As a child, I had a secret rule for myself: Never invite anyone inside. Deep down inside, I knew vampires weren’t real. But why risk it?
Vampire mythology never quite loses its hold over us—just look at what’s popular in books, TV, and film. As a society, we’re always eager for the newest iteration of our favorite creatures of the night, whether it’s sparkly, sexy vamps, misunderstood outsider vamps, or ruthless, gothic bloodsuckers. Personally, I love a sexy goth vampire who’s a bit broody.
Because of their popularity, vampire myths have crept into real life and influenced several crimes over the years. One of the most famous cases is that of Rod Ferrell, who led a teen vampire cult in the mid-1990s. Ferrell claimed to be a 500-year-old vampire named Vesago, and his friends accepted his mythos.
On November 25, 1996, Ferrell brutally bludgeoned to death Richard Wendorf and Naoma Ruth Queen, who were the parents of 15-year-old cult member Heather Wendorf. At the time, his clan were fleeing to New Orleans to live their lives as vampires. Ferrell, who was 16-years-old at the time of the murders, is currently serving life in prison without parole for the crimes.
But Ferrell isn’t the only person to blame vampirism for his crimes. Although many cases involving the mythology involve a killer trying to explain their actions, one case out of Mexico went a different direction. Although it has a cult at its center, the members don’t claim to be vampires. Instead, they sought to make one.
Our story begins in Chihuahua, Mexico—the largest and richest state in the nation. Chihuahua stretches along the center of Mexico’s northern border with the United States, sharing boundaries with Texas and New Mexico. The capital Chihuahua City is located at the center of the state, about a 154-mile drive from the border of Texas.
Chihuahua features a mountainous terrain with varied climates. It’s home to both the Chihuahua Desert and multiple forests. Chihuahua City is in the desert region, so it’s an arid environment with sparse vegetation.
Downtown Chihuahua City features a Historic Center with buildings dating back the city’s founding in the early-1700s. The historic architecture makes it a popular destination for walking tours, but it’s not immune from violence.
On March 1, 2016, evidence of a violent attack appeared in the streets of the Historic Center. As the sun rose that morning, passers-by spotted black garbage bags dumped around the area.
When police opened the bags, they made a horrific find. Inside, they discovered the remains of 24-year-old Edwin Juarez Palma, who went by the nickname Piwa. As it turns out, Piwa trusted the wrong people—his friends.
Piwa worked in a local cyber cafe called Freak Shop, along with some of his friends. These friends claimed to be members of a satanic cult, called the “Hijos de Bafomet I,” or “Sons of Baphomet 1.” Baphomet is a goat-headed occult figure that has alternative meanings for different people. While some people might associate Baphomet with demons or hell, it’s a symbol with different interpretations. Many view Baphomet as a symbol of balance, not as a demon.
When Piwa learned of the cult, he decided to join. On February 29, 2016, Piwa and three of the cult members stayed after work to do a cult initiation at Freak Shop. The owner of Freak Shop, 25-year-old Omar “Osiris” Sánchez Garcia, along with fellow members Gustavo Adolfo Dorantes Dorantes, aged 18, and Iveth Nayeli López Hernández, also 18, would conduct the initiation.
To begin, they took Piwa into the cafe’s bathroom and tied his hands behind his back so he couldn’t escape. However, once the cult had Piwa alone, their plans for him changed. Later, the trio claimed they decided to turn their friend into a vampire, saying he’d be an asset for their Satanic cult. However, there may have been another explanation for their change of heart.
Other accounts of the crime say their alleged cult leader, a man named Calep Josefath Acosta Loera, instructed the group to sacrifice Piwa on behalf of the group. Although he wasn’t there on the night of the initiation, the trio says they followed his instructions.
Or, could a more logical reason be the truth behind their motives? Prior to the night of the initiation, Omar and Iveth actually had a fight with Piwa, and the three friends never really made amends. Unbeknownst to Piwa, the pair held a grudge against him.
With Piwa tied up and unable to defend himself, the supposed initiation began. According to the trio, they began the process of turning Piwa into a vampire by attacking him. The three cult members hit and kicked Piwa, unleashing their rage on him. The assault escalated to the point of torture, and Piwa couldn’t fight back because his hands were tied.
During the beating, Iveth picked up a glass bottle, broke it, and stabbed Edwin in the neck. But even this injury wasn’t enough to kill him. He continued to suffer, and his friends weren’t going to let up. Since Piwa survived the vicious beating, his attackers strangled him to death, finally ending his life. He died in the bathroom of his workplace, his last moments consumed by images of his friends turning on him.
Unsurprisingly, Piwa failed to rise from the dead after his brutal torture and murder, despite his killers’ supposed intentions. Unable to revive Piwa as an undead supernatural creature, the friends realized they had a body on their hands. But they had an idea. Maybe they could make it look like a gang crime.
The cult members wrapped Piwa’s body in black garbage bags and dumped the bags on the street. They figured that the police would assume it was a message from an organized crime group, allowing them to get away with murder.
After dumping Piwa’s body, the group returned to Freak Show and tried to clean up his blood using detergent and chloride, but their efforts failed to conceal all of the evidence of their crime.
They also left some loose ends.
Not long after the crime, an unnamed witness, who is under police protection, contacted authorities with the truth about how Piwa died. They told the police about the cult members and Piwa’s botched initiation.
Additionally, social media posts led police to suspect the cult members. On her social media, Iveth bragged that she was “in a relationship with satan” and posted photos depicting blood and images of satan.
Based on the witness account and social media posts, police obtained a search warrant for Freak Shop. During their search, they found traces of bloodstains, and they arrested the trio. Soon, police began looking for alleged cult leader Calep Josefath Acosta Loera, whom they also arrested.
In court, the cult members faced up to 40 years in prison for Piwa’s murder. At trial, the prosecutor presented evidence showing that two of the perpetrators, Iveth and Omar, had a personal conflict with Piwa before the trial, which they argued could be the real reason the group targeted him.
Before the trials started, Gustavo and Calep accepted responsibility for the brutal slaying and agreed to testify for the prosecution. In exchange for their help, the court gave them a lighter sentence of 13 years and 4 months in prison. After their trial, Iveth and Omar received 21-year sentences.
In the end, the killers’ claims that they were trying to turn Piwa into a vampire ring hollow. Instead, it sounds like bad people trying to find a reason to murder their innocent friend.
Listen to our episode on Piwa’s murder: Ep. 1 – Bad Blood: A Vampire Cult Murder