JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) – A Mexican judge has ordered the head of a Juarez drug rehab clinic and her friend to stand trial for femicide in connection with the death and dismemberment of a former Wichita, Kansas, resident.
Chihuahua state Judge Brisa Yadira Meraz on Friday told defense attorneys and prosecutors there’s enough evidence to presume that Diana Paola E.L. and Claudia Rubi R.E. betrayed the trust of a patient, killed her during an episode of drug withdrawal and then dismembered her body in an attempt to hide the evidence.
The women now face 41 to 80 years in prison for the aggravated femicide of Celia Yaneth Castañeda. An autopsy revealed the woman died of blunt force trauma to the head.
The judge ruled a gender bias applies because the women took advantage of a person under their care, someone who was vulnerable because of her illness, and that they likely would not have done the same to a man. Also, “there was a high level of cruelty and hate” against a female and they defaced her body after the killing, Meraz said during Friday’s hearing.
State police acting on a tip on the evening of May 19 arrested the two women at a home neighborhood just south of Downtown Juarez. The judge on Friday read a police report describing how the owner of the property opened the door to police officers, pointed them to his tenant’s front door and a woman later identified as Claudia Rubi, the clinic’s operator, opened the door.
The report says the officers saw a metallic trash can with bloody black-and-white pajamas and a woman’s slipper. As the officers entered the residence, Diana Paola and Claudia Rubi allegedly tried to run away from the property but were caught and subdued by the officers.
When backup arrived, the scene was straight out of a Hollywood slasher movie.
Police found plastic buckets inside a bathtub filled with human bones and flesh; plastic bags containing six large bones and two patellas; and a blender filled with human flesh. A female pelvis had been stripped of the genitalia, which the suspects allegedly tried to liquefy along with other soft body tissues and intestines.
“For the sake of not revictimizing the victim, for the sake of her dignity, I will not go on” reading the police report, Meraz told prosecutors and defense attorneys as the two suspects sat in the back. The two women wore gray sweatsuits and black tennis shoes – standard issue at Juarez’s Cereso No. 2 women’s prison. Neither addressed the court on Friday.
Defense attorney Luis Oaxaca said his clients may have been found by police in the same house as the human remains, but that doesn’t mean they killed Castaneda. He said forensic experts have concluded Castaneda was not killed at the home where the remains were found.
Oaxaca said Juarez police only have a “hypothesis” of what they think happened but have nothing but circumstantial evidence. He said police did not have a search warrant to enter the home where the remains were found. He asked the judge for the women’s release.
State prosecutor David Armendariz said investigators have plenty of evidence, including a business card of Monarch drug rehab clinic found next to the remains. They also have testimony from the aunts of the victim, who took her to Monarch on May 16 and were told by the suspects on May 18 that their niece had “escaped” the clinic.
Her relatives took Castañeda to the clinic after she returned from the United States and developed an addiction to drugs and alcohol. A neighbor who used to be a cook at Monarch recommended the clinic to them.
Investigators’ testimony read at Friday’s hearing includes that of Castañeda’s aunt, stating she was told her niece had a “violent episode” and assaulted a caretaker the night she disappeared. She also testified she saw other female patients when she dropped off her relative. After her disappearance, the clinic was empty.
Armendariz said the officers who entered the home did not need a search warrant after seeing the bloody clothes. At that time, they were in a crime scene and the women were in flagrant commission of a crime. He said police did have a search warrant when they raided the Monarch clinic hours later, which is where Castañeda was likely killed.
Armendariz asked for five months from the judge to perform DNA testing and find other patients at the rehab clinic that could serve as witnesses. The judge granted the stay and ordered the women to remain in prison until then. She said there is probable cause that the women are guilty as charged. In Mexico, trials are presided by judges, not juries.
Diana Paola and Claudia Rubi were handcuffed by a prison guard immediately after the hearing and taken back to Cereso No. 2.