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Suspected Mexico Killer Moved

March 30, 1999 GMT

CUERNAVACA, Mexico (AP) _ Dozens of police cars protected Fernando Hernandez Leyva, suspected of killing more than 100 people, as he was transferred to a state prison after crowds of victims’ families called for his blood.

What appears to be the biggest multiple-murder case in recent history has split the residents of this southern Mexico city over the issue of the death penalty. Mexico does not have it, but victims’ families shouted for it to be applied against Hernandez Leyva.

``We want to lynch him,″ said Joel Uribe Landa, one of about 50 people gathered outside the Morelos state prosecutors’ office, where Hernandez Leyva was taken for questioning Monday before being transferred to the state prison. Uribe believes the man killed his brother and a cousin.

The unusually heavy police detail was present for a double purpose: to protect the suspect from angry protesters and to make sure he didn’t escape, as he has done at least twice over the last 13 years.

Prosecutor Jose Leonardo Castillo Pombo said Hernandez Leyva, arrested Thursday, is a suspect in kidnappings, robberies and as many as 135 murders in five southern Mexican states.

Castillo Pombo said he opposed the death penalty, but added that ``if the country is legally prepared to apply it, Mexicans should hold a referendum, so that public opinion can decide.″

There was little debate at the Monday demonstration about what should be done with Hernandez Leyva, who confessed to ``over 100 murders″ in his pretrial statements and who was led away to prison in handcuffs and a bulletproof vest.

``I hope you die ... for killing my parents. God is going to make you hear their voices forever,″ shouted protester Nanci Flores Montiel.

As evidence rolls in from prosecutors in outlying states, the number of potential murder charges against Hernandez Leyva continues to rise. Eleven more murder investigations forwarded by prosecutors in western Jalisco state name him as the prime suspect, bringing the caseload to 33 in four days, the government news agency Notimex reported.

But under Mexican law _ in which sentences are served concurrently _ the most Hernandez Leyva is likely to face is a sentence of 50 years in prison, with time off for good behavior.

Hernandez Leyva was arrested in 1982 in Cuernavaca, 35 miles south of Mexico City, on robbery charges but escaped from jail by tunneling through a wall.

He was arrested again on suspicion of murder and robbery in 1986, but again escaped from Mexico City’s Western penitentiary. Morelos state officials have applied to the federal government for him to be transferred to a maximum security federal prison.