Saturday, Dec 17, 2005,Page 6
A judge ordered eight adults committed to a prison psychiatric facility for 40 years on Thursday for the grisly exorcism slayings of a seven-month-old baby and a 13-year-old girl in a remote mountain community in western Mexico.
The brutality of the Dec. 7 killings -- the baby was hacked to death and dismembered while the teenager killed with stones -- has shocked Mexico. Officials say the killers were the victims' own parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, who had become convinced the girls were demons or possessed by the devil.
They carried out the ritual slayings, accompanied by prayers, the lighting of candles and the sacrifice of farm animals.
A ninth suspect -- an aunt described as the alleged instigator of the slayings -- remains at a psychiatric hospital in the state capital, reportedly in an even worse state of mental illness.
Judge Ana Maria Raya Razo, who ordered the commitment, said that members of the extended family had acknowledged carrying out killings. They said they were convinced they had to save themselves from demons.
"The psychiatric testimony showed that they were suffering from a delusional psychotic state, with paranoia and hallucinations," Razo said from Penjamo, the Guanajuato state township where the killings occurred.
"For example, they said they saw animals, demons in the girls," Razo said, citing testimony from the case.
"They said they had animal's faces, the faces of monkeys, that they had demons inside and had to be killed in order to for them [the adults] to save themselves," she added.
According to Rodolfo Gonzalez, spokesman for the Guanajuato Attorney General's Office, police were tipped off to the killings by an anonymous phone call.
They traveled on foot -- the only way into the remote, three-house hamlet where the family lived -- and found the baby girl mutilated, and the body of 13-year-old Juana Perez Frausto tied to a stake and battered to death.
The baby, Maria Elena Perez Gutierrez, had had her arms and legs cut off, and her belly cut open. The suspects later claimed that they saw animal excrement instead of her intestines.
About 10 children and adults -- members of the same extended family of about 30 -- were found locked into a house, where they had been confined for three days, apparently because they too were suspected of being possessed.
According to police reports, goats, pigs and chickens had been sacrificed at the site.
Ismael Gonzalez, private secretary to the mayor of Penjamo, located 290km west of Mexico City, said the suspects were known as "a normal family."
"This is the first case like this here ... this is not what people in Penjamo do," Gonzalez said.
He said that Amalia Perez Hernandez, who alleged started the hysteria after visiting a faith healer, had become catatonic and had been taken to a psychiatric hospital after she was detained.
The suspects -- Reinaldo Perez Hernandez and Hermelinda Frausto Lopez, the parents of the 13-year-old -- and the parents of the baby, -- helped kill their daughters, but were found not responsible for murder due to insanity.