The Murder of Mark Kilroy

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Mark Kilroy was an American college student who disappeared in Mexico during spring break in 1989.

Today’s post is a guest article by Andrew Orillion.

In Texas, many universities celebrate Spring Break at the same time, a tradition known as “Texas Week”. Mark Kilroy, a pre-med student from the University of Texas, was just one of thousands of college students from across the state to take part in the annual tradition. On Friday, March 10, 1989, Mark and three friends; Bradley Moore, Bill Huddelston and Brent Martin, piled into Bradley’s Mustang to begin the nine hour drive to South Padre Island, Texas.

They arrived at the popular Spring Break destination Saturday morning and wasted no time joining in the festivities. They sunned themselves on the beach, drank heavily and partied. Mark even chatted up one of the contestants of the Miss Tan Line competition.

The next night the three friends headed for Matamoros, a popular Mexican tourist destination just across the border from Brownsville. They spent the next two days traveling back and forth, always parking on the American side of the border. Monday night the streets of Matamoros was jammed with an estimated 15,000 Spring Break revelers.

Mark, Bradley, Bill and Brent partied and drank until around 2 a.m. when the group decided to head back across the bridge to Brownsville. As they approached a local bar called Garcia’s, Bradley ran ahead to relieve himself behind a tree. When Bradley finished, he looked around for Mark, but his friend was gone.

Bradley, Bill and Brent spent the next few hours searching for Mark, but he was nowhere to be found. They returned to South Padre Island, expecting Mark to show up with a bad hangover, a missing wallet and no memory of the previous night. But, Mark never returned and for the next month police on both sides of the border chased down multiple leads to no avail. It was as if Mark Kilroy had vanished into thin air.

Mark Kilroy, and the gruesome circumstances of his death, might never have come to light had it not been for a careless drug runner named Serafin Hernandez Garcia. On the night of April 9th, Serafin, a nephew of local gangster and drug smuggler Elio Hernandez Rivera, ran a police road block and was arrested.

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Elio Hernandez Rivera.

A few days later Mexican Authorities raided Rancho Santa Elena, a property owned by the Hernandez family and discovered about 30 kilos of marijuana. But, it’s what was found in shed out back that chilled the Federal Authorities to their bones and finally answered the mystery of what happened to Mark Kilroy.

Inside the shed was an altar straight out a horror film; white and black candles, strings of garlic, a blood splattered machete and four iron cauldrons filled with blood and viscera from animals and humans.

The Hernandez family and their smugglers had been practicing a form of Palo Mayombe an Afro-Caribbean religion similar to Santeria. But, instead of using animal parts and bones, Palo Mayombe required human body parts and in some cases human sacrifice. Mark Kilroy had been one of these sacrifices.

A care taker at the Ranch identified Mark from a photo and remembered seeing him hand cuffed in the back of an SUV. The care taker showed police Kilroy’s burial site. In all, 14 bodies were dug up on the Ranch. Most had been mutilated, some had been burned and one had had its heart removed.

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Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo, the leader of the cult.

The cult was led by Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo, a fugitive from Cuba. Constanzo had been a practitioner of “black magic” for years and was called “El Padrino“, Godfather, by the members of the cult. The cult included Serafin, his uncle Elio, Elio’s girlfriend Sara Aldrete and various members of the smuggling operation. Elio had been ordained an executioner priest by Constanzo.

Most of the victims were killed by either strangulation or having their throats slit. Internal organs, including testicles, were then boiled in one of the cauldrons. The brew was consumed by men of the smuggling operation in the belief that it would give them supernatural powers that would help them elude the authorities which is why Serafin had run the police roadblock leading to his arrest.

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One of the cauldrons used by the cult.

Mark was specifically abducted because Constanzo wanted to execute an American college student. Three men from the cult confessed to kidnapping Mark in Matamoras and taking him to the ranch. They also revealed that Mark was able to briefly escape before being recaptured. Mark had been killed only 12 hours after the kidnapping. Unlike most of the other sacrifices, Mark had been killed by a blow to the back of the neck from a machete. His brain and spine had been removed and some of his vertebra had been used as talismans by the drug smugglers.

Three weeks after the raid on Rancho Santa Elena, Constanzo was killed by one of his own followers in order to avoid capture during a police raid in Mexico City. The members of the cult talked openly of what they had done and showed no remorse for the 14 men, women and children they had slaughtered to gain their supposed supernatural powers.

While Constanzo’s cult is long gone, whispers persist that the cult was far more wide spread than just the members of the Hernandez family and their drug smugglers. High ranking Mexican government officials were rumored to have also been involved, though nothing has ever been proven.

Shortly after the case was closed the murder shack and its blood-soaked altar on Rancho Santa Elena was ritually cleansed by a native shaman before police burned it to the ground.

Andrew Orillion is a former journalist and photographer for the U.S. Army. He is currently working on an MFA in Screenwriting and was a writer on the comedy web series L.A. Beer

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The Mysterious Montserrat Mountain of Spain

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Montserrat Mountain.

Montserrat is a mountain near Barcelona, Spain that’s long been regarded a sacred and magical place. In 880, it was said that a light floated down the mountains for six Saturdays in a row. When a search party headed by a bishop went to investigate, they found that the light fell on a previously undiscovered cave. Inside the cave, completely intact, was a statue of the Virgin Mary allegedly made in 50 AD. The statue soon attracted pilgrims and monks, and a monastery was eventually established in the mountain. Nicknamed “The Black Madonna,” the figure is venerated as the patron saint of Catalonia.

During the Nazi-era, German occultists believed that the holy grail rested somewhere inside Montserrat. In October 1940, Heinrich Himmler was sent to Spain to meet with Francisco Franco. Aside from being the commander of the SS, Himmler was also a founder of the Ahnenerbe, a pseudoscientific organization that launched expeditions across the world to find holy artifacts and evidence of ancient Aryan civilizations. Before meeting Franco, Himmler made a trip to the monastery in Montserrat. Himmler suspected that the holy grail was in the mountain, but the monastery received him coldly, and he returned to Germany empty-handed.

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The Black Madonna. The current statue might actually be a copy made in the late 12th century.

In recent decades, Montserrat has become a hotspot for seeing UFOs and strange lights in the sky. The mountain’s also been the site of some pretty strange disappearances over the years, some of which involved paranormal and UFO enthusiasts. In 1973, the Civil Guard (Spain’s national police force) found the body of a badly decomposed woman in the area. In a note in her pocket, the woman had written that she was going to meet with the supreme being. Her death was ruled a suicide.

In 1980, a month after a man and his dog vanished in the Montserrat, an 18-year-old girl named Gloria went missing in the near-by municipality of Olesa de Montserrat. Two days after her disappearance, Gloria was found walking in the woods, confused and disoriented. She had never shown such behavior before, but was apparently interested in UFOs and communicating with aliens. After being rescued, Gloria disappeared for a second time and was never seen again.

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Inside of the Montserrat monastery.

Another woman, Amparo Vielda Puig, went missing in Montserrat in 1985. Puig had gone to the mountain several times before, and complained of getting dizzy in certain spots of the area. In December 1990, a man named Carlos Teixidor told his family that he had “a decisive judgement with God and the Devil” and left for Montserrat. Teixidor was also interested in UFOs, and might have gone to the mountain in the hope of seeing one. Three weeks after he left, Teixidor’s body showed up near the Santa Cueva, the hillside cave where The Black Madonna was found.

In a case with a happier ending, a search helicopter was sent to look for a lost hiker. The helicopter was able to locate the hiker, but the man it found actually turned out to be a completely different person. The man said that he had been lost for three days, but was also with a “black woman” he had slept with. The only woman in the area the rescuers ended up finding was the corpse of a lady who had gone missing years earlier.

Nobody has gone missing in Montserrat since 1998, but UFOs are still seen in its skies. Luis Jose Grifol, a contactee who’s claimed to have communicated with aliens for almost 40 years, goes to the mountain to watch for UFOs on the 11th day of every month.

Check out my book “Mexico’s Unsolved Mysteries: True Stories of Ghosts, Monsters, and UFOs from South of the Border” for more interesting mysteries of the Spanish-speaking world.  

The Case of Juan Pedro Martinez Gomez, Europe’s Strangest Disappearance

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Juan Gomez was a 10-year-old boy in Spain who disappeared under mysterious circumstances in June 1986.

Europe’s strangest disappearance, as Interpol once put it, all began with an innocent road trip. Andrés Martinez  was a truck driver who lived in the south of Spain in Fuente Alamo, Murcia. He sometimes took his wife Carmen Gomez and their 10-year-old son Juan Pedro on his trips. His latest job was to transport 20,000 liters of sulfuric acid far up north to Bilbao, a city in Spain’s autonomous Basque Country. Since Juan Pedro finished the school year with such good grades, his father promised that he could go along to the trip to Bilbao. Carmen would also go to keep an eye on Juan Pedro.

On June 24, 1986,  the family picked up the truck in the city of Cartagena around 7 PM. By 6 in the morning, the truck had entered Somosierra, a mountain pass to the north of Madrid. Perhaps as a result of broken brakes, Andrés was speeding at this point at 140 km (86 mi) per hour. His driving became reckless in the mountains; without slowing down once, he broke off another driver’s car mirror and then bumped into another car from behind. After the car he rear-ended got out of his way, Andrés crashed head-on with a truck that had come down from the opposite direction. The crash caused his truck to overturn, spilling the sulfuric acid out onto the side of the road and covering the area with a toxic mushroom cloud.

When the authorities arrived, they had to quickly act to neutralize the acid before it leaked into a near-by river. After the area was cleaned up, they found two bodies in the crashed truck, those of Andrés and Carmen. Juan Pedro was missing, however, and it wouldn’t be until later in the day that the police even knew that he had been riding along with his parents.

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Andres Martinez’s crashed truck.

Investigators later searching the truck found a tape of children’s songs and some clothes, but no actual sign of Juan Pedro. They checked beneath the truck and the sand and lime they used to neutralize the acid, yet still were unable to find any remains. Could he have been melted by the sulfuric acid? Chemists dismissed the idea. If Juan Pedro really did fall out of the truck and into the acid, he would have at least left behind some hair or nails on the scene. Instead, there was no evidence that he was in the truck or the area at the time of the crash.

The last anybody saw of the family before the crash was at a bar around 5:30. Andrés and Carmen ordered coffee, and Juan Pedro had some milk and a pastry. There was nothing to indicate that they were upset, and the waiter watched their truck leave from the parking lot. Examining the truck, investigators discovered that there was nothing wrong with Andrés’ brakes. Nobody could say why he was speeding so recklessly, but he was doing it by his own choice. Another strange detail was found in his tachometer; the instrument recorded that Andrés had stopped his truck 12 times as he went up the mountain during a period of 20 minutes. Other truckers said that stopping even once on the mountain pass was unnecessary, let alone a dozen times.

So why did Andrés feel the need to drive so fast and stop so frequently? The most popular theory is that Juan Pedro had been abducted, and that his father was chasing after him. Others suggest that Andrés was trying to run away from somebody. After he crashed, his pursuer might have kidnapped Juan Pedro before the police showed up. (It might seem unlikely that Juan Pedro would have survived the crash, but the driver in the other car did actually live.)

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Picture of Carmen Gomez and Andres Martinez.

Moments before the crash, the man who Andrés rear-ended told police that he pulled off the road and was assisted by a foreign man and blonde-haired woman in a white van. The woman was allegedly a nurse and looked over the man’s injuries. Two shepherds in the area, neither of whom the police were able to trace, were said to have seen a white van pull up to Andrés’ truck after his collision with the other car. A man and blonde-haired woman went into the truck and took something out of it, possibly a package or Juan Pedro.

Some believe that the mysterious couple might have been drug traffickers. In 1987, the media reported that traces of heroin had been found in the trailer where Andres was carrying the sulfuric acid. There were rumors that Andrés had done some drug smuggling before, but his family later disproved this with the help of a private detective. If drugs really were involved, perhaps drug traffickers approached Andrés that day and asked him to transport something for them. If he refused, the traffickers might have kidnapped Juan Pedro as ransom. On the other hand, Andrés could have voluntarily accepted because he didn’t want any trouble.

A second theory speculates that there was no drug smuggling or kidnapping at all. Juan Pedro might have survived the crash and left the truck. While looking for help, he stumbled upon the foreign man and blonde woman. The couple tried to drive him to a hospital, but he died on the way there. Another variation of this theory proposes that Juan Pedro was burned by the acid and tried to go to the river to soothe his burns. Considering the gigantic search for Juan Pedro after it was discovered that he was missing, it seems likely he would have been found had he wandered around the area and collapsed or died somewhere.

Juan Pedro’s family believes that he is still alive. In May 1987, a man in Madrid met a blind old woman and a boy who looked like Juan Pedro. The woman was an Iranian refugee looking for the American embassy. She said that she and her family had been in Spain for only 6 months, yet the boy she was with spoke fluent Spanish with an Andalusian accent. (Juan Pedro came from a part of Spain where the people have a similar accent.) When the man complimented the boy’s strong Spanish, the old woman got nervous and wouldn’t explain how he knew the language so well. Although the man didn’t recognize the boy at the time, he was later certain that it was Juan Pedro.

Check out my book “Mexico’s Unsolved Mysteries: True Stories of Ghosts, Monsters, and UFOs from South of the Border” for more interesting mysteries of the Spanish-speaking world.  You can buy the book on Kindle here.