Thursday, June 13, 2024

Suspected killers of Puebla med students freed, then jailed again

Three suspects in the murder of three medical students and an Uber driver in Puebla were released from custody on Thursday but immediately rearrested by state police and the National Guard.

A judge ordered the release of Pablo N., Lisset N. and Ángel N. on charges of police impersonation but as soon as they left a court in San Andrés Cholula, Puebla, they were arrested for the homicide of the Uber driver and students, two of whom were Colombian nationals.

The suspects were arrested on Monday in Huejotzingo, the same municipality where the bodies of Colombians Ximena Quijano Hernández, 25, and José Antonio Parada Cerpa, 22, as well as fellow medical student Francisco Javier Tirado Márquez, 22, and Uber driver Josué Emmanuel Vital, 28, were found the same day.

Police detained the three alleged murderers after stopping the BMW SUV in which they were traveling. The vehicle was fitted out with a siren and other equipment whose use is limited to law enforcement vehicles.

Human brain matter, blood stains and bullets were found inside the vehicle, which had a bullet hole in its rear. Pablo N., 46, was driving the vehicle before the arrest occurred while Lisset N., 22, and Ángel N., 23, were wearing bullet-proof vests.

Despite the damning evidence, the judge ruled that Lisset N. and Ángel N. could not be held after determining that their arrest on impersonation charges was illegal because they were merely passengers in the vehicle.

The judge found that Pablo N, as the driver, was responsible for the vehicle. However, the judge ordered his release on the grounds that impersonating a police officer does not warrant preventative custody.

After their second arrest, the suspects were transferred to state Attorney General’s Office facilities. They will face a hearing on murder charges within 48 hours of their detention on Thursday.

The two Colombians, exchange students at the Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla, and Tirado, a medical student at the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, attended the Carnival of Huejotzingo on Sunday before booking an Uber to return to Puebla city.

The vehicle driven by Vital was apparently intercepted and all four occupants were shot dead. Their bodies were found Monday morning on a lot in Santa Ana Xalmimilulco, a community in Huejotzingo. Vital’s vehicle was located nearby.

Puebla authorities said Wednesday that the murders could be linked to an argument that Quijano, the Colombian female victim, allegedly had with another woman at the Huejotzingo Carnival over the hat she was wearing.

“At the carnival, a woman stole Ximena’s hat, there was an argument and she recovered her hat. I don’t want to prejudge but, without a doubt, it’s evidence that we have to include [in the investigation],” said Attorney General Gilberto Higuera Bernal.

He said that the hat and sunglasses that Quijano were wearing were found at one of three properties searched by police in Santa Ana Xalmimilulco. Higuera also said that Quijano’s body had more bullet wounds than the other victims.

The multi-homicide sparked protests on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday by students of several Puebla universities including those attended by the slain students. During a march in Puebla city on Thursday, students called for justice for the murder victims and demanded that authorities guarantee security for all citizens.

The Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla said in a statement that “it expresses its profound indignation and concern over the escalation in crime and violence in our state and our country, that condemns families to live in a constant state of fear and uncertainty.”

Speaking at his morning press conference on Thursday, President López Obrador expressed regret about the murders.

“It’s a reprehensible and very painful incident that has to do with the breakdown [of society]” caused by the neoliberal economic policies implemented by previous governments, he said, repeating a claim he made last week when speaking about the femicides of 25-year-old Ingrid Escamilla and 7-year-old Fátima Aldrighett.

Meanwhile, the mother of Parada and the father of Quijano spent Thursday collecting the belongings of their children from their Puebla home before departing for Colombia.

“We’re leaving very hurt, devastated, but my heart feels neither resentment nor hate for this beautiful country,” said Jorge Quijano.

“The important thing is that they find the truth,” said Angélica Cerpa, mother of José Antonio Parada.

Source: Milenio (sp), El Sol de Puebla (sp), El Financiero (sp)  

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