EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The president of Mexico expressed his condolences to the Jesuit Order for the murder of two priests in the northern border state of Chihuahua and said their killer has been identified.
Separately, the Chihuahua Attorney General late Wednesday offered a $250,000 reward for information leading to the capture of Jose Noriel Portillo Gil, a.k.a. “El Chueco,” or The Crooked One. “The participation of the public is vital for the swift capture of the man responsible for these acts,” Chihuahua Attorney General Roberto Fierro said. “He is considered a generator of violence in the region and is accused of other (crimes).”
Speaking at a Wednesday news conference in Mexico City, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said the perpetrator of two separate events that may involve up to six victims already was on the lam for the murder of a U.S. citizen in 2018.
“The individual was identified by one of the (surviving) priests,” Lopez Obrador said. “Our priority is to find the bodies […] and arrest those responsible. That part of the mountains for some time has been infiltrated, penetrated, dominated by organized crime.”
The Revs. Javier Campos Morales, 79, and Joaquin Cesar Mora Salazar, 80, were shot to death while coming to the aid of a wounded man who sought refuge in their church in the town of Cerocahui, Mexico, late Monday. The Jesuits had been active in church ministry and social work in the mountains of Western Chihuahua for decades, their diocese said.
Chihuahua state authorities say the wounded man was a tour guide and his killing was connected to the abduction of four persons earlier in the day. One of those kidnapped was a child, but she was later released by her captors, Lopez Obrador said.
The bodies of the priests and the tour guide were taken away by their assailants; the abducted men and woman also remain missing.
“We are working over there … the Ministry of National Defense and we have other federal (personnel) there. We will have results,” the president said.
Portillo is also wanted in connection with the Oct. 28, 2018, murder of Patrick Braxton-Andrew in the nearby town of Urique, Chihuahua.
Portillo is an alleged member of a Sinaloa cartel cell Los Salazar operating in the region. He allegedly mistook Braxton-Andrew, a North Carolina teacher, for a Drug Enforcement Administration Agent, according to local media accounts at the time.
Former Chihuahua Gov. Javier Corral told reporters back then that Braxton-Andrew was a “totally innocent” person who had nothing to do with drugs but was nonetheless the victim of a brutal murder.
Lopez Obrador did not name the suspect, either, but referred to him as a long-time criminal operator whose organization flourished because of corruption.
“This man, has he just begun his criminal career? No. He surely was tolerated. The Jesuits know this and those who live in Urique know this,” the president said during his five-hour-plus news conference. “They know perfectly well how this organization came to be and the collusion with authorities (in the past). We’re making progress, but we have a ways to go. It’s a process.”
Lopez Obrador said the Mexican army and Chihuahua state police were continuing the hunt for the suspect.