- Associated Press - Friday, July 2, 2010

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The drug-cartel enforcer told an unsettling story: A woman who worked in the Mexican border’s biggest U.S. consulate had helped a rival gang obtain American visas. And for that, the enforcer said, he ordered her killed.

Nonsense, says a U.S. official, who said Friday the motive for the slaying remains unknown.

The employee, Lesley Enriquez, and two other people connected to the U.S. consulate in the city of Ciudad Juarez were killed March 13 in attacks that raised concerns that Americans were being caught up in drug-related border violence.

Jesus Ernesto Chavez, whose arrest was announced Friday, confessed to ordering the killings, said Ramon Pequeno, the head of anti-narcotics for the Federal Police. Pequeno said Chavez leads a band of hit men for a street gang tied to the Juarez cartel.

Enriquez and her husband were killed in Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, as they drove toward a border crossing. Chavez also is accused in a nearly simultaneous attack that killed the husband of a Mexican employee of the consulate.

Pequeno said Chavez told police that Enriquez was targeted because she helped provide visas to a rival gang.

A U.S. federal official familiar with the investigation said Friday that after the killings, U.S. officials investigated possible corruption involving Enriquez and found none. The official was not authorized to speak about the case and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The official said the motive behind the killing remains unclear.

Officials with the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City declined to comment. At the U.S. Justice Department in Washington, spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler law enforcement “continues to work closely with our Mexican counterparts to bring to justice individuals involved in these murders.”

U.S. Embassy officials previously said that Enriquez was never in a position to provide visas and worked in a section that provides basic services to U.S. citizens in Mexico.

Mexican police provided no further details from Chavez’s confession on how Enriquez might have helped provide visas to a drug gang.

Enriquez was four months pregnant when she and her husband, Arthur H. Redelfs, were killed by gunmen who opened fire on their vehicle after the couple left a children’s birthday party. Their 7-month-old daughter was found wailing in the back seat.

Jorge Alberto Salcido, the husband of a Mexican employee of the consulate, also was killed by gunmen after leaving the same event in a separate vehicle.

Chavez told police that gunmen opened fire on Salcido because the two cars were the same color and the hit men did not know which one Enriquez was in, Pequeno said.

Investigators also have looked at whether Redelfs may have been targeted because of his work at an El Paso County jail that holds several members of the Barrio Azteca, the gang believed to be responsible for the attacks. Pequeno said Chavez belongs to Barrio Azteca, which works for the Juarez cartel on both sides of the border.

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