CRIME HUNTER: Cheerleader by day, serial killer Satanist by night

“I am a scientist. I have a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Texas. But when I went there, I put a cross around his neck.” — Antonio Zavaleta, occult expert, at Texas Southmost College. Texas Monthly, 1989

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Three international bridges connect Brownsville, Texas to Matamoros, Mexico, where good times are cheap.

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Forty minutes away from Brownsville on the Gulf of Mexico is South Padre Island, a wet T-shirt wonderland that attracts tens of thousands of college kids from across the United States for the annual booze-a-rama of spring break.

Apparently, the birdwatching is pretty good in South Padre too.

Student Mark James Kilroy of the University of Texas at Austin was looking for birds of different feathers in the spring of 1989.

On March 14, 1989, Kilroy was in South Padre Island with friends when they got separated. The 21-year-old student was never seen alive again.

Some reports suggest he was kidnapped off the island, others say it happened over the border in Matamoros.

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At 6-foot-1, Sara Aldrete was an exceptionally tall, striking woman with flowing brown hair. While living in Matamoros, she attended Texas Southmost College where she played soccer and was a cheerleader.

According to Texas Monthly, she was courteous, friendly, and always eager to please.

“She sat in my anthropology class all semester, an A student, always present, always friendly. I have never seen her wear an emblem, an amulet, a talisman, any sign of black magic – and I am trained to see such things; I never heard her ask a strange question, even when we talked about strange religions,” said Zavaleta.

But at night, she would return to her parent’s middle-class Matamoros home, lock her bedroom door and pray to Satan on a blood-spattered altar.

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Aldrete was leading a secret double life: Student by day, witch and devil worshiper by night.

The Mexican media called them Los Narcosatánicos — The Narcosatanists.

In the 1980s, Aldrete met the charismatic Adolfo Constanzo, fortune teller and disgraced cult leader. Constanzo marinated the young woman in the way of the dark lord, black magic and magic in a Satanic gumbo of Santeria, Aztec warrior ritual and Palo Mayombe.

Constanzo initiated Aldrete into the cult and called her La Madrina — The Godmother.

The cops would later say that the cheerleader became as bloodthirsty as the cult leader, and there were many blood sacrifices.

The cult mainly targeted drug dealers, stealing their drugs and pushing them over the border. Constanzo told his followers that the human sacrifice gave them immunity from law enforcement for their drug smuggling operations. Win-win.

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And in an old warehouse in Matamoros, they tortured and killed dozens of victims, their body parts chopped and cooked in a big pot.

Aldrete played an active role in the killing, investigators believed, and this included human sacrifice.

In one case, Aldrete personally selected the victim to be killed. He had the temerity to insult La Madrina and such insolence had to be punished. The leggy cheerleader seduced the victim herself.

Then, she oversaw his agonizing death, cutting off his nipples before boiling him alive.

Murder was never lacking in Matamoros. People disappeared all the time, part of the transient nature of border towns and the desperate rush to enter the United States for a better life.

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But by 1989, homicide detectives in Mexico had begun to take care of the body parts in their midst. When Mark Kilroy disappeared, it changed everything.

Aldrete had ordered the cult members to bring her a white American man as a sacrifice. The details that emerged afterwards were harrowing.

Kilroy was taken to a remote ranch where he was tortured and sodomized for hours by cult members before being ritualistically killed with a machete. Cultists then removed his brain and boiled it in a pot. He was buried on the property with 14 previous victims of the group.

The cops didn’t take long to find the ranch but by then Aldrete, Constanzo and other fanatics were on the run. At the death ranch, investigators made the gruesome discovery of human hair, brains, teeth and skulls.

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On May 6, 1989, acting on a tip, detectives raided their hideout in Mexico City in a hail of bullets and Constanzo asked another cult member to shoot him. Always dutiful, he blew the boss’s mind.

Aldrete was caught soon after and was sentenced to 45 years in prison.

If she is ever released, US officials said they will be waiting with extradition papers – and a needle.

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