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Five Sentenced in Cult Slayings

May 4, 1994 GMT

MATAMOROS, Mexico (AP) _ The reputed ″godmother″ and four other members of a cult were sentenced to more than 60 years in prison for the ritual slayings of 13 people, including a Texas college student.

Sara Maria Aldrete Villarreal, who authorities said was the cult’s godmother, was sentenced to 62 years in prison. Elio Hernandez Rivera, David Serna Valdez, Serafin Hernandez Garcia and Sergio Martinez Salinas were each ordered to serve 67 years.

The sentences, handed down Monday by Federal Judge Francisco Salvador Perez, were denounced by Ms. Aldrete’s attorney.

″It’s an exaggerated sentence, totally outside the judicial reality of Mexico,″ Horacio Moyar Quintanilla said Tuesday.

Ms. Aldrete, a student at Texas Southmost College in Brownsville, has denied any involvement.

A sixth person, Alvaro Dario de Leon Valdez, is in jail in Mexico City awaiting sentencing in the case.

Investigators came upon the deadly cult after Mark Kilroy, a University of Texas pre-med student disappeared during a night of bar-hopping in Matamoros during spring break in March 1989. After a monthlong search, his mutilated body was found at a ranch west of Matamoros.

″I’m glad to hear that after five years they have finally been given a sentence,″ said Kilroy’s mother, Helen, from her home in Sante Fe, Texas. ″I think we and the people of Mexico can feel safer.″

After Kilroy’s body was recovered, the remains of 14 other people were unearthed at the ranch and at a nearby farm.

Investigators also uncovered a shack that contained a cauldron and an assortment of pots with the heads of black goats and roosters.

Although 15 bodies were found, the murder charges involved only 13 of the victims.

Authorities said the victims were killed by a drug-smuggling cult that performed the ritual slayings seeking magical protection from the law and rival drug smugglers.

Police were led to the ranch by Elio Hernandez, who sped through a federal drug checkpoint near the Texas-Mexico border. Hernandez believed that the cult rituals had made him invisible, police said.

Investigators followed him to the 100-acre Rancho Santa Elena.