Descriptions of dismemberment and a skull being split open were read in court from statements of accused members of an occult group of drug smugglers that authorities said killed 15 people.
Separately, the "godfather" of the group and his girlfriend were among 11 people indicted Tuesday by a grand jury in McAllen, Texas.Alfonso de Jesus Constanzo, Sara Aldrete and the others were charged with conspiracy to import marijuana, importing marijuana, conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and possession with intent to distribute, authorities said.
Constanzo, Aldrete and four others remained at large.
With Judge Francisco Salador Perez of the Fourth Federal Court presiding late Tuesday, court officials here read aloud from the statements given by the five men arrested in connection with the killings. The victims included Mark Kilroy, a Texas student abducted during a spring-break outing to Matamoros in March.
The five stood together, handcuffed and silent during the preliminary hearing.
They smoked occasionally as they listened to the description of the horrors that occurred during ceremonies in a wooden shack on a ranch near where most of the killings took place.
The accused said those ceremonies were part of a ritualistic cult.
Four of the men refused to corroborate or deny the written statements, arguing that their attorney was not present. They declined a court-appointed counsel's help.
Defendant Elio Hernandez told reporters near him that the statement read to him "did not agree entirely with what I declared."
The judge said that the accused can submit additional statements or have their own attorneys later. He now has three days to consider the evidence and decide whether to continue to hold them without bail.
The accused have identified Constanzo as the group's leader who offered them "luck and protection" in exchange for the human sacrifices.
Besides Hernandez, those under arrest are his brother, Serafin Hernandez; Sergio Martinez; David Serna; and ranch caretaker Domingo Reyes.
Reyes was the only person who ratified his original statement that led police to the ranch and the discovery of the bodies.
"The godfather asked us for a gringo for a sacrifice," read the statement by Serafin Hernandez.
"He said the brains had to be placed in a pot."
Serafin Hernandez described how they picked up Kilroy by offering him a ride. The student later tried to escape, but was caught and taken to the ranch blindfolded.
Serna's statement described how the group once raided another ranch, stealing nearly 660 pounds of marijuana and abducting three people.
"We dug a hole and the godfather threw them in still alive and machine-gunned them."