Slay­ings of young women surge

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - WORLD - By Gus­tavo Martinez Gus­tavo Martinez is an As­so­ci­ated Press writer.

VILLA CUAUHTEMOC, Mex­ico — Just like any other day, Dr. Jes­sica Sevilla Pe­draza went to work at the hospi­tal that morn­ing, came home for a quick lunch and then left again. The plan was to see more pa­tients, hit the gym and be back in time for her usual din­ner with dad be­fore he went to his night-shift job.

In­stead, a hospi­tal co-worker showed up at the fam­ily’s door in the evening. She said a man had come in with a bul­let wound in his leg and told doc­tors he had been with Sevilla when gun­men in­ter­cepted them, shot him and took off with the doc­tor in her own car.

Two days later, her mother Juana iden­ti­fied 29-year-old Jes­sica’s body at the morgue. She had been shot in the head and de­cap­i­tated, and the skin had been flayed from her skull.

Sevilla’s grue­some death was part of a wave of killings of women plagu­ing the sprawl­ing State of Mex­ico, the coun­try’s most pop­u­lous with 16 mil­lion res­i­dents and sur­rounds the cap­i­tal on three sides. The mount­ing cri­sis of femi­cides — mur­ders of women where the mo­tive is di­rectly re­lated to gen­der — prompted the fed­eral govern­ment to is­sue a gen­der vi­o­lence alert in 2015, the first for any Mex­i­can state.

Some­times the deaths are caused by do­mes­tic abuse. Other killings ap­pear to be op­por­tunis­tic, by strangers. Of­ten the bodies are mu­ti­lated and dumped in a pub­lic place — which many read as a mes­sage to other women: There is no safe place, time of day or ac­tiv­ity.

The week be­fore Sevilla’s killing, 18-year-old Mar­i­ana Joselin Baltierra van­ished when she walked to the cor­ner store in Ecate­pec, a hard­scrab­ble sub­urb of Mex­ico City. Her body was found in a butcher shop next door; she had been sex­u­ally as­saulted and dis­em­bow­eled. The sus­pect, an em­ployee at the butcher shop, al­legedly took the money in the reg­is­ter and fled. He re­mains at large.

In June, Va­le­ria Teresa Gu­tier­rez Or­tiz, 11, dis­ap­peared in Neza­hual­coy­otl af­ter tak­ing a pub­lic bus home from school. She was later found dead in the aban­doned ve­hi­cle, par­tially clothed and with signs of sex­ual as­sault. The bus driver was ar­rested for the killing. Three days later he was found dead in his cell with a cord around his neck.

The State of Mex­ico of­fi­cially ranks sec­ond to the na­tion’s cap­i­tal with 346 killings clas­si­fied as femi­cides since 2011, ac­cord­ing to govern­ment sta­tis­tics.

The non­profit Cit­i­zen Ob­ser­va­tory Against Gen­der Vi­o­lence, Dis­ap­pear­ance and Femi­cides in Mex­ico State counted 263 femi­cides in 2016 alone.

Be­fore Mex­ico State, it was Ci­u­dad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, that was no­to­ri­ous for killings of women, with nearly 400 slain there since 1993 and only a hand­ful of cases re­sult­ing in con­vic­tions. Com­mon to both places are marginal­ized, pe­riph­eral com­mu­ni­ties with high lev­els of vi­o­lent crime, cor­rup­tion and im­punity.

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