Case File #0277
Jack the Strangler
Agustín Salas del Valle
"I will return"
In Mexico City during the 1990's there was a series of gruesome murders were being carried out by a vicious serial killer who became known in the media as Jack the Strangler. Like his London counterpart, this killer also targeted prostitutes as his victims of choice and killed them in a variety of ways, which led some investigators to suspect there was more than one killer at work. Jack would pose as a prospective client and lured his victims to hotels in the Colonias where they were brutally murdered. Their bodies were discarded in the hotel rooms and in some cases the killer left the police a message written in lipstick. Numerous suspects were considered, and several arrests were made but the crimes continued until the apprehension of 29-year-old Agustín Salas del Valle.
The crimes of murderer who became known as Jack the Strangler began in December 1989 when a body was discovered at the Hotel Magnolia in Colonia Guerrero. The first victim was a prostitute who had been strangled and her body dumped in one of the rooms. Although this case went almost unnoticed at the time, it is generally considered the first murder attributed to the Strangler. The following year another prostitute was found murdered at the Hotel Colombia. The woman, who was it was later learned was from Garibaldi, had been tortured and strangled before the killer stabbed her in the neck with an ice pick.
Although the murders were connected, the police had little evidence and the crimes went unsolved. Later that same year two more victims had been found in different hotel in La Merced on the same day. On 19 September 1990, the half-naked body of 30-year-old Sandra Padilla Rodriguez was discovered at the Hotel Madrid. She had been beaten, strangled with the strap of her purse and then placed under the bed wrapped in the bed sheet. Later that day Mexican police were met with a similar scene at the Regina Hotel where 23-year-old Gloria Quinta Hernandez was murdered under almost identical circumstances.
The vicious series of murders continued with the death of 30-year-old Angelica Contreras Sarmiento who was found on 13 October at a Hotel in Como Lake within the Anahuac neighbourhood. In what was now an all too familiar calling card, Sarmiento had been beaten, stabbed and strangled and was found with the knife still protruding from her neck wound. There were another three more murders towards the end of 1990 which would bring the total up to seven, with the last occurring on 01 December at Iztapalapa.
Police finally believed they had made a break in the case when they arrested a suspect on 14 December. A 26-year-old prostitute Rocio Perez Hernandez had complained to police that she had been assaulted by her client at the Hotel Madrid. The 28-year-old man went by the names Jaime Meza Roque or Gonzalo Jaime Roque and detectives thought they had captured Jack. However, with the suspect still in their custody, an eighth murder was discovered a week later on 23 December. The body of a prostitute was found at the Hotel Las Vegas, wrapped in bed sheet after being strangled to death.
The next year would see no less than five more victims attributed to the Strangler, who was also known amongst the press as the "The Woman Strangler" and "The Mata-Meretrices". The first murder of 1991 occurred on 05 January at the Hotel Maya. In room no.26 police found the body of 25-year-old Reyna Maria Diez Madrid Arias who worked as a dancer at the El Caballo Loco nightclub under the name "Bety". She had been beaten and strangled with her own pantyhose and the killer had used her lipstick to write a message to police. Scrawled on a mirror were the letters, "LMB". Police were uncertain what the acronym meant, and if the killer was trying to communicate with them. Later that same month on 17 January, the body of another woman was discovered at the Diana Hotel in the Colonia Portales in similar circumstances to previous victims, having been beaten and strangled.
The killings showed no signs of slowing down, when on 05 March the third victim of the year was found at the Hotel Caddilac. 38-year-old Adela Viviana Cortes Zarate was a waitress at the El Chicote bar and was lured to the hotel by her killer who stripped her from the waist down and strangled her with a cordon, leaving her body in room 209. With this the murders abruptly stopped and the investigation stalled, with no suspects or arrests made in the case. Most of the murders were attributed to the same killer, however there were several instances where detectives were under the assumption they were dealing with more than one individual because of the difference in MO in some of the cases.
The murders resumed on 08 August 1991 when the body of a prostitute, described as between the ages of 35 to 45-years-old was found in room no.12 at the Hotel Cima in the Alfredo Ceballos, located within the Colonia Moctezuma. Just three days later on 11 August at the Consulate Hotel at Melchor Ocampo in Anahuac, there was another body found, that of a 25-year-old prostitute who had been beaten and then strangled with a thin rope.
The next year would be the most deadly yet, with nine murders committed by the serial killer. Two committed at the beginning of year shared the same MO as the previous murders, as well as three more throughout 1992. On 02 September the killer attempted another communication with detectives. The body of 22-year-old waitress, Claudia Castillo Segura was found in room no.07 at the Hotel Glorieta, located in Rafael Delgado of the Colonia Obrera. The killer registered the room under the false name of "Manuel Salazar" and the victim had been beaten on the face and strangled to death. On a mirror were the words "Volvere/I will return", written with the victims lipstick.
This was clear link to the previous murder on 05 January 1991 when he did something similar. Seven days later on 09 September, a body was discovered wrapped in sheets at the Hotel Cuba, which was located on the street of Republica de Cuba. The victim was identified as 23-year-old Raquel Cisneros Vergara, and she had been beaten and strangled with the strap of her purse. Vergara had identification on her under the name Helen Louise Hardesty and police at first believed she was a foreign national whilst the killer registered at the hotel under the name "Pablo Moreno". This case was later proven to be a copycat when on 25 September, 24-year-old Jose Luis Ornelas Angulo was arrested and charged with Vergara's murder.
This was later proven true when the naked body of 24-year-old Teresa Aguilar Quirino known as "La Bomboncito" was found in room no.408 of the Hotel Savoy on 10 October 1992. The hotel was located at Zaragoza in the Puente de Alvarado and the victim sold jewellery in the subway Bellas Artes and was not a prostitute. She has suffered blows to her neck and face and was strangled with her own clothing, which had been taken by the killer who had registered at the hotel under the name "Alfredo Gaytan". Later that same day another victim was found in room no.04 at the Hotel Magnolia, the same hotel where the first Strangler victim had been found. The killer had registered the room under the name "Carlos Castro" and the victim was identified as 27-year-old Garibaldi prostitute Martha Martinez Garcia, known as "La Escopeta/The Shotgun".
She had been beaten around her mouth and nose and then strangled. The killer had wrapped her naked body in bed sheets and placed her clothes under the bed. Police who were familiar with the details of the case suspected this second murder was the work of a copycat, who had attempted to imitate the Strangler's first murder. But the killer had made sloppy mistakes and was seen entering the hotel with the victim and then leave alone. There was also fingerprints located around the room and enough DNA evidence present on the body for police to locate a suspect. On 23 October, 33-year-old Jose Enrique Martinez Morales was arrested and confessed he was the Strangler, however investigators were able to rule him out as a suspect in the previous murders and he was only charged with the murder of "La Escopeta/The Shotgun".
Once again police were proven correct when another murder occurred which would be the last of 1992, bearing the hallmarks of the Strangler's work. The next year saw the murders continue, when on 07 March 1993 another woman was found murdered at the Tampico Hotel in La Merced. The 30-year-old victim had been beaten and strangled after having sex with her killer. The next day another woman would fall victim. At the Hotel Jerez, located at Adolfo Gurrion in La Merced police found the body of a prostitute known as "Margarita" or "La Flaquita" in room no.22. She had been beaten on the face and strangled with a white shirt before her body was wrapped in a quilt. Once again the killer had registered under a false name, this time as "Arturo Hernandez".
The next murder on 06 April, would see one of the most gruesome of the killings committed so far. The victim was a 30-year-old prostitute known as "Estela" who worked in the bar Amalia and had been found strangled with a rope. The killer had also stabbed her with a broken bottle in the abdomen and chest and then displayed the naked body with her arms and legs outstretched. The killer then cut out the victims heart, which was taken and then drew a circle with a star using lipstick before smearing the victims blood to form a pentagram and the initials "O" and "C". There were clear indications this was the work of Jack the Strangler, however it was also the most brutal murder so far, with clear mutilation of the corpse and the removal of organs.
The following week another arrest was made on 14 April, when 24-year-old Filadelfo Miranda Rivera was arrested after he attempted to strangle a prostitute. He was eventually ruled out as being the killer due to a lack of evidence. Meanwhile another corpse was found on 25 April at the Hotel Mazatlan located at Callejon de la Igualdad. The body of 35-year-old Esperanza Avila was found upside down wrapped in a quilt after being strangled. Despite this latest murder, investigators now had a lead in the case after witnesses came forward with information concerning the murder of the prostitute known as "Estela", committed on 06 April. Police were able to gain a definitive description of the man who entered the Hotel Mexicali, located in San Antonio Abad with the prostitute, and who also witnessed him exiting the building alone after the murder had been committed.
On 07 August 1993, police located and apprehended 29-year-old accounting student Agustín Salas del Valle. Under interrogation del Valle confessed to the murder of "Estela" at the Hotel Mexicali, describing for police how he raped, beat and then strangled her with his own tie. Despite many commonalities to the other Strangler murders, investigators were unable to provide enough evidence to link del Valle to any of the other murders. He was eventually sentenced to 50 years imprisonment for the murder of "Estela" and after his incarceration, the murders stopped abruptly. Only 27 out of the 30 murders initially attributed to Jack the Strangler were solved, with the rest becoming cold cases and remaining unsolved.

Written by Nucleus