The irregularities in the work carried out by the Jalisco Institute of Forensic Sciences border on the illogical and inhuman. Specialists in any place of discovery should include a thorough review of the area. However, in this story, a mother had to collect her son’s remains one by one.
June 3, 2019
By Darwin Franco Migues
All she had to do was remove the weeds and garbage to find the skull of Oscar Eduardo Núñez Bustos, 18, emerging from the earth. His mother, Nancy Bustos, found it because the Jalisco Institute of Forensic Sciences (IJCF) specialists did not correctly remove his remains the first time they went to the well after her son’s body was thrown into it after a huachicolero group murdered him.
Nancy brought the forensic specialists and investigators working for the Prosecutor’s Office specializing in disappearances of the Attorney General’s Office of Jalisco because she was the one who located the well. It took weeks to do it because she didn’t receive any institutional help. Nobody paid attention when she notified them that she had received an anonymous message with the possible whereabouts of her son.
Oscar Eduardo was disappeared by a huachicolero group on November 19, 2018, in the municipality of Tlajomulco de Zúñiga, one of the country’s danger zones regarding the illegal extraction of hydrocarbons. Those who took were the same ones who had promised him a better future months ago if he entered the huachicol. His mother warned him about getting involved with these people, who sometimes paid him 300 pesos per day, though most of the time only brought him from one place to another.
“My son was taken by several hooded people … instead of running away or accelerating his car when these men ran into him, he decided to get off to face them … I think he got out of the car because he knew them … because even though they were hooded, he knew who they were. Some children who were in the street told me that they had beaten him and then took him away. They thought they would beat him up and leave him there, but that’s not what happened … the boys who he grew up with disappeared him, the same boys who, like my son, also believed in the promises of the huachicoleros,” said Nancy, who does not forgive herself for not having been tougher with her son.
The disappearance of Oscar Eduardo occurred in La Cofradía, a community belonging to Tlajomulco de Zúñiga. In this area, between 2017 and 2018, more than 250 thousand liters of stolen fuel were seized. From that November 19, 2018 in which Oscar Eduardo was disappeared and killed, until May 13, 2019: 126 young people had been killed, 57 died from gunshots. One of them was Oscar.
The investigation file for the disappearance of Oscar Eduardo was registered under file DI / 64519/2018, on November 20, 2018, in the Office of Specialists in Disappearances; nevertheless, it never produced results because its public prosecutor, Erasmus Carlos Badillo Ceballos, was backed up with a long list of names: “Señora, be patient, we are already investigating;” “we are analyzing the information you gave us, you will see results soon;” or “calm down, we are about to approve the operation, don’t be upset.”
Nancy, of course, was upset because she had already told them who had taken her son. She had given them names, addresses and even their facebook profiles. She had even told them where they could find them, as it was known by everyone in La Cofradía exactly where the PEMEX pipelines were tapped. In the Prosecutor’s Office, her words fell on deaf ears.
However, Oscar Eduardo’s search would change on November 23, 2018.
The Search in Huachicol Territory
Through an anonymous message, one of the young men who took her son confessed in a mocking tone that “El Canelo” – as Oscar Eduardo was a redhead – had been thrown lifeless near the well known as Ojo de Agua: “It was my turn to put the lime on him so he wouldn’t smell, so no one would find him,” he wrote.
“How do you find a water well in a community where most corn plots have their own wells?” Nancy wondered, when she decided to go looking for her son, that November 23.
She went over the message they sent her again and again, but couldn’t find the “Ojo de Agua” for two months, nor did she have any information from the staff of the Office of the Disappeared, although they already knew that she was looking for Oscar Eduardo in a clandestine pit.
“I did not find the goddamn pit… until someone told me that it was near the place where the huachicoleros tapped the gasoline. So, with all the fear in the world, I went to look for him there. I did not care that the ones who may have done this watched me looking for my son in the distance,” said Nancy, who was carrying a shovel and a machete.
After several days of searching, lime came to her mind, and that was how she began to remove garbage and weeds to find white spots of dust. She found them, and underneath it was the wellhead where they told her they had thrown her son: “Something was already telling me that he was there, but we didn’t know how to look because we didn’t know how deep the well was. First, we threw a stone to figure out how deep it was, then we attached a friend to a rope to go down and she said: ‘Here is your son!'”
On January 4, 2019, a month and a half after his disappearance, Nancy found her son, Oscar Eduardo. She found him alone and under threat of the Huachicol bosses: “I was in their crosshairs!”
Oscar Eduardo’s body was covered by garbage, weeds and a rock that was thrown over him to make him difficult to locate. Nancy recognized him from his clothes and his legs.
When she found him, she called the investigating police officers whom she only knew by their first names: Mario and Carlos. She told them that she had found her son’s body in a well.
Both policemen arrived at the scene and they were the ones who called the public prosecutor of the General Prosecutor’s Office of Jalisco, Civil Protection of Tlajomulco de Zúñiga and the Forensic Medical Service of the IJCF. Nancy thought that this would end her torment, but the worst was yet to happen.
Systematic Omissions and Forensic Negligence in Jalisco
Nancy Bustos indicated where her son’s body was and vigorously requested that the exhumation be carried out with great care because the weeds and garbage that were placed over the well, if not removed well, could be thrown out with Oscar.
The personnel who went to the exhumation not only ignored her, but also asked her to stay behind the security cordon, even though the General Victims Law states that she had the right to be in the exhumation area.
From a distance she observed that her son was taken from the well in a black plastic bag. She was not able to view the state of her son’s body. From the well, the body was placed onto a SEMEFO vehicle. At that time, Nancy believed that the work had been done correctly, but as already said: the worst was yet to happen.
The public prosecutor, Erasmus Carlos Badillo Ceballos, asked her to wait a few days for the IJCF to carry out the necropsy and the DNA collection, and after that she could recover her son’s body. However, a week passed and she heard nothing.
She went to SEMEFO facilities, but nobody could give her any information about the body because the IJCF was completely overrun with dozens of relatives of the disappeared asking about their relatives; hoping them to be one of the 337 bodies that the Attorney General’s Office and the institute itself illegally kept for more than two years in two trailers; one of these was even abandoned in the same municipality where Oscar Eduardo was disappeared and killed.
Nancy begged Badillo Ceballos again and again to see her son’s body. He told her it was not possible. She asked him why he refused, that she had the right to see him. After some time, he confessed that the problem is that the body was incomplete.
“How could my son’s body be found incomplete? I asked him, but he didn’t want to tell me anything. I thought that because of the rocks and the amount of time in the well, maybe, his body would be divided in two, but I never imagined what I would discover when I got into the SEMEFO,” Nancy recalled, who was never shown photos of the exhumation of her son at IJCF.
On January 11, 2019, and after insisting, an IJCF social worker confessed to Nancy that there were forensic photographs of her son.
“Do you really want to see the pictures? They are very graphic.”
“It’s my son, of course I want to see them,” Nancy replied.
When she saw the photographs, she discovered that her son’s body was missing his head. She called the public prosecutor to ask him why he had not told her, and, that if they knew this before why didn’t they return to the well to look for it that same day. The official had no answers. One of his investigating police officers confessed that he had asked for everything needed to carry out the search but, Bacillo Cevallos did not authorize the proceedings.
“How does my son have no head? Where did they leave his head?” were the questions Nancy Bustos asked the SEMEFO staff and public prosecutor over and over again but the answers were always the same: “the body we brought has no head. We do not know whether or not it can be found in the place of exhumation,” they explained.
“I could not believe what they were saying to me: how was it possible that they did not know where the head was? I asked them, but nobody knew anything, all they told me was that they would go look for it afterwards,” Nancy recalled, unable to explain the feeling.
The next day, January 12, Nancy took a shovel and machete to go find her son. All she had to do was remove the weeds and garbage to find the head of her son in the same well the forensic specialists had already done their “exhumation” of the remains of her son.
“We went and started removing the trash, we removed everything. A friend of Oscar came with me that day. We started to see his hair and the color of it, I knew it was my son. The boy who went down to the well began to cry and said: Señora, here is his head … They taped over his eyes! And yes, we found my son’s head there, we found it and I had it there with me still with skin and hair,” Nancy said.
After the finding, she called the Prosecutor’s Office to tell them that they had found her son’s head. Her investigating policemen sent that message to the public prosecutor, Erasmo Carlos Badillo Ceballos, who made her wait for hours and then told her to leave the head in the well and that they would go the next day for it, and that if she didn’t leave it there they could not pick it up.
“Who could think in a million years that I would abandon my son’s head! Did he really think that I would wait until they had time to come and do the work they messed up from the beginning? His response filled me with so much anger that I took my son from the well and took him home. The next day, I went back and left it in the well,” Nancy said.
The next day, the Prosecutor General of Jalisco, Civil Protection of Tlajomulco de Zúñiga and the Forensic Medical Service of the IJCF came back to the well to take Oscar Eduardo’s skull, which had tape covering his eyes and was found without a jaw. Nancy asked that they now review the well until they located all the remains of her son. After several hours, the specialists said there was nothing more.
Nancy did not believe them and decided to return to the well once again on January 13. She found that the specialists had left her son’s hand and jaw.
“They are supposed to be specialists, they are supposed to know how to do their job well, so why didn’t they look in the well… how can it be that I and several of my son’s friends find the remains that the specialists weren’t capable of finding,” Nancy pleaded.
After this new finding she returned and told Erasmus Carlos Badillo Ceballos, but he only replied that: “it was too late to do a new search,” and then warned her that she should not go down to the well because that would hinder the investigation.
“What search? If I did everything myself. I found the well where my son was. I told them that I had found it. I was the one who found his head and the rest of his body. I was the one who pointed to those responsible, who have not been charged or arrested. I have done everything, they didn’t do the exhumation at all,” Nancy explained.
On January 14, the third search was carried out where all the remains of Oscar Eduardo were taken, but not the evidence that remained; evidence that Nancy believes could be important to find those responsible. For example, they left clothes with blood stains, cigarette butts and bloody stones near the place her son’s head was found. All that was left in place.
On February 6, 2019, Nancy Bustos filed complaint 390/2019 / IV in the Jalisco State Human Rights Commission (CEDHJ) against all the public officials who failed to fulfill their job in properly taking her son’s body. To date, she has not received an answer. Her case was not even part of Recommendation 10/2019 that the ECHR itself made against the IJCF and the General Prosecutor’s Office of Jalisco due to forensic malpractice.
Currently, her investigation has passed from the Office of the Specialized Prosecutor in Disappearances to the Homicide Area in the General Prosecutor’s Office of Jalisco. However, the transfer has not implied anything, since no one has been called to testify for the murder of her son and none of the clues she has provided have been taken into account.
“We are worse off in the homicide department than when my case was missing. To date, nothing has been investigated, nothing was even investigated when the operations against the huachicol happened in Tlajomulco. Nothing has been investigated since the tapping sites closed. I believe that they had the opportunity to detain those responsible, but none of those who participated in the disappearance and murder of my son have been arrested … they are still hanging around my house and disturbing my family,” she said.
Nancy, after insisting, now has protective measures, due to members of the huachicolero group continually harassing her family because they believe that their illegal operation was shut down because of her.
Although she has protective measures, Nancy states: “I have the measures, but what good do they do if those who have to take care of me later do not come, while with other cases or in more affluent neighborhoods, security is always there just outside their homes… what I also asked for were measures to prevent the well and the land where I found my son from being altered, because I think the place should be well researched; however, the owners of the land are already destroying the well.”
Despite the horror that the huachicoleros and the Jalisco authorities have made her go through, Nancy Bustos does not let her guard down: “I found my son, and I know that I am at risk; nevertheless, I want justice because those who did this deserve to be punished, and this doesn’t just include those who killed him, but also those who left him there, dismembered, in the well.”
On February 19, 2019, after the analysis of each of Oscar Eduardo’s remains, Nancy was able to recover the body of her son. The body that she located part by part in the face of negligent authorities; who, to date, have not been held responsible for anything.
Darwin Franco is a freelance journalist in Guadalajara, and coordinator of ZonaDocs.mx
This report is published in collaboration with Zona Docs