EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Jurors got a reminder of the brutality in the drug trafficking business as images of a woman murdered were on display in federal court on Wednesday.
United States prosecutors played a condensed version of a video with a woman being questioned by members of the Sinaloa cartel.
The next image they saw was a photograph of her lifeless body bleeding shortly after the recording.
Images shown during the court hearing were reminders of the violence that existed in the lives of two high profile Sinaloa cartel members during the mid-2000s.
Arturo Shows Urquidi and Mario Alberto Iglesias Villegas, who are cartel members, are on trial this week in U.S. federal court in El Paso. The two are accused of being involved in the Sinaloa cartels operations Juárez in connection to murders, kidnappings, and drug trafficking.
The trials are part of a large indictment by a federal grand jury that included Sinaloa cartel leaders Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and Ismael “Mayo” Zambada Garcia. On April 24, 2012, the leaders and 22 other members of the cartel were charged with criminal activities ranging from trafficking drugs to conspiracy to kill in a foreign country.
On Wednesday, jurors in the case heard more testimony from witnesses. This time, some more detail about the activities Iglesias was involved in were detailed.
A witness said José Antonio Marrufo, who was at the helm of the Sinaloa’s operations in Juárez, had a team of people that dealt with murders, kidnappings and dumping of bodies.
The witness, who admitted to being in the team, looked on as violent images filled the screens in the courtroom. The woman who had been recorded was flanked by a man with a rifle as she asked questions. She was asked if she was married, if she had kids, if she wanted to make a statement.
She’d been on the opposite side of the Sinaloa cartel, which made her a prime target at the height of violence during the criminal organization’s war with the Juárez cartel.
On her back, the cartel members wrote “I extort people for La Línea.” A rose was placed on top of her in the image of her body.
Also, a former police officer with the Juárez police department had been on the opposite side of the Sinaloas. His body and another’s, which appeared to be stripped of clothing, were laid out on a street on a busy avenue in Juárez in another image shown by U.S. prosecutors.
Their bodies were left in an affluent area in Juárez along Avenida Plutarco Elías Calles.
The witness said Iglesias was aware of such incidents and was involved.
He also recalled the kidnapping of a man named Sergio Salcedo who was moved from one safe house to another in Juárez.
The witness said he had driven a vehicle and transported Salcedo. The vehicle was guarded during transport, he added.
Marrufo interrogated the man in a safe house, the witness said. And, he asked him why he’d lost a load of drugs.
The witness said Marrufo ordered him to be killed and for his men to mutilate his body. They cutt his hands off and left his body in a dark alley near the “Universidad Pedagógica Nacional del Estado de Chihuahua,” on Juárez’s busy Avenida Ejército Nacional street.
The witness said his hands were ordered cut off as a message not to steal from the cartel.
The witness said most kidnappings and murders were conducted by a team that included him and Iglesias. The team used a stolen Jeep to transport the bodies, he said.
Defense attorneys for Urquidi and Iglesias questioned the validity of the video the jurors saw and the transcript of what was said in the video.
The question brought a stop to the testimony and federal Judge Frank Montalvo excused the jury for the day as he discussed the video with attorneys.
Defense attorneys asked where the video was from and questioned if the transcript was accurate. The discussion between the attorneys and judge Montalvo suggested an error had been spotted in an early version of the transcription.
Federal prosecutors said the witness could be used to validate the video and transcription but defense attorneys argued his objectivity may have already been tainted.