APn 03/17 1848 Cult Leader Copyright, 1990. The Associated Press. All rights reserved. DAL

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APn 03/17 1848 Cult Leader Copyright, 1990. The Associated Press. All rights reserved. DALLAS (AP) -- A woman who investigators say was the high priestess of a Mexican drug cult that sacrificed 15 people last spring says she had nothing to do with the deaths and that police have tortured her. Sara Aldrete Villarreal, 25, is also accused of ordering the May 6 slayings of 26-year-old Cuban-American Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo, the alleged "godfather" of the cult, and his bodyguard as police closed in on their hideout. Authorities say Constanzo had overseen the ritual killings of the 15 men and boys, including a University of Texas student, at a ranch outside Matamoros in April, telling his followers the deaths would give them spiritual protection from police. Police say Ms. Aldrete took part in at least one of the ritual killings, selecting the victim and supervising his murder. "It's not true, it's just not true and I'm fed up with saying it," Ms. Aldrete said in a recent interview with the Dallas Times Herald in Mexico City. She said Mexican police tortured her immediately after her capture, poking her with electric prods and hanging her from ceiling pipes by her handcuffed wrists, Ms. Aldrete said. She said she was also taken to the morgue where autopsies were being performed on Constanzo and Martin Quintana, his bodyguard. Police forced her to touch the eviscerated bodies, she said. "They said, `OK, here is your god.' And they said, `Get up, God. Aren't you going to help Sara?"' Ms. Aldrete told the newspaper. Because Mexican law requires that a judge rule on the case within a year of the suspect's arrest, a ruling in the Constanzo murder case is expected before mid-May. Ms. Aldrete faces a possible 40-year maximum sentence on a murder charge. Under the Mexican judicial system, the accused is guilty until proven innocent. The trial is an administrative process that allows a judge to review evidence presented by defense attorneys and prosecutors. In addition to the possible 40-year prison term, Ms. Aldrete could be charged in Matamoros and extradited to the United States to face related charges in the ritual slayings. Ms. Aldrete told the newspaper she met Constanzo in Matamoros in August 1987. They began a romantic relationship that ended several months later when Constanzo told her about the male lovers he also had. "I knew that Adolfo was a white witch," Ms. Aldrete said. "I used to respect his religion and he used to respect mine," which she said was Roman Catholicism. "At the beginning he was a good guy who cared about people. But then he changed and he was no longer the man I used to know. He was out of control." Ms. Aldrete claims Constanzo kidnapped her in March and fled Matamoros just before the bodies were discovered in early April. She said she was sometimes bound and gagged during the month Constanzo and his gang hid in and around Mexico City. But police maintain Ms. Aldrete, at Constanzo's request, ordered gang member Alvaro de Leon to kill Constanzo and his bodyguard at a Mexico City apartment. Ms. Aldrete claims police killed the two men. She also says she wrote the note that led police to Constanzo's hideout.


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