In what is described as one of Mexico’s most perplexing crime mysteries, nearly 200 women have been murdered since 1993 in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Police in Juarez have asked Dr. Candice Skrapec, assistant professor of criminology at California State University, Fresno, to help develop profiles of likely suspects in one of the longest and most horrendous crime sprees in the country’s history.
Skrapec said that most of the murdered women work in American factories in the border city of Juarez, just south of El Paso, Texas. Authorities there suspect an alleged murder-for-hire ring in the city, based on accusations from a 14-year-old girl who survived an attempt on her life last month.
Four suspects have been arrested and Skrapec said that they have been linked to at least seven of the victims. “It appears that these suspects were
involved with some of the victims but not the majority of the murders,” she said.
Skrapec leaves next week to begin her two-and-a-half-month commission in Mexico, leading a team of five criminology students selected from universities across the nation. She says the citizens of Juarez are scared
and have reached the threshold of complacency. “They want the police to stop these crimes.”
Known for her profiling work on cases such as New York City’s Zodiac Killer, Skrapec has been commissioned by the Juarez police department and government officials to train police officers and oversee specific parts of the investigation.
A fresh perspective is what Skrapec says she will bring to the investigation; looking at evidence from another point of view. “Sometimes all it takes is giving the right attention to something or reinterpreting things that investigators have been focusing on,” she said.
Although FBI profilers were called in during the past to lend their expertise, no clues have helped solve the murders of the vast majority of the victims.
Fresno State criminology student Humberto Valero Jr. is counting the days before he leaves with Skrapec to work as her assistant on the investigation. Valero said that Skrapec and the rest of the team will stay at the police academy complex in Juarez.
Evidence collection for criminal prosecution is one of Valero’s areas of interest and he expects that will be one of his major duties this summer in Juarez. He said he wants to go into the investigation with a clear mind and base his perceptions on fact, rather than what others might perceive to be pertinent.
“Students don’t very often get to work on a case of this magnitude before they begin their professional careers,” Skrapec said. “These criminology students can’t believe their good fortune to be invited to help.”
Skrapec’s team will not only be spearheading the profiling for the investigation, but they will help train Juarez police officers how to gather behavioral evidence useful for such cases. “The Juarez district attorney’s office has created a special unit dealing with women who are murdered. I’ll be working with prosecutors in this unit to develop profiles of likely suspects,” said Skrapec.
Skrapec can’t really comment on her suspicions or intuitions about the investigation. “Of course I have several inclinations about the suspects, but to catch them we have to first start looking in the right direction.”
Profiling is not an exact science and many times contributes to throwing the police off in the wrong direction. “It can be an important tool, but if you are wrong, it can work against an investigation and waste hundreds of hours of man power.”