Black Magic and Murder at Rancho Santa Elena

Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo led a cult of black magic that practiced human sacrifice. He and his followers had ritually killed at least twenty people and may have numbered up to 100. The cult faced little suspicion or repercussions as they almost only killed prostitutes, the homeless, and drug dealers. Their victims came from the parts of society that would be missed the least. On March 13, 1989, their abduction of American college student Mark Kilroy marked the beginning of the end of their cult.

Constanzo was a Cuban American, who was first introduced to the occult and drug trafficking by his stepfather. His mother believed Constanzo had psychic abilities and introduced him to Palo Mayombe (an Afro-Caribbean religion that involves animal sacrifice) and Santeria. In Palo Mayombe, Constanzo reached the status of high priest. In 1984, Constanzo moved to Mexico City to start his life as a tarot card reader and eventually developed a cult following. Charismatic and attractive, Constanzo mingled with the upper class in Mexico City and grew a reputation for predicting the future and offering ritual cleansing. The protection he offered also became popular with several drug dealers, musicians, and police officers.

The other cult leader of the Narcosatanists was Sara Aldrete, a cheerleader at Texas Southmost College. She was the girlfriend of a drug dealer with ties to Constanzo. In 1987 the two met and Aldrete became the cult’s main recruiter. Also attractive and charming, Aldrete lured men to join the cult or set them up to be killed as a sacrifice. She lived a double life for a while, attending classes at college while also smuggling drugs and recruiting for the cult.

American student Mark Kilroy and friends traveled to South Padre Island in Texas and also traveled to Mexico by foot for parties during spring break. After bar hopping, Kilroy and his friends decided to head back to their hotel. While a friend ducked into an alley to relieve himself, Kilroy was abducted from the front of the bar by Constanzo’s followers. Kilroy was grabbed by two men in a red truck but was able to break loose about two blocks down the road. However, he was intercepted by another vehicle and taken at gunpoint. He was handcuffed in the back of the second car.

Cult members took Kilroy back to the ranch, leaving him in the car overnight. Twelve hours after he was kidnapped, Kilroy was tortured for hours before being murdered in a human sacrifice ritual. After killing him with a machete, cult members removed his brain and boiled it in a large pot. The murderers also inserted a wire through the backbone, legs were chopped off before they buried the body. Constanzo told his followers that human sacrifice granted them immunity from law enforcement during their drug smuggling operations.

Kilroy was one of sixty people who had disappeared in Matamoros in the first three months of 1989. With the threat of bad publicity threatening tourism to Matamoros, police began searching for the missing student. US investigators also worked on the case. Kilroy was featured on America’s Most Wanted and several officials questioned locals and tourists in the area. A overconfident belief in the power of human sacrifices would lead to his discovery.

On April 1, 1989, cult member Serafin Hernandez drove right through a police roadblock. Hernandez believed the magic potions purchased from Constanzo would bring them profit and protection. As a result, he believed he was invisible to the police when he drove through the roadblock. Hernandez led the police directly to Rancho Santa Elena where officers found a large amount of drugs and weapons.

Cult members were arrested and began telling police about human sacrifices that occurred at Rancho Santa Elena. Authorities searched the area and found twenty-seven mutilated bodies, including that of Mark Kilroy. Police then raided Constanzo’s home in Mexico City and found a hidden torture chamber and a massive stash of pornography. Constanzo was nowhere to be found.

On the run since the search of cult headquarters, Constanzo panicked and opened fired on police who were searching door-to-door for a missing child on May 6. A gun battle ensued and the police were closing in. Constanzo ordered his assistant to shoot him and was dead before officials reached him.

Surviving cult members were tried and convicted for the murders at Rancho Santa Elena. In 1993, the cult members were convicted for capital murder and drug trafficking. Several members claimed they were not guilty of Kilroy’s murder and told the press they were tortured to confess. Two suspects in the murders are still at large.

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