Mexico City (AFP) – Mexican authorities said they arrested a third suspect Thursday in the killing of three film students who were abducted, tortured and dissolved in acid, a crime that caused national outrage.
Interior Minister Alfonso Navarrete said the suspect, identified only as Jonathan “N,” was arrested in a dawn raid by federal police in the city of Metepec, in central Mexico, after a manhunt across four states involving several security agencies.
Navarrete called it an important advance in “a very painful and very symbolic case.”
The students — Javier Salomon Aceves Gastelum, 25; Daniel Diaz, 20; and Marco Avalos, 20 — went missing on March 19 as they returned from shooting a film project outside Guadalajara, Mexico’s second city, where they attended the University of Audiovisual Media.
Investigators say members of the Jalisco New Generation drug cartel appear to have mistaken them for members of a rival group, the New Plaza Cartel, because they were staying in the house of a relative who had ties to the latter.
Witnesses said they were intercepted by a group of men disguised as police who ushered them into two other cars and fled.
They were then taken to a cartel safe house and tortured, investigators say. When Aceves died of his injuries, the kidnappers killed the other two students and dissolved the bodies in barrels of hydrochloric acid.
The case drew outraged protests from tens of thousands of their fellow students, backed by Mexican film luminaries such as Oscar-winning directors Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuaron.
Authorities are still searching for a fourth and final suspect in the case, Navarrete said.
Jonathan “N” is accused of giving the order to get rid of the students’ bodies.
Another suspected arrested last month, a rapper and YouTube star known as “QBA,” has confessed to dissolving the bodies in acid, according to investigators.
QBA, whose real name is Christian Omar Palma Gutierrez, allegedly received 3,000 pesos ($159) a week to work for the Jalisco New Generation Cartel.
He has a YouTube page with 135,000 subscribers and millions of views where he posted professionally shot rap videos about violence, weapons and drugs.