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Hi, I'm Brian Husky, I'm bald, and I'm Charlie Sanders, I'm also bald and we want to talk to people about it. Charlie, did you know that the less hair you have, the more interesting you become? Yeah, of course everybody knows that. Oh, right. I mention them. Well, on our podcast, Paltalk, we interview people about being bald. Brian, is this show just for Baldy's Charlie?
No, Heroes' will enjoy this, too. I mean, the show is about perception, insecurity, vanity, just like human stuff.
You wouldn't believe the things that come up in the ball. Talk on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Forgotten is a production of IHOP, media and unusual productions. Before we start, this podcast contains accounts which some listeners will find disturbing, but without them, the story can't be fully understood. Please take care while listening. Last time on Forgotten, there were only speculations the markings might have indicated the initials of a perpetrator or a representative map, you know, a map of murder. Do you have to be a Kryten, if you're a serial murderer or you're a psychopath, not to understand?
Wow, it's like antelopes at the waterhole. What a great opportunity for a serial killer.
These murders appear to be taking place systematically. It's specific kinds of victims or being selected and kidnapped or taken by force somehow or lured and then their bodies found.
Murders of women had been going on unsolved in Juarez since the early 1990s. There were countless stories like that of Cigarillo Gonzalez, who went missing on her way home from work in 1998 and whose body was found in the desert two weeks later.
In early 2001, there was another case that matched the pattern. Lilya Alejandro Andrado Lexigram Aryo. She was 17 years old. She left for work one morning and then she never came home. But this case had some crucial differences that made El Paso journalist Dinah Washington Valdez believe that it could be solved. And unlike others in the process, at the very least, it should force the local police into action. The authorities are saying nothing is related to each other.
None of these deaths connect. You know, it's all random. Diana didn't buy this and she wasn't alone. The FBI special agent in charge of El Paso, Patrick Crawford, was concerned about the possibility of an American serial killer using Juarez as a hunting ground.
But wherever the killer was based, Diana was convinced that they were carefully selecting their victims and she was willing to do whatever it took to prove it. Can you talk about what motivated you to take vacation time, weekends, evenings to devote to this story?
There were not just random victims. There's something organized taking place. As much as Diana was sure this was true, it was almost impossible to prove without official investigation.
But then a case came along that looked set to change everything, I think that it could prototype or a model of these kinds of cases would be Lillia Alejandro Garcia, the. Clearly, Alejandro was a teenager and a mother of two who worked at a maquiladora assembling plastic parts for appliances, she posed for photos at work promoting the products she helped make. And in February 2001, she went missing. Previously, every victim had disappeared, seemingly into thin air, but witnesses had seen Lily Alexandra struggling in a car a few days after she was abducted.
Diana became obsessed with this case as a key to solving the whole, and she wants to interview the witnesses herself. A lawyer in Juarez promised to help her find them. Then while they were meeting, he changed his mind. He said, don't touch this, don't go near it. I thought, well, OK, you don't want to be part of it. That's fine. Just draw me the map and show me where I could find the witnesses.
And so he started to draw me on that neighborhood to indicate where I could go find people of interest. And then he tore up the paper, covered it up and said, no, no, it's too dangerous to stay away from it, Diana. But for Diana, the warning had the opposite effect. It made her confident that she was onto something. This case continue to strongly appeal to me as an important case. So like the naive person that I was, I go into that neighborhood, start knocking on doors, saying, you know, here's a picture that you should see this young woman and blah, blah, blah and door to door.
And I did run into someone who said, no, you need to be on the other side of the street. And they showed me where to go find a couple of the witnesses. Diana was able to uncover an extraordinary detail of the last weeks of Lily Alejandro's life that directly connected her with several other victims. But Diana also learned something else while she was interviewing witnesses. She wasn't the only person on the case.
Someone identifying themselves as FBI agents knocked on the door and they wanted to know what they saw, what they knew, all the details. And there was no such thing as the FBI ever doing this. Somebody went there impersonating FBI. Why would someone want to conduct their own interviews of the witnesses to this crime or they're hoping to learn what they perhaps connected to the killer? I must Voloshin. And I'm Monica Ortiz Uribe. This is forgotten. The women of Juarez agree.
Don't come to party politics. But I'm over at the embassy. So brave. You know, my si si. It was 2001 and Dinah Washington Valdez had been investigating crimes that she believed were connected for years, then Lélia Alejandro was abducted and murdered, something unusually sinister seemed to be happening. That story about the lawyer who was literally about to help Diana tracked down these witnesses, Monica, and then who tore up the piece of paper he was drawing on.
What do you think he was thinking about? Why did he do that?
I think this lawyer was torn between helping Diana advance her investigation and not wanting to put Diana in harm's way. And that's a tension that we all constantly live with doing work like this in Juarez, you have to make the decision, how far are you going to take things? When you told me that's something that you've thought about a lot and that when you first started reporting in Juarez, you even develop your own protocols, I would think carefully about what I would wear going to Juarez.
I really loved this pair of cowboy boots that I had and I would love wearing them and they would be helpful. Like if you're out reporting in the desert, they're they're helpful to keep the sand out. But I would think twice about putting those cowboy boots on because I would think, shoot, what if someone stuck me into the back of their trunk? It would be very uncomfortable to be wearing these cowboy boots stuffed in somebody's trunk.
But even with those grim and scary thoughts, you did go ahead and do the reporting. And Diana went and did the reporting. What do you know about the neighborhood that she was knocking on doors?
And Diana describes it as a middle class neighborhood peppered with small businesses. One of the witnesses who lived there was a judge and another was a U.S. citizen. They claim they saw Lilja in a car parked in front of a TV repair shop.
And the people who live there seeing an American reporter knocking on doors and asking questions, that must be quite a strange sight. Yes.
Yes. So at this point, Diana had appeared on TV giving multiple interviews about the work that she was doing. So she was often recognized even in Juarez, but typically a reporter going door to door in a neighborhood that isn't her own is going to stick out, which, of course, probably put her at risk.
Absolutely. To Diana, it seemed like a risk worth taking, such was the potential significance of this case. So here's what Diana was able to piece together about Liliya Liliya.
Alexandra Andruzzi was a vicious, outgoing teenager. She's very typical of the young women in Juarez who turn up missing. You can tell from the victimology reports that a lot of them were very responsible young women because they were either enrolled in school or working. So this young woman disappears of all days on Valentine's Day. It all happened because someone was supposed to pick her up that day from work and couldn't make it. And something happened when they got off work.
It's assumed that she got a ride with somebody. She then is missing for several days.
Lilias shift ended at 6:00 p.m. the day she disappeared. She borrowed money for bus fare from a co-worker and was last seen taking a shortcut across a vacant lot on the way to the bus stop. So someone sees her, they call her over to a car and physically grab her. She is seen in a car later neighborhood by witnesses struggling on February 19th. Why IS dispatchers received several emergency calls? Witnesses report a woman struggling in a white Ford Thunderbird. These witnesses called the authorities, they called police to come out here, but no one came out for several hours, then the car vanished and when the authorities finally showed up, it was nothing happening.
So they left. And so the witnesses are concerned that if police had shown up sooner, that perhaps they could have saved a'lelia because she ends up being brutally raped and then murdered and then her body dumped nearby.
Despite the multiple calls, the entry in the logbook for the night is nothing to report, but Lilias body was found within roughly 24 hours of her death, and that meant her autopsy could provide answers about what had happened to her. Lillian's body was discovered the day after the witnesses had seen her struggling in a car, but what had happened to her?
Who was she with during the time she was still alive? Normally, these questions were impossible to answer when a young woman's body was discovered in Juarez, who had been dead for two weeks when her body was found, by which time physical evidence that could have identified the perpetrator had deteriorated. In fact, often authorities couldn't even determine who the victim was, let alone who had killed them. But this time was different, despite the police's inexplicable failure to respond to the emergency calls, Lillian's body was found soon after her death and one of the few officials Diana did trust was overseeing the autopsy.
I had confidence because Oscar miners and others that I knew personally were involved in doing this examinations at the morgue, even hostile to people who are on the same side, more or less.
Right. Truth seekers. Yes. When we come back, we meet Oscar Minhas and learn about the evidence that emerged from LILIANNA autopsy. High people to get here, maybe you know me as mayor put in my new podcast, I'll be talking to people from every field whose ideas and actions will shape an era that is about to begin.
We can take this time and use it in a way to bring people together.
When people protest in a country that means they still love it enough, but they still believe change is what.
I have hope that we are actually going to figure out how to allow people to be free hearted, free thinkers.
Listen to the deciding decade on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.
Before the break, Dinah Washington Valdez told us that Oscar Martinez was a key source to begin to piece together who was killing young women like Alejandro Andrado, we decided to pay him a visit. So who is this Oscar minus Monica? Gives him a special insight into the crimes. Oscar was the head of the forensics department for the state police in Chihuahua. So he was very directly involved in the investigation of the women's murders. And he was actually one of the first investigators to sound the alarm that there might be a potential serial killer in the city.
When we met him for our interview, Oscar was teaching criminology at the Juarez University. And so we met him in school after one of his classes in an empty auditorium.
My name is Oscar minus Grijalva. I used to be the chief of the forensic department at the State Police.
Can you describe your job? I mean, with everything like you like to oversee the crime scene, working autopsies, a lot of homicides committed against women with basically some kind of sadomasochistic sexual predator type crimes.
Diana was very I was one of the cases to hit her the hardest.
Yeah, I was there when the relatives went to identify the body she was missing for. What was it like a week or something like that? A few days. So she was in the immediate I mean, she was badly beaten and raped. You KKK, Cynthia's. Did you feel looking at these remains? Well, the first thing is try to do the process of collecting evidence and look at the same thing as not look like you.
Well, first, you tend to disconnect. You see this case when you confront the relatives of the victims as it hits you, you know, and also you need to imagine what these victims went through to try to find out when were they take and how long were they abducted before they were killed. I mean, you have to go try and do this horrible process. Was she clothed when you found her or in a state of she was half naked?
And where was the body? In a field within the sea. This was the reason why Lily Alexandra was discovered so quickly.
Normally, victims were dumped in the desert on the outskirts of town, but Lillian's body was discovered near a commercial area, almost as though the killer was becoming more brazen. And her autopsy had something strange and disturbing in common with other victims who Oscar had examined physical evidence that didn't degrade. I didn't have access to all the cases, but the cases, they are related. They tie their hands with shoelaces. So when I saw the body of Alessandri, I checked everything.
Soon enough. There was the marks of shoelaces, you know, because I've seen these before, multiple victims had their hands tied with shoelaces.
In fact, this was so common that Oscar was actually expecting it when he examined Lily Alexandra. And indeed, he was right. This is the kind of signature that psychological profilers often jump on to narrow down the field of suspects. It was a concrete lead. You warned the authorities that you suspected a serial killer.
Yeah, because you saw a pattern there. Young women, poor, usually students, factory workers, and they were abducted, rape and usually murdered by strangulation. And then the position and the way they left the bodies, you could see a connection there. Diana told us that many victims had broken necks because the perpetrator wanted to achieve a certain sexual effect and sure enough, his neck was broken and her case revealed another haunting fact about the killer's modus operandi.
We believe she was fed at least half an hour before she was killed. She was fed whoever took Lily Alexandra on February the 14th kept her alive for several days before killing her. They also moved her around, according to the witness reports, from February 19th. Who could be capable of this? I mean, this case tells me how organized this is because she was abducted, she was kept in a place, someone was guarding her. She'd already been in captivity for a week, for a few days.
Just so probably she was fed and then someone came to her and then she was raped.
And then despite the fact that she'd been fed along with the shoelaces and the broken neck, suggested highly organized serial offender. But there was something else, something that could have begun the end game in these murders.
Were you able to collect any biological evidence in the case?
Well, there was DNA, but to compare it in what kind of evidence? DNA, semen extracted from Reeva. I flew to Unawatuna because they had a new DNA lab there. Did you fly it yourself? I took it, too, because I have interest, you know, if I sell to Mexico City, because in Mexico City, they lost the first batch of tissue to the city. And so we have to go again and send another batch.
And nothing came back from that or what came back from where you need to compare it to someone. Oscar was so worried that the samples would get lost. He personally escorted into a lab in Guanajuato almost a thousand miles away from Juarez. But somehow this potentially definitive biological evidence never helped secure a conviction and this failure to act on all of the evidence that came to light in his autopsy was infuriating to her family and to Dinah Washington Valdez. Oscar Martinez is familiar with the DNA profile.
I mean, it's like a piece of paper, the DNA file is on there. Why does somebody go on in the rest of.
The authorities claimed that they had no suspects to cross-reference the DNA with, and one of the things that stood in the way of identifying possible culprits was that the authorities maintain the Juarez serial killer was already behind bars. In 1995, after the first mass grave of women was discovered, an Egyptian national called Abdul Latif Sherif Sharif was arrested on suspicion of being behind the killings, and he was never fully exonerated. So this was something that jumped out to me even before we started working together, Monica, this idea that there was a prime suspect in jail, but the killings were continuing.
How did this situation come about?
So when these serial sexual murders started happening, people were startled and shocked. They couldn't understand why this was happening in their community during that time. In the local newspapers, you'd come across headlines almost daily, like a faceless psychopath stalks the city, a maniac on the loose.
It's around this time that an Egyptian chemist exiled from the U.S. moves to Juarez. His name is Abdul Latif Sharif Sharif. He's in his late 40s, at least six feet tall, athletic build and this thick, dark mustache.
He's handsome and has a charming personality. And before long, he becomes a well recognized character among the downtown Juarez nightclub scene.
He develops this reputation as a party animal with deep pockets. Sharif, again, is a chemist. He works for a big American company developing valuable patents. So he's a smart, professional guy with a dark past. In the United States, Sharif racked up a series of arrests and accusations for rape and battery. He went to jail for these crimes at one point even breaking out of jail while serving a 12 year sentence.
He's not in Juarez very long before he gets arrested there, too. And he's accused of kidnapping and raping a woman after hanging out in the clubs one night. And she fits the profile of this serial killer the public imagines is stalking their city, killing their women. So when police arrest him, they parade him before the media and announce he's a prime suspect. And at first, the public believes the police. But there's a problem. The killings continue after he gets jailed and the killings continue in the same pattern that they were occurring prior to his arrest.
So clearly, something is wrong. And so what?
How do the authorities respond to that? Well, it calls into serious doubt their prime suspect. So, you know, the police have to come up with a way to explain why are these murders continuing. And so it's like somebody in the Juarez police force must have a vivid imagination because the next theory they come up with gets even more twisted. They bring into custody members of an alleged gang called the Rebellious or the rebels. Police claim Shareef is paying off this gang to murder more women and help make the case for his innocence.
There was a moment of relief in Juarez when Sharif was arrested because his background made it plausible that he was responsible to authorities, obviously didn't want to admit that they were wrong. So they doubled down and the rebels as gang appeared in a final flourish. It was claimed that Sharif demanded proof that the gang were killing women on his behalf, delivered in the form of underwear to his jail cell. And the thing is, the police never acknowledged that this wasn't true, and that meant that no one could acknowledge the same killer who was killing in 1995 might still be killing in 2001.
That's why Oscar miners were sounding the alarm. He didn't believe the murders had ever stopped. And in his autopsy, he saw all the hallmarks of a serial killer. And this wasn't just any serial killer. It was a killer who was capable of keeping a victim alive for several days of moving the victim around and seemingly of intimidating witnesses. All of this made Diana all the more determined to identify her own suspects. But as she led her investigation, one of the things she found puzzling was how the crimes were being covered in the local press.
It was very different for me, being in the U.S. media to read the Mexican press would refer to the victims as her sacrificial rather like sacrificed to use that term specifically. I always thought it was very odd and even unnecessary and even unprofessional. If I was the editor, you know, saying, hey, you know, why are you using this kind of terminology that connotes that we're having a ritual here and people being sacrificed as part of that ritual?
Later on, I realized how apt that term is to describe exactly what was happening in Juarez.
It is indeed like a giant ritual and the offerings are these these victims.
When we come back, Diana explains how she came to understand why the word sacrifice is so appropriate and a highly concrete connection that she uncovered between the victims. Hey there, it's Mango hosts, a part time genius, co-founder of Mental Floss, and like many of you, I'm one of the 21 million people that have picked up gardening in the past six months. That's why I'm hosting the brand new podcast, Humans Growing Stopped, brought to you by hard media and your friends at Miracle-Gro join me on a green adventure as we talk with experts, friends and surprise guests.
And here, gardening means to them listening to humans growing stuff on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcast. Dinah Washington Valdez described the murders of women in Juarez in terms of ritual. The word sacrifice is very closely related to Mexican indigenous cultures like the Aztecs. There's a third of that that still runs strong in Mexico, just in the practice of folklore and that sort of thing.
The presence of triangles on some of the victims led people to claim that they had literally been sacrificed to a saint called Santa Muerte, the Holy Death. Diana didn't buy this, but she was struck by how the victims were obviously being identified well in advance of being killed. The Aster culture, a victim has volunteered. Their hearts are torn out to blood, offering to appease the gods. To me, this is exactly what is taking place in Juarez. We have the offerings of young women as a sacrifice.
And that's the important thing about these systematic murders is to understand the women were picked. They were selected. Diana's interviews with the witnesses had turned up that strange detail about the fake FBI agents, she was never able to find out who they were, but she was able to piece together some telling details about Alejandro's last few weeks alive, including the fact that photographs of her had circulated in promotional shots for the maquiladora where she worked.
Her kidnapping is very interesting because apparently someone saw her and decided she's going to be next. Right. Like to look, they knew something about her background already. Someone was watching. Someone's watching. He had people looking out for certain kinds of victims, honing in on them, narrowing in on them and then arranging for them to be kidnapped.
Lalala disappeared on the very day that her family didn't come to collect her from work and Cigarillo Gonzalez went missing shortly after she had changed shift and had to start commuting to work alone. The killer struck at moments of maximum vulnerability. But according to Dayna's reporting, they also had a formalised system to identify victims and to learn the schedule. I think it's worth mentioning the eco schools downtown became and this is also information that FBI informants had given to the FBI. Several of the young pages that disappeared in downtown Juarez happened to have stopped into a computer school, then called Echo the FBI again.
This time it's the real FBI who had their own interest in solving these crimes. And their informant network in Juarez suggested the victims were being identified using a computer school called Echo. In fact, Echo was a national chain of schools. One opened in the early 90s in downtown Juarez. This was the time when the personal computer was on the rise. And you can imagine a young woman like Alejandro Alexandra working a grueling job on an assembly line, being tempted by the promise of transcending circumstances through computer literacy.
After all, most of the victims families had moved to Juarez in search of a better life opportunity, and computer schools could lead to a coveted white collar job. What would happen is young ladies would be walking down the sidewalk and someone would approach him with a clipboard. They call them the echo promoters wanting to interest them in the training that the schools provided. The important thing about these computer skills is that the young ladies were putting their personal data into the questionnaires and their pictures were taken.
So it became very easy for someone. At another end, however, this information was being forwarded to to let this operators' catalog, you know, catalogue of potential victims. Through the questionnaires they filled out at the computer schools, including their pictures, someone could sit down there and say, oh, yes, but this one or that one, you know. These schools are being used to look for and identify young women of certain profiles.
Well, I mean, women disappeared and then they were found murdered later, but they were selected approximately how many women linked to the computer school were murdered?
I can only vouch for six. But when I went back and I questioned the families of victims, one of the questions I added to my interviews was that they were come into contact with a nickel school and they would say, oh, yes, you know.
Oh, yes. Lily, Alexandra Andruzzi was one of them. Lily Alejandre disappeared on a Wednesday, her first Ecotrust was set to begin on the Saturday of that week, or, Dayna's reporting revealed, went beyond a mere pattern.
It suggested a process that almost certainly involved more than one person. And as she pushed to reveal who might be involved, she began to receive serious threats against her life.
That's on our next episode I Most Voloshin, and I'm Monica Ortiz would even see you next time. You know, nasty. Forgotten, the women of Juarez is cohosted by me, Monica Ortiz Uribe and me as Woloshin Bogosian is executive produced by me and Mangoush had tequila. Our producers are Julia Mualla and Katrina Norvelle, sound editing by Julian Weller and Yakupov penso Lucas Riley is our story editor. Caitlin Thompson is our consulting producer. Production support from Emily Marinus and Aaron Kaufman, music by Leonardo Halem and Akobo Lieberman, additional music by Aaron Kaufman.
Special thanks to the reporting of Tim Maddigan in the Fort Worth Star Telegram and John Ward Anderson in The Washington Post for details on the life and arrest of Abdelatif.
Sheriff, Sheriff. Who could be responsible for murdering a family of five in the most horrific way imaginable? That's what occurred when quiet night in Essex, England, in 1985, when police ruled that 28 year old Sheila Cofell murdered her parents and six year old twin boys before killing herself as evidence continued to surface. However, the truth revealed something even more sinister. I'm Lauren Bright Chikako. Join me as we go behind the crime scenes of the new HBO series, The Murders at White House Farm, as well as the infamous real life events that inspired it.
We'll talk to the people involved with the series and the case itself and find out why suspicion started to shift from Sheila to someone else and reflect on the fallout for all involved stream the murders at White House Farm now on Biomax and subscribe and listen to the murders at White House Farm, the podcast on the I Heart radio app, Biomax, Apple podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.