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.
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.
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.
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.