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A.K.A.: "La Mataviejitas" ("The Old Lady Killer")
Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Robberies - Motivated by a lingering resentment against her mother
Number of victims: 11 +
Date of murders: 2002 - 2006
Date of arrest: January 24, 2006
Date of birth: December 27, 1958
Victims profile: Women aged between 64 to 79 years
Method of murder: Strangulation
Location: Mexico City, Mexico
Status: Sentenced to 759 years in prison on March 31, 2008

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Juana Barraza (born 1958) is a Mexican professional wrestler and serial killer dubbed La Mataviejitas (Sp. "The Old Lady Killer") sentenced to 759 years in jail for killing eleven elderly women. The first murder attributed to Mataviejitas has been dated variously to the late 1990s and to a specific killing on 17 November 2003. The authorities and the press have given various estimates as to the total number of the killer's victims, with estimated totals ranging from 24 to 49 deaths.


Juana Barraza was born in Hidalgo, a rural area north of Mexico City. Barraza's mother was an alcoholic who reportedly exchanged her for three beers to a man who repeatedly raped her in his care, and by whom she became pregnant with a boy. She had four children in total, although her eldest son died from injuries sustained in a mugging. Prior to her arrest, Barraza was a professional wrestler under the ring name La Dama del Silencio (The Silent Lady). She had an obsession with lucha libre, a form of Mexican masked professional wrestling in which the wrestlers engage in titanic mock battles.


All of Barraza's victims were women aged 60 or over, most of whom lived alone. She bludgeoned or strangled her victims, and afterward would rob them. Police reported that there was evidence of abuse in a number of cases.

Bernardo Bátiz, the chief prosecutor in Mexico City, initially profiled the killer as having "a brilliant mind, [being] quite clever and careful", and probably struck after a period spent gaining the trust of an intended victim. Officers investigating suspected that she posed as a government official offering the chance to sign up to welfare programs.

The search for Barraza was complicated by conflicting evidence. At one point, the police hypothesized that two killers might be involved. Then an odd coincidence distracted the investigation; at least three of Barraza's victims owned a print of an 18th century painting by the French artist Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Boy in Red Waistcoat.


The authorities were heavily criticised by the media for dismissing evidence that a serial killer was at work in Mexico City as merely "media sensationalism" as late as the summer of 2005. Soon after setting an investigation in motion, the police incurred further criticism by launching what one journalist described as a "ham-fisted" and unproductive swoop on Mexico City's transvestite prostitutes.

By November 2005, the Mexican authorities were reporting witness statements to the effect that the killer wore women's clothing to gain access to the victim's apartments. In one case a large woman in a red blouse was seen leaving the home of a murdered woman. Two months later, police began checking the fingerprints of bodies in the city's morgues in the apparent belief that Mataviejitas might have committed suicide.

A major breakthrough in the case occurred on 25 January 2006, when a suspect was arrested fleeing from the home of the serial killer's latest victim, Ana María de los Reyes Alfaro, who lived in the Venustiano Carranza borough of Mexico City. Alfaro, 82, had been strangled with a stethoscope.

To the surprise of many Mexicans, who had supposed the killer to be male, the suspect detained was Juana Barraza, 48, a female wrestler known professionally as The Silent Lady. Witnesses at previous murder scenes had described a masculine-looking woman and police had previously looked for a transvestite although they later admitted that the former wrestler resembled composite images of the suspect. Barraza closely resembled a model of the killer's features, which showed La Mataviejitas with close-cropped hair dyed blonde and a facial mole, and was carrying a stethoscope, pension forms and a card identifying her as a social worker when she was detained.

Mexico City prosecutors said fingerprint evidence linked Barraza to at least 10 murders of the as many as 40 murders attributed to the killer. The wrestler is said to have confessed to murdering Alfaro and three other women, but denied involvement in all other killings. She told reporters she had visited Alfaro's home in search of laundry work.

Trial and verdict

Barraza was tried in the spring of 2008, the prosecution alleging she had been responsible for as many as 40 deaths. She admitted one murder, that of Alfaro, and told the police her motive was lingering resentment regarding her own mother's treatment of her. On 31 March she was found guilty on 16 charges of murder and aggravated burglary, including 11 separate counts of murder. She was sentenced to 759 years in prison. Since sentences imposed in Mexican courts are generally served concurrently, but the maximum sentence under Mexican law is 60 years. She will most likely serve the full sentence in prison.

Mujeres asesinas

Mexican producer Pedro Torres brought the story to television on an episode of the 2010 Mexican Television series Mujeres Asesinas 3 that is being produced by Televisa. The episode is called "Maggie, Pensionada" starring the Mexican actress Leticia Perdigón as Maggie and Irma Lozano, Ana Luisa Peluffo and Lourdes Canale as victims.


Barraza was highlighted in the documentary "Instinto Asesino" which aired on Discovery en Español in 2010. The episode was entitled, "La Mataviejitas". Juana Barraza was also highlighted on the show La Historia Detras Del Mito the episode was entitled La Mataviejitas.


Little Old Lady Killer handed 759 years in a Mexican prison

By Jo Tuckman - The Guardian

April 2, 2008

A single mother who nursed ambitions to be a professional masked wrestler has been sentenced to 759 years in jail for killing 16 elderly women in Mexico City.

Dubbed the Mataviejitas, or Little Old Lady Killer, Juana Barraza was arrested in January 2006 after she was seen hurrying from the house of her last victim, the only murder she has confessed to.

The judge heard evidence that Barraza, 50, cruised public places in search of elderly women on their own. She sometimes gained their trust and access to their homes by helping with their shopping bags and requesting cleaning work. On other occasions she pretended to be a nurse or social worker offering a free check-up or information about benefits.

The prosecution said Barraza used objects such as phone cables, tights or the stethoscope she often carried with her to strangle her victims.

Barraza was known as La Dama del Silencio or the Lady of Silence as a wrestler and occasionally wrestled in minor events on the amateur circuit. Profilers believe she killed elderly women to release the rage she harboured against her alcoholic mother, who gave her away at the age of 12 to a man who abused her.

Barraza showed little emotion as she heard the verdict. "May God forgive you and not forget me," she said, adding that she would appeal against all but one of the convictions.

The Mataviejitas epithet was coined in 2005 when several elderly women were found strangled in their homes. Police found fingerprints and put out an artist's impression. But with profilers suggesting the murderer was a transvestite, nobody looked twice at Barraza with her neatly cut short hair and strait-laced street clothes.

In the end it was the unexpected arrival of a lodger, just as Barraza was leaving the house where his 82-year-old landlady lay dead, that triggered her arrest.


Life for Mexico's Old Lady Killer

April 1, 2008

One of Mexico's most prolific serial killers, a former female wrestler, has received multiple life sentences for the murders of at least 11 women.

Juana Barraza, nicknamed the Little Old Lady Killer or Mataviejitas, was sentenced to 759 years in jail for the killings of mostly elderly women.

It is thought she may have actually been responsible for up to 40 deaths.

Juana Barraza, 50, said she had been motivated by a lingering resentment against her mother.

Under Mexican law, she is likely to spend a maximum of 50 years in prison as multiple sentences are generally served concurrently.

The killings began in Mexico City in the late 1990s.

Transvestites questioned

After reports that a woman had carried them out, police suspected a man in woman's clothes. It meant months were spent detaining and questioning transvestites.

But police said the broad-shouldered Barraza, who as a professional wrestler was known as the Silent Lady, resembled composite profiles of the suspect.

She was arrested in 2006 after she was seen leaving the house of one of her victims who had been strangled with a stethoscope.

She was found in possession of social benefits papers and a social worker's identification card, which she used to gain entry to victims' homes by pretending to be a government employee who could sign them up to welfare programmes.


The lady killer

For three years, a serial murderer has terrorised the elderly women of Mexico City. Could the culprit really be a 48-year-old female masked wrestler?

By Jo Tuckman - The Guardian

May 19, 2006

Around midday on January 25 this year, in Mexico City, 48-year-old single mother Juana Barraza, approached an elderly woman called Ana Maria de los Reyes, entering her house and asking for a glass of water. Once inside, Barraza picked up a stethoscope that happened to be lying on the living room table and used it to strangle her hostess. She was detained shortly afterwards as she hurried from the murder scene, identified by the victim's lodger. He had seen Barraza leave just before stumbling on his landlady's corpse.

The news of Barraza's arrest spread fast. The serial killer, whom the local press had dubbed the Mataviejitas ("Little Old Lady Killer"), had apparently been caught. Since 2003, the Mataviejitas has been linked to 32 murders in Mexico City. All the victims were elderly women, usually strangled with cables, scarves or stockings. Eye-witnesses had described a masculine-looking woman hanging around several murder scenes and, given the rarity of female serial killers, profilers were convinced the killer was a transvestite.

Almost four months on from her arrest, Barraza has been charged with 10 murders, pleading guilty to just one - strangling Reyes - and not guilty to the rest. City prosecutors have told reporters that they hope to charge her for 27 murders and they apparently have fingerprints putting her at the scene of at least 11.

"I only killed one little old lady. Not the others," Barraza told the court on her first appearance in February. "It isn't right to pin the others on me." Asked to reveal her motive, she said simply, "I got angry."

What makes her story even more sensational is her hobby. When she was detained, Barraza looked respectable and unremarkable, with neatly cut hair and conservative clothes. But she has not always been so restrained, indulging a fanatical enthusiasm for the sport of lucha libre - Mexican masked wrestling.

Lucha libre typically involves titanic battles between fighters with cartoon-character names and costumes who are identified as either técnicos (good guys who fight by the rules) and rudos (villains who break them.) Interviewed by a major television channel at a wrestling event just a few weeks before her arrest, Barraza described herself as "rudo to the core".

She was often seen in the front rows of the established arenas, and also organised wrestling events for small-town fiestas, occasionally fighting in the ring herself. Her wrestling persona was La Dama del Silencio, The Lady of Silence. She reportedly told police she chose the title, "because I am quiet and keep myself to myself".

When it comes to Mexican trials, there are no juries and few public hearings. Instead, prosecutors and defence lawyers present their evidence to a single judge during largely closed-door proceedings that can last years. But if the formal legal process is slow, Barraza's public trial in the local media was all but over in the first couple of days. Within hours of her arrest, Barraza was paraded before the cameras, posed beside a plasticine bust of the prime suspect, made during the hunt, to which she bears some resemblance. The police also released snaps of her recreating the murder of Reyes for detectives, along with videoed excerpts of her initial police interrogation. All this before she had even been remanded in custody.

"The presumption of innocence is not clearly established here," says Emilio Alvarez, human-rights ombudsman for Mexico City. "The media has become the great judge."

As the trial inches along, the defence's strategy has mixed Barraza's claims that she is being scapegoated for all but one of the murders, with attempts to get her declared mentally unfit to stand trial. However, prosecutors told local reporters last month that psychological studies of Barraza ordered by the defence had concluded that she was entirely conscious of her actions.

She was born in 1956 in a poverty-stricken village in the largely rural state of Hidalgo, just north of Mexico City, and certainly has the difficult background that often typifies cases of mental disturbance. She has never learned to read or write much beyond her name, and media reports, confirmed by her defence lawyer, describe an early childhood in the charge of an alcoholic mother who gave her away at the age of 12 - some say in exchange for three beers. Barely pubescent, she was repeatedly raped by her new guardian or a third man (versions vary), becoming pregnant and giving birth to a boy. While the details of the abuse differ, there seems little doubt that Barraza harbours deep resentment towards her mother for letting the abuse happen.

Miguel Ontiveros - the criminologist associated with the case - believes Barraza was so damaged by her experiences she ended up targeting old ladies because she identified them with her mother. Within this context, Barraza's own relationship with her four children (by three different fathers) seems remarkably stable, if marked by tragedy.

Her eldest died as a young man, from injuries received when muggers attacked him with a baseball bat. Her second child, a girl, married early and left home, although she stayed close to her mother's modest ground-floor rented flat on the very eastern edge of Mexico City. Barraza lived there with her youngest two children - a boy aged 13 and a girl aged 11 - who are now staying with their elder sister. According to her lawyer, the accused is "proud to say she has kept things going on her own. She is proud of being both a father and mother to her children."

Barraza seems to have supported the family through a mixture of domestic work, street vending and petty theft. Neighbours in this otherwise largely middle-class area described the children as friendly and their mother as always pleasant in passing.

But what attracts the attention of criminal anthropologist Elena Azaola is how far Juana Barraza, if she is guilty, has strayed from the trends revealed by her study of convicted Mexican murderesses a decade ago.

"A Mexican woman killing even just one little old lady is virtually unheard of ... How much our society must have changed if it can produce a [female] mataviejitas."


Woman held in Mexico killer hunt

January 26, 2006

Mexican police hunting the country's most-wanted serial killer have arrested a female wrestler.

Juana Barraza, 48, was held as she allegedly fled the scene where a woman in her 80s had been strangled with a stethoscope, police said.

Ms Barraza, known in wrestling as the Silent Lady, is now feared to be Mexico's "Little Old Lady Killer".

She reportedly admitted to Wednesday's killing, but denied a murder spree in which at least 30 women may have died.

The killings began in the capital in the late 1990s.

Mexico City prosecutors said fingerprint evidence linked Ms Barraza to at least 10 murders carried out in recent years. She was arrested at the scene of the killing of 82-year-old Ana Maria Reyes on Wednesday in the Venustiano Carranza area of the capital.

After reports that a woman had carried out the killings, police suspected a man in woman's clothes.

Transvestites arrested

It meant months were spent detaining and questioning transvestites.

But police said the broad-shouldered Ms Barraza resembled composite profiles of the suspect, and a wax mock-up, with a similar short reddish haircut and facial mole.

They said they found in her possession of a stethoscope, social benefits papers and a social worker's identification card.

Police have long suspected that the culprit got into victims' homes by pretending to be a government employee who could sign them up to welfare programmes.


Silent Lady 'killer' arrested

January 26, 2006

Mexican police have arrested a female wrestler known as the Silent Lady who they believe is the country's most-wanted serial killer sought in the strangling or beating deaths of dozens of elderly women.

Police said they caught Juana Barraza as she fled the scene of her latest crime, the strangling of a woman in her early 80s with a stethoscope.

Fingerprint evidence makes it almost certain that Barraza is the feared "Little Old Lady Killer" responsible for at least 10 other murders in recent years, Bernardo Batiz, Mexico City's chief prosecutor, told journalists.

"Fingerprints match in 10 murder cases as well as one attempt," Batiz said.

A broad-framed woman in her mid-40s, she may have killed about 40 elderly women in total in a murder spree in the capital that began in the late 1990s, police said.

Barraza dabbled in professional wrestling and fought under the name The Silent Lady, the official news agency Notimex said.

Police said she admitted to today's killing in the Venustiano Carranza area of Mexico City but not to any of the other murders.

A neighbour saw her running from the home of her latest victim and flagged down passing police officers who arrested her, authorities said.

Police had been unsure if the killer they were hunting was a man, a woman or even possibly a transvestite as witnesses had given conflicting reports.

Detectives had suspected the murderer may have posed as a doctor or nurse to win the confidence of victims. The killer stole symbolic "trophies" like ornaments or religious items from some of the old women's homes.

In four cases last year that police said were linked, the victims were strangled by women's tights, a curtain cord or a phone cable after they opened their doors to the killer.


'Old lady killer' set to strike again

By Jo Tuckman - The Guardian

November 21, 2005

Police in Mexico City have warned that a serial killer believed to have strangled at least 24 old women in the capital since 2003 is likely to strike again soon.

Police say the murderer, dubbed Mataviejitas ("little old lady killer"), is probably a man dressed as a woman who cons his way into homes by pretending to be a social worker or a nurse. The latest victim was María de los Angeles Repper, 92, strangled in her bedroom on October 18.

With the killings getting closer together over the past year, there is concern that another murder is overdue. Specific fears about dates stem from the killer's activity on November 17, 2003 and on November 19 last year. "This is not mere speculation," the head of the inquiry, Renato Sales, told a press conference this week.

Mr Sales urged women over 60 living alone to avoid talking to strangers. He urged the public to watch out for elderly relatives or neighbours accompanied by unfamiliar people. He denied a report that police had hired old women to loiter in shopping malls and parks to trap the killer.

The police have been heavily criticised for dismissing evidence of serial murders as media sensationalism until this summer, and then for a ham-fisted swoop on transvestite prostitutes last month.



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