MEXICO CITY -- A leading member of a drug-smuggling religious cult believed reponsible for 15 mysterious killings in northern Mexico died of AIDS while awaiting trial on murder charges, authorities said Monday.
'Omar Francisco Orea Ochoa died at 3:20 p.m. Sunday from a heart attack brought on by AIDS ...,' said Octavio Campos Ortiz, a spokesman for the Mexico City district attorney.
Orea Ochoa, 24, was admitted on June 20 to the clinic of the Santa Martha Acatitla penitentiary in eastern Mexico City, where he was diagnosed as carrying the HIV virus believed to cause AIDS, Campos Ortiz said.
Orea Ochoa was a member of a drug-smuggling religious cult led by Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo and his right-hand man, Martin Quintana Rodriguez.
He was arrested May 6 after a shootout with federal police in Mexico City and charged with the murder of Constanzo and Quintana Rodriguez, whose bullet-riddled bodies were found in an apartment in the capital.
Police said they suspected Constanzo and Quntana Rodriguez died as the result of a suicide pact involving Orea Ochoa that was not fully carried out.
Police began the search for cult members in April after 15 bodies bearing marks of ritual torture were found in common graves outside Matamoros in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, just across the border from Brownsville, Texas. One body was identified as that of a U.S. medical student.
Before his death, Constanzo was accused of directing the 15 slayings and ordering the mutilation of the victims' bodies.
He allegedly directed the group's drug-trafficking operation, which was believed to have smuggled a ton of marijuana into the United States each week. Police found altars, candles and other items used in occult rituals in Constanzo's Mexico City apartment.
Also arrested along with Orea Ochoa were Sara Aldrete Villareal, 24, thought to be Constanzo's lover, Alvaro de Leon Valdes and Juan Carlos Fragoso.
They remained in custody at the Santa Martha Acatitla penitentiary awaiting trial on a variety of criminal charges.