True Grue: Juana “La Mataviejitas” Barraza, a/k/a “The Old Lady Killer”Books/Art/Culture,Features/Interviews,News Christopher La Vigna
Welcome to “True Grue,” a weekly article that dives into real life, harrowing horrors. For the interest of good taste, this graphic feature aims not to be exploitative, but rather informative, and rest assured, there are many different territories that will be strictly off-limits. But for those with a hungry mind and a strong stomach, read on at your own discretion…
Anybody with even a cursory knowledge of serial killers knows that, more often than not, they are predominantly white males. But every now and again a case comes around that defies the conventional logic that decades of criminal profiling have built up. The brutal and bizzarro story of Juana “La Mataviejitas” (translated to english as “The Old Lady Killer”) Barraza stands as a perfect example.
Born on December 27th 1957 in Epazoyucan, Hidalgo, a rural area of Mexico, Juana Barraza was born to an alcoholic mother who sold away her daughter to a man for three beers. Barraza would later birth a son after enduring countless sexual assaults under the man’s care. Though she would go on to bear four children (the eldest of which died in an accident) and struggle as a single mother, Barraza would never manage to maintain any semblance of a normal, stable life. One of the most notable details about her is that Juana harbored an obsession with Lucha Libre, and enjoyed a small-time career as a masked wrestler known to fans as “La Dama del Silencio (The Silent Woman)”. Little did fans of Barraza’s bouts of theatrical violence know that she was committing truly depraved acts outside of the ring.
Starting in the late 1990’s, Mexican authorities were baffled by a killing spree committed by a madman (until Barraza was caught, the killer was presumed to be male) who exclusively targeted elderly women over the age of sixty living in Mexico City. The women were all killed via bludgeoning or strangulation, with the killer’s weapon of choice varying from cables to scarves or stockings. There was never any sign of forced entry. The press dubbed the murderer “La Mataviejitas”, though investigators were initially slow to admit that the murders were in fact the work of a serial killer and wrote off such notions as sensationalism.
As the years dragged on and the bodies piled up, the authorities operated under numerous theories; the possibility of multiple killers was considered, and one peculiar detail the police picked up on was the fact that at least three of the victims owned a copy of an obscure 18th century painting, Jean-Baptiste Greuze’s Boy in Red Waistcoat. This ultimately proved to be a red herring, but it is a useful detail to demonstrate just how desperate the investigators were. The killings would stop and start again, and no new revealing information ever managed to surface.
However, in late 2005, the police managed to latch onto a new clue when the La Mataviejitas murders started up again: witnesses reported seeing a man dressed as a woman fleeing some of the crime scenes. This lead led police to start interrogating transvestites, though this ultimately proved fruitless. Still, the hunt was on again, and on January 26th 2006, a suspect was arrested fleeing the home of the octogenarian woman who would prove to be the last victim of La Mataviejitas, eighty-two year old Ana Maria de los Reyes Alfaro. She had been strangled with a stethoscope.
Forty-eight year old Juana Barraza shocked the public that assumed the killer it feared was a man, and the authorities were forced to acknowledge that Barraza’s wrestler physique is what led witnesses to assume she was a he. In 2008, Barraza was finally brought to trial. Though the police could only definitely link her to ten murders, it is speculated that The Silent Woman was responsible for as many as forty murders.
During her trial, Barraza admitted to killing Alfaro and three other women before her, but patently refused to accept responsibility for any of the other killings the prosecution tried to attach her to. And when the age old question of “what was the motive?” came about, Barraza claimed that it was her lingering resentment for her horrid mother that caused her to kill, and that she managed to con her way into the homes of old women by pretending to be a social worker or an unassuming person looking for cleaning work.
On March 31st, 2008, Juana Barraza was found guilty on sixteen charges of murder, and given the morbidly cartoonish sentence of 759 years in prison. A combination of childhood trauma and pent-up rage brewed so strongly within Barraza that it drove her to take the lives of defenseless women. Sadly, this is a perversion that is usually associated with men, but psychotic women like Barraza are proof positive that evil can take many forms, strike when least expected, and elude the eyes of watchdogs for much longer than we’d ever like to believe. The monsters of myth can’t hold a candle to a motivated mortal with bloodlust.