A prosecutor has told a San Diego jury that two alleged members of a Mexican drug gang dissolved their victims' corpses in vats of acid.
Mark Amador told jurors in his opening statement Wednesday that the defendants belonged to Mexican gang that broke away from a Tijuana cartel and brought its brutal methods of murder and kidnapping to the San Diego area around 2002.
Jose Olivera Beritan and David Valencia are charged with murder in the deaths of two men whose corpses were dissolved in 55-gallon barrels of propane-heated liquid inside a San Diego home. Beritan is also charged with another killing.
Seventeen members of the alleged crew, known as Los Palillos (the Toothpicks), were indicted after a two-year investigation.
Los Palillos consisted of U.S. and Mexican citizens who allegedly established themselves in Tijuana after the leader's brother was killed by the Arellano Felix Cartel. Fearing their lives, members of the group fled to San Diego. The crew then began trafficking methamphetamine and marijuana, and committed numerous violent crimes.
Some members of the ring were arrested in June of 2007, when law enforcement located a kidnapping victim being held at a home on Point Dume Court in Chula Vista. FBI SWAT operations rescued the 32-year old kidnapping victim (a business man living in Chula Vista) and apprehended five kidnappers.
Two leaders of Los Palillos were convicted of kidnapping for ransom in December of 2008 and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole in January 2009.
Dissolving bodies in vats of liquid is a common method for Mexican cartels to dispose of bodies but is rare in the United States.
Check back for updates on this developing story.