A federal judge and his wife were murdered in their Colima city home on Tuesday morning, federal authorities said.
Uriel Villegas Ortiz, who handled drug trafficking and other organized crime cases, and Verónica Barajas were shot and killed in front of their two daughters, aged 3 and 7, and a domestic worker.
The gunmen fled the murder scene and remain at large. Upon arrival at the judge’s rented home, the murderers feigned interest in a pickup truck he was selling him before opening fire, the newspaper Reforma reported.
Before moving to Colima in February, Villegas presided over cases involving the sons of two of Mexico’s most notorious drug lords. In 2018, he heard a case against Rubén Oseguera González, son of Jalisco New Generation Cartel Leader Nemesio “El Mencho” Oseguera.
“El Menchito,” as Oseguera González is known, was not convicted of any crimes in Mexico but was extradited in February to the United States, where he faces drug trafficking charges.
In a separate case, Villegas denied an application filed by Ismael Zambada Imperial – son of Sinaloa Cartel leader Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada – for a definitive suspension order against his extradition to the United States. The slain judge also heard cases related to fuel theft and money laundering.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Arturo Zaldívar called on authorities to carry out a thorough investigation into the death of Villegas and his wife and urged them “to guarantee the safety of federal judges and their families.”
“It’s the duty of the state to guarantee the safety of all citizens but especially those who bravely … risk their lives to protect the rights of everyone,” he said during a virtual court hearing.
At his regular news conference on Wednesday morning, President López Obrador condemned the attack and pledged that the murders won’t go unpunished.
“We [the government] have the mission and mandate to guarantee peace and tranquility in the country, and we’re not going to give in to any threat or [act of] intimidation. Nothing will stop us from cleaning the country of corruption and guaranteeing justice and peace,” he said.
“[The murder investigation] is progressing [and] I can say there will be no impunity. … We’re going to continue combating crime,” López Obrador said, adding that the Attorney General’s Office and the executive and judicial powers are collaborating to in doing so.
“The relationships between the [executive and judicial] powers and the Attorney General’s Office are good. We’re closing ranks so that these types of crimes are not repeated.”
The murder of the judge and his wife came two weeks after the body of Colima lawmaker Francis Anel Bueno Sánchez was found in a hidden grave.
Colima, a small Pacific coast state, had the highest per-capita murder rate in Mexico last year. In recent years, rival drug gangs have waged a bloody turf war for control of the state, home to Mexico’s largest port at Manzanillo, through which large quantities of drugs, including shipments of fentanyl from Asia, enter the country.