“Life in prison.”
With those words the smiles disappeared from the faces of Juan Carlos N. and Patricia N., self-confessed killers of at least 20 women.
The words were spoken by a judge in México state yesterday to indicate to the suspects the likely fate that awaits them.
In two back-to-back hearings, she ordered the couple to stand trial on charges of femicide and human trafficking, having determined that there is sufficient evidence to prove that they killed one woman last month and sold her baby.
If convicted, the couple faces imprisonment of up to 70 years for the former crime and between three and 10 years for the latter.
The judge set a time frame of two months for the conclusion of investigations into the murder of the woman identified as Nancy N. and one month for the “illegal adoption” case.
Juan Carlos and Patricia were detained earlier this month in Ecatepec, a sprawling municipality in greater Mexico City notorious for crime, in particular the disappearance and murders of women.
At the time of their arrest, the couple had a baby carriage with them that was filled with human remains.
Prior to hearing the judge’s fateful words — prisión vitalicia — the suspects’ demeanor was playful and they were seemingly indifferent to the seriousness of the crimes of which they are accused.
Back together for the first time since they were arrested, Juan Carlos and Patricia whispered to each other, joked, giggled and smiled.
The former, dubbed in media reports as the “monster of Ecatepec,” even dozed off at times during the hearings while at other moments he stroked his beard, rocked in his chair and alternatively diverted his gaze to the ceiling and floor.
“. . . I would call [their behavior] mocking . . .” said Araceli Hernández, the mother of one of the couple’s suspected homicide victims who was present during the second hearing.
But their demeanor eventually changed: both closed their eyes, their jaws tightened and an outward appearance of indifference was replaced with one of anguish and concern as they learned they would most likely spend the rest of their lives behind bars.
A defense lawyer argued that despite his clients’ confessions, “there was no conclusive evidence against them” but prosecutors countered by saying that not only had they confessed to the crimes but in the case of the sale of the baby, the alleged purchasers, a couple who have also been arrested “confirmed their participation.”
Family members of victims are hopeful that the México state Attorney General’s office will soon be in a position to charge the couple with more of the murders they are believed to have committed.
As they await trial, they will remain in preventative custody in Ecatepec’s Chiconautla prison.
“. . . There is no death penalty in Mexico but life in prison is very good. It’s justice,” Hernández said.
Source: Milenio (sp)