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Shooting death led some into cult

MATAMOROS, Mexico -- Some of the men accused in the deaths of 15 people found in shallow graves in Mexico started getting involved in cult activities when a shooting death tore their drug-smuggling family apart, a newspaper reported Saturday.

The Houston Chronicle quoted Mexican authorities who said members of the Hernandez family turned to bizarre rituals when their relative, Saul Hernandez Rivera, was shot dead outside a Matamoros bar in January 1987.

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Officials think the Hernandez clan formed the nucleus of the gang accused of killing University of Texas student Mark Kilroy and 14 other people over a nine-month period. Thirteen victims were buried at the Santa Elena Ranch and two at a ranch 20 miles west of Matamoros near the Rio Grande.

A Mexican federal judge in Matamoros officially indicted two Hernandez men Friday on murder charges. They and two other men face prison sentences of more than 50 years if convicted on all charges.

Charged in the indictment Friday were Sergio Martinez, 23, David Serna Valdez, 22, Elio Hernandez Rivera, 22, and Serafin Hernandez Garcia, 20. The same men were indicted on drug charges by a federal grand jury in McAllen on Tuesday.

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Mexican Judge Francisco Salvador Perez said the suspects are 'presumed responsible' for the murders of the men until proven innnocent.

The Hernandez family, including Elio Hernandez Rivera and Serafin Hernandez Garcia, once had a drug empire stretching from Mexico to Michigan, said Juan Benitez Ayala, commander of the Federal Judicial Police in Matamoros.

'Saul Hernandez was a drug trafficker with a lot of economic power, a lot of armed men,' Benitez said. 'The center of his operation was Oaxaca (in Mexico).'

The family's trouble and infighting began after the shooting death of Saul Herandez. It caused the other family members to associate themselves with Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo, 26, the Miami native and son of Cuban parents who was called El Padrino (godfather) by other cult members.

Authorities said the gang was smuggling as much as a ton of marijuana a week into the United States until the gruesome discovery of the bodies.

Five people associated with the Hernandez drug gang are in jail now in Mexico. One is being held in Texas.

'Not even the other drug traffickers like them now,' Benitez said. 'The Hernandez family is finished now.'

Authorities think the movie 'The Believers' was an inspiration for the human sacrifices by the cult in Matamoros, and video stores in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas are reporting a surge in rentals of the film since the 15 bodies were found.

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