“She approached from behind and stabbed me,” said Antonio, one of the victims of the “Throat-slitter”, a woman who has been viciously attacking unsuspecting strangers just outside of Mexico City.
“She was thin. Between 20 to 23-years-of-age. As it was dark, I couldn’t make out her face, but I could see it was a woman. She was very agile and flexible. She said nothing, she just stabbed.”
Antonio, 43, was one of several people to survive the attacks in the town of Chimalhuacan. Two less fortunate victims were killed.
The stabbings began in September, when reports of the attacker’s strength sparked rumours that a cross-dresser was responsible.
“Her strength was overpowering.”
“I am one of those people who turns around when they hear a noise, but I heard nothing,” said Luisa, another survivor.
“The attacker was very careful when approaching. She grabbed me by the arm and tried to strangle me. Then she started stabbing me with a carving knife. Her strength was overpowering.”
Local vigilantes threatened to take matters into their own hands and lynch the woman responsible.
Under massive public pressure, authorities swooped on a suspect: Itzel Garcia, 20, who worked selling sweets on the metro.
Police linked her to at least nine other attacks after she was arrested for stabbing a fellow vendor during an argument about money. Her husband, a bus driver nicknamed “the Mouse,” turned her in.
Police reported that four victims have identified Garcia as the assailant and have said she will be charged with the other crimes in the coming months.
Yet doubters have said she isn’t the Throat-slitter, who killed victims without motive, silently attacking in the dead of night.
Víctor Garcia, the father of the accused, told Latin Correspondent that his daughter was innocent of all crimes, except for the attack on her colleague.
“I don’t think it was the best way of resolving things,” Garcia said, “but I think she was tired of him. Lots of people say the victim was extorting the workers, and when they didn’t pay, he threatened them. Finally, a moment came when she didn’t want to pay, so she did what she did.”
According to Garcia, police are making his daughter the scapegoat.
“In some of the occasions when they say she was attacking people she was actually somewhere else,” he said.
The case could be key if authorities are to restore faith in Mexico’s notoriously corrupt and inefficient justice system.
In a bid to explain the attacks, police have pounced on Itzel Garcia’s alleged solvent abuse, saying it provides a possible motive for the violence.
Her father admitted that she occasionally used drugs. “She’s a hard working person,” he said, “but she’s still young so she likes to party.”
Reporter Emilio Fernandez said neighbours describe Garcia as a heavy drug user.
Yet he points out that this could be used to defend her.
“Some people believe that if she was the aggressor the solvent would have slowed down her movements,” Fernandez said. “According to the testimony of the victims the attacker was agile and a very fast runner.”
“An atmosphere of fear,”
Despite these doubts, Garcia’s detention has quietened the area.
“People are calmer, the area is recovering,” said local government spokesperson Laura Castillo. “The injured victims and their families are calmer because they know they won’t be attacked.”
Before the arrest, tension had reached fever pitch.
“There was an atmosphere of fear,” Fernandez said. “People wouldn’t leave their houses, especially at night. During the day they were also afraid to go out. Some of them were carrying sticks, metal pipes and rocks. They even had whistles to alert others if they saw anything suspicious.”
Of the thousands of crimes that have occurred in recent months in Chimalhuacan, none has provoked such terror in the population.
According to Fernandez, it was locals themselves, rather than the media, who dubbed the murderer the Throat-slitter.
Panic spread like wildfire on social media, as rumours about the case circulated. A song dedicated to the assailant even appeared on YouTube.
Yet violence in Chimalhuacan is nothing new, and several high-profile serial killers have operated in the area.
Chimalhuacan is located in the State of Mexico, a vast region surrounding the capital, Mexico City. The state government reported 2,879 murders last year.
“Family violence has spilled out into the streets. Lots of young woman have appeared dead in the area and the authorities have not paid sufficient attention,” said journalist Alberto Gonzalez.
Regardless as to whether police have arrested the real Throat-slitter or not, it is unlikely to reduce the level of violence in the region.
“The state government want us to think that if they arrest someone, the problem will disappear,” said Gonzalez. “The story of violence is continually repeated, yet authorities do nothing.”
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