Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Family of woman jailed in Mexico will travel there

Family of woman jailed in Mexico will travel there

Last update: June 16, 2004 at 9:40 PM
Family of woman jailed in Mexico will travel there
Jon Tevlin, Star Tribune
June 17, 2004 KIEC0617

While Mexican President Vicente Fox meets with Minnesota politicians Friday to talk about trade between his country and the state, one Twin Cities family will be traveling to Mexico to demand justice for their daughter, who has been held on murder charges for more than a year.

Carol and Burt Kiecker, of Bloomington, will hold a news conference Saturday in Chihuahua City to draw attention to the case of their daughter Cynthia, whose incarceration has been challenged by several human rights groups. The couple's children Claire and Alan will accompany them.

Meanwhile, the Kieckers are hoping that local public officials, who have been kept up to date on their daughter's case, will take the opportunity to speak with Fox about it.

Cynthia Kiecker and her husband, Ulises Perzabal, a native of Mexico, were arrested May 30, 2003, and charged with killing 16-year-old Viviana Rayas in what authorities claim was a drug-filled "satanic ritual."

Kiecker and Perzabal say they were tortured by Mexican authorities into confessing. Three witnesses who testified against the couple publicly recanted, saying they too were tortured. And the victim's family has said publicly they don't think Kiecker is the killer.

The Kieckers believe their daughter was a scapegoat because she and her husband ran a record store, spoke out against the Mexican government and lived what Mexican authorities called a "hippie" lifestyle.

In March, the Dallas Morning News reported that a Mexican federal investigation was looking into a group of police officers, called "La Linea," or "the line," believed to be involved in the drug trade and in the deaths of many women allegedly killed in "celebration" of successful drug operations.

Letters to Fox

The Kieckers and scores of friends, as well as many human rights organizations, have written to Fox about the killings, and about Kiecker and Perzabal.

Special investigator Guadelupe Morfin, selected by Fox to look into the Juarez murders, told the Kieckers' lawyers last week that she thinks Kiecker and Perzabal are innocent, Carol Kiecker said. "She told the lawyers she was going to ask Fox for their release," said Carol.

The Kiecker-Perzabal case is similar to scores of other murder cases in the border states of Juarez and Chihuahua. Human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, have been pressuring Mexican authorities to solve as many as 370 murders of young women, mostly in Chihuahua.

Laurie Freeman, associate for Mexico and Drug Policy for the Washington Office on Latin America said that if the two countries can cooperate on drugs and auto theft, they should also cooperate in solving the murders.

"There is definitely credible evidence [that] Cynthia Kiecker was tortured," said Freeman. "She should be released and they should investigate the police who arrested them."

The Kieckers wrote to Gov. Tim Pawlenty about three weeks ago, but have not heard from him. When asked whether Pawlenty would inquire about Kiecker, a spokesman for the governor said only that Pawlenty was looking into the matter.

Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., hopes to discuss the case, said his spokesman, Tom Steward. "We do expect the Kiecker case to come up, definitely," said Steward. Coleman has sent letters concerning the matter to Mexican authorities, said Kiecker.

Carol Kiecker said she is sorry she can't be in Minnesota during Fox's trip, but ouldn't arrange a meeting. Plus, "it's important that we have some presence in Mexico right now, because the [victim's] DNA tests will be completed by the end of June, and of course we think they will not be a match," she said. "Also, Mexican elections are coming up and we want to keep the case visible."

Many, including the victim's parents, have been skeptical that the body police found near a park was actually hers. Authorities last year took DNA samples from the family to compare with samples from the body. After 10 months, the samples came back "inconclusive," so new ones were taken, Kiecker said.

If the samples, due this month, do not match those from the body, Kiecker expects that authorities will free her daughter and son-in-law. If the DNA does match, prosecutors and defense attorneys would each have 10 days to conclude their cases, and a judge could make a decision within a few days


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