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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Man sentenced for border killings

CHIHUAHUA, Mexico — A court upheld the conviction of an Egyptian man for one of the first in a series of murders of women in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, but lowered the man’s prison sentence to 20 years.
The sentence for homicide imposed Tuesday on Abdel Latif Sharif by Judge Hector Talamontes comes on the 10th anniversary of the first slayings in 1993.
Since then, over 80 women have been raped, murdered and their bodies dumped in the desert, in a case that has drawn widespread criticism of Chihuahua state police for failing to stop the eerily similar string of crimes.
The number of victims has risen in recent months, as more bodies turn up. Police found the decomposed remains of three women earlier this month in Juarez.
Prosecutors wanted a tougher sentence — like the 30 years Sharif was originally sentenced to, before his conviction was overturned on appeal — arguing that Sharif was responsible for several murders, said Chihuahua state spokesman Fernando Medina.
But Judge Talamontes upheld the lower court conviction only in the 1995 murder of Elizabeth Castro Garcia.
Prosecutors may appeal the Tuesday ruling, because they believe Sharif paid a Juarez youth gang to continue the murders after he was jailed, in order to make him appear innocent.
Sharif — a former U.S. resident employed as a chemist in a border assembly plant before he was arrested in 1995 — has spent the last seven years in jail proclaiming his innocence.
Sharif’s attorney, public defender Jesus Antonio Penon, vowed to appeal, noting “we will fight this ruling because of the aggravating factors that were presented.”
Apart from Sharif, prosecutors have built only one other strong case in a single murder: bus driver Jesus Manuel Guardado was arrested in 1999 after a girl he raped, strangled and left for dead in the desert survived the attack and identified him.
While it is unclear if a serial killer is involved, the crimes have been quite similar: young, slender women who were kidnapped — usually on their way to work or school — then raped, strangled and their half-clad bodies tossed in the desert outside Juarez, a city of more than 1 million across the border from El Paso, Texas.
As the killings continued, state police were increasingly accused of picking up suspects — usually bus drivers, since many of the victims were last seen waiting at bus stops — and torturing them to force them to confess.
Those confessions — like the police’s sloppy forensics work — have seldom held up in court. Meanwhile, the killings have continued, and even prosecutors no longer claim the most recent murders have any connection with Sharif.
Some representatives for victims say they believe Sharif was a scapegoat arrested to divert attention from the true murderers.

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