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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
The killings began in Mexico City in the late
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
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
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
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
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
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.
It meant months were spent detaining and
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
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
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
Police said she admitted to today's killing in the
Venustiano Carranza area of Mexico City but not to any of the other
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
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
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.