The high priestess of a drug-smuggling cult that believed human sacrifice would protect it from police and rivals drew 62 years in prison in the ritual slaying of a Texas college student and 12 other people.
Four followers of Sara Maria Aldrete Villarreal each received 67-year prison terms Monday.Law officers said the cult practiced a variation of the Afro-Caribbean religion Palo Mayombe. Some of its victims had been involved in the drug trade.
Others, like Mark Kilroy, a 21-year-old pre-med student at the University of Texas, were snatched off the streets of Matamoros, police said.
Kilroy's mutilated body was unearthed in 1989, a month after he vanished during a night of bar hopping while on spring break. Fourteen other bodies were dug up, some missing the heart, genitals, brain or other organs.
In a shack investigators called the "satanic chapel" were found cauldrons containing boiled blood, goat heads, chicken feet and a charred turtle.
"It's a sense of relief to us that it is done, but I can see where the people of Mexico can feel safer, too," Kilroy's mother, Helen Kilroy, said upon learning of the sentences.
Police said Aldrete, a well-groomed college honor student in Brownsville, Texas, led a secret life as the "high priestess" who lured victims into the cult's rituals. She has maintained her innocence, saying police tortured her confession out of her.
The four other cult members sentenced were: Elio Hernandez Rivera, David Serna Valdez, Serafin Hernandez Garcia and Sergio Martinez Salinas.
A Cuban-American from Florida, Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo, headed the drug ring, police said. He and an associate died in an apparent suicide pact as police closed in on their Mexico City hideout in 1989.
A sixth defendant jailed in Mexico City, Alvaro Dario de Leon Valdez, awaits sentencing.
Investigators found the satanic chapel and some of the bodies buried on a ranch near Matamoros, just across the Texas border. Most of the bodies were recovered from a field about 20 miles from the ranch.
Elio Hernandez inadvertently led investigators to the ranch when he sped through a drug checkpoint near the border, apparently believing the cult's rituals had made him invisible.