Cartel Hit Men Blamed For Latest Juarez Slayings

A Mexican soldier patrols the scene where three U.S. consulate staffers were slain in Ciudad Juarez. i i

hide captionA Mexican soldier patrols the scene where three U.S. consulate staffers were killed Saturday in Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, Texas.

Jesus Alcazar/AFP/Getty Images
A Mexican soldier patrols the scene where three U.S. consulate staffers were slain in Ciudad Juarez.

A Mexican soldier patrols the scene where three U.S. consulate staffers were killed Saturday in Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, Texas.

Jesus Alcazar/AFP/Getty Images

FBI agents were conducting interviews Monday in the United States to assist Mexican police in the murder investigation of two Americans and a Mexican who had links to the U.S. consulate in the violent Mexican town of Ciudad Juarez.

FBI spokeswoman Andrea Simmons told NPR.org that as many as five U.S. law enforcement agencies were chasing down leads in Saturday's assassination-style murders of U.S. consulate employee Lesley A. Enriquez and her husband, Arthur H. Redelfs. Jorge Alberto Salcido Ceniceros, the husband of another consular employee, was killed in a separate attack.

"We are assisting [Mexican police] along with the DEA, ICE, the ATF, as well as the local sheriff's department," said Simmons. She said a "handful" of people who attended the party live on the U.S. side of the border would be interviewed by the FBI and, possibly, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.

Heard On 'All Things Considered'

The attorney general's office in the state of Chihuahua, where Juarez is located, speculated that the Aztecas street gang and La Linea, a group of cartel "enforcers," may be responsible.

The reason for the midafternoon attacks remained unclear.

Witnesses told police that a group of armed men followed Enriquez, 35, and Redelfs, 34, when they left the party around 2:42 p.m. The couple was driving in an area of the Paso del Norte and Stanton Street international bridges, but lost control and headed into oncoming traffic after being fired upon. Their white, late-model Toyota RAV4 crashed into other vehicles before coming to a stop.

A spokesman for the city of Juarez, Jaime Torres, told NPR that he was in his office at city hall when he heard a loud crash and the screeching of tires.

"We went out onto the street and saw six cars had crashed into each other just behind city hall," he said. Torres added that he saw a woman slumped dead in the driver's seat as he approached the car.

Enriquez was shot in the head, while Redelfs, a detention officer at the El Paso County Jail, was hit in the neck and arm, said Vladimir Tuexi, spokesman for the Chihuahua state prosecutor's office. The couple's 7-month-old daughter also was in the car but was not injured.

According to the Juarez newspaper El Diario, Enriquez was from a prominent Mexican family and was the niece of a former official in Mexico's federal government. Officials confirmed that she was pregnant when she was killed.

Minutes before that ambush, police in another part of the city found Salcido Ceniceros' body.

The 37-year-old was shot to death in his car around 2:32 p.m. near the intersection of Avenida Insurgentes and Articulo 39. His children, ages 4 and 7, were also in the vehicle and were taken to the hospital with unspecified injuries. Police said he was also driving a white SUV.

Meanwhile, news of the deaths reached the top levels of the U.S. and Mexican government. Mexican President Felipe Calderon promised to work swiftly to find the killers, while U.S. President Obama expressed outrage at the deaths.

The U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juarez, closed for Monday's Mexican national holiday, also will be closed Tuesday as a sign of mourning, said consulate spokesman Silvio Gonzalez.

It was the second U.S. border consulate closed because of violence in the past month. The consular office in Reynosa, across from McAllen, Texas, closed for several days in late February because of gun battles in the area.

Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department said the government would pick up the tab if employees in six Mexican cities want to send their families out of the area. The cities are Ciudad Juarez, Matamoros and Nuevo Laredo, which are across the border from cities in Texas; Nogales, which is on the border with Nogales, Ariz.; Monterrey; and Tijuana, which is near San Diego, Calif. The 30-day relocation periods could be extended, if needed.

The State Department also advised Americans to delay unnecessary travel to parts of Mexico.

From NPR's Deborah Tedford and wire reports

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