners of Mexican nationality to the embattled city, according to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Leticia Zamarripa.
"It is a bilateral program by which now ICE is redirecting criminals, Mexican nationals, away from Juarez, and they are being sent to Laredo, Eagle Pass and Del Rio, Texas," explained Zamarripa.
So far this month, U.S. officials have sent around 800 released prisoners to other Mexican border cities with the hope that many of them will not work their way back to Juarez and become part of the city's criminal underground. Zamarripa says US officials are well aware of the continuing bloodshed in Juarez and surrounding areas and want to help Mexican counterparts gain control of the situation.
"We feel that this is the right thing to do; this is the right time to do it, to try to see if it will help, help alleviate some of the violence we are seeing along our border," added Zamarripa.
The request for the halt to returning prisoners through Juarez originated with Juarez Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz after officials there noticed that many homicides in the city were related to gangs that operate across the border and that ten percent of the city's murder victims had been deported from the United States. At one point, there were as many as 300 people a day being deported through Juarez, which has gained a reputation as the most dangerous city in the world outside a war zone.