Mexicans shocked by assault on family involving rape, murder

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexicans accustomed to violent crime are in shock over the brutality of an assault in which assailants raped a woman and her 14-year-old niece, killed her 3-year-old son, beat the husband, stole the family’s pickup truck and left them on the side of a dark highway.

The family had to walk about a mile (1½ kilometers) to the nearest toll booth to seek help with the dead boy in their arms, said an official in the central state of Puebla. The official agreed to give details of the case only if granted anonymity because she was not authorized to be quoted by name.

The family had parked their pickup by the side of the highway apparently so the father could urinate, something not uncommon in an area where there are few public bathrooms.

The assailants, traveling in two cars, blocked the family’s vehicle on the shoulder of the road. The toddler was either shot or killed by a piece of flying glass when the attackers shot out one of the truck’s windows.

The Puebla state prosecutor, Victor Carranca, confirmed only the rapes. He said the crime occurred on a federal highway, but said state investigators were looking into the case and expressed hope that video cameras at the toll booths might help identify the attackers.

States such as Puebla had largely been spared the high-profile, violent crimes that have plagued neighboring states like Veracruz, where drug cartels have been more active. But recently Puebla has become one of the states where fuel-theft rings — often linked to drug cartels or gangs — have become more active, tapping into government pipelines at a high rate.

Mexico is struggling with the reality that some states once viewed as havens from violence have turned bloody. Recent shootings have marred the tranquility of resorts such as Cancun in Quintana Roo state and the twin resorts of Los Cabos in Baja California Sur state.

Baja California Sur saw 133 slayings during the first quarter of this year, compared to just 17 during the same period of 2016 — a 682 percent jump that was the largest annual percentage increase in all of Mexico amid a general rise in homicides for the country.

Also on Wednesday, authorities reported that a series of violent confrontations between rival drug gang factions left at least one person dead in the city of Reynosa, across the border from McAllen, Texas. Reynosa has long been the scene of bloody shootouts between rival factions of the Gulf cartel and authorities.

A statement from the office of Tamaulipas state’s security spokesman said one person was found dead after a string of shootings and road blockades that broke out around midnight and lasted into Wednesday morning. It was unclear if the dead person was a bystander or participant in the fighting.

The statement said that gunmen in several vehicles had also shot at military patrols and that drug gang members blocked roads at 11 points in Reynosa. The gangs frequently hijack and burn vehicles and scatter tire-puncturing devices to block roads.

“The intervention by state and federal security forces stopped, in part, the confrontation between two groups,” the office said. “The situation in Reynosa cannot be downplayed, but it is far from a curfew. It is a fight between criminal groups.”

The talk of a curfew began after the office called on Reynosa residents to “stay alert, and avoid travelling at night.”

“There is a crime situation right now that puts people’s lives at risk,” said state prosecutor Irving Barrios.

In Mexico City, the body of a woman was found tied to a phone booth in gardens beside the engineering school of Mexico’s National Autonomous University, according to a statement from the university. Her identity and cause of death were not immediately known.

The Mexico City prosecutor’s office also said Wednesday it was investigating the killing of three men outside a city market. The office said the men all had criminal records and allegedly tried to attack passengers in vehicle.