A Case Study of Enrique Camarena

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ACase Study of Enrique Camarena


Thefollowing is a case of the kidnapping, torture and killing of a U.S.DEA Agent Enrique Camarena and a DEA source in Mexico- Capt. AlfredoZavala in 1985. It led to one of the largest investigations carriedout by the DEA. It involved unusual forensic problems that requiredunusual solutions. The case serves as a perfect example of theencounters by an investigative team especially where there areseveral crime scenes and willful obstruction of information (Murphy,1988).


EnriqueCamarena was a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) special agent who waskidnapped on February 7th, 1985. He was abducted in Guadalajara nearthe United States consulate in Mexico. After his abduction, anotherDEA source- Capt. Alfredo Zavala was kidnapped from a car near theGuadalajara Airport in Mexico (Malone, 2010).


EnriqueCamarena left the DEA resident office on February 7 1985 to meet hiswife for lunch. A witness saw a man being forced into the back of alight colored car in front of the Camelot restaurant. The witnessprovided details of the assailants. Mexican investigator- PrimeComandante Pavon –Reyes was initially in charge of the case. Twosuspects- Rafael Caro- Quintero and Ernesto Fonsensca were known drugtraffickers. Later, at the Guadalajara airport, Caro-Quintero and hismen were allowed to flee via a private jet after a confrontation withDEA agents. It was discovered that Pavon Reyes obtained a six-figurebribe to allow the departure of the suspects. The US and Mexicanofficials were involved in the case and created pressure on theinvestigations that the drug traffickers developed a plan to use theBravo gang as a scapegoat. They planned to write a letter to the MFJPindicating that the bodies of Camarena and Zavala were held at theBravo gang’s ranch in La Angostura, Michoacán- 60 miles to theeast of Guadalajara. Consequently, the MFJP would raid the ranch,eliminate the gang and discover the bodies. However, the MFJP paid agroup that raided the gang before the burial of the bodies andeliminated the Bravo gang. Consequently an investigation by the FBIlacked to find the bodies in the Bravo ranch as initially planned. Apasserby found two partially decomposed bodies near the Bravo Ranchthat were later identified as those of Camarena and Zavala (Murphy,1988).

Theprocess was inhibited by the MFJP. An analysis was of the body andsoil samples collected from the bodies indicated that Camarena`sdeath emanated from burnt force injuries. Camarena’s skull wasidentified to have a hole caused by a rod-like an instrument. Uponaccess to the Bravo site, police and onlookers already contaminatedit. It was noted that there was no evidence that the bodies wereburied at the Bravo site. Comandante Pavon- Reyes was fired due toevidence indicating the involvement of police officers in executingthe plans. Further investigations revealed that the two DEA agentswere first tortured and later buried at the Primavera Park with otherbodies of two Americans- Albert Radelat and John Walker in the westof Guadalajara (Murphy, 1988).

Thetrial identified that where the two agents were held and tortured at881 Lope De Vegas. The evidence at the guesthouse was associated withtwo Mexicans-Verdugo and Sergio Espino Verdin. Laboratoryexaminations found similarities in composition, construction, designand color between Camarena`s burial sheet and pillowcases discoveredin bedroom number 3 and 5 of the guest room. Both Camarena andZivala were found to have been in the guesthouse as indicated by thehair, fiber, fabric and cordage evidence. The case involved hundredsof witnesses, and all the defendants were found guilty and convictedfor long sentences (Malone, 2010).


Thecase is exceptional due to its association with lengthyinvestigations and the many investigation problems that arose duringthe investigations. The investigators faced problems associated withcontamination of evidence, involvement of the Mexican policecontamination of crime sites and withholding of information. Thevarious issues called for the adoption of unusual solutions.Specifically, there were arrests of numerous numbers of suspects inboth Mexico and in the United States of America. Subsequently, thecase was held within a period of 8 weeks in the U.S. District Courtin Los Angeles.


Murphy,K. (1988, June 7). Tape of drug agent’s torture is made public. LosAngeles Times.Retrieved on 10 January 2016 fromhttp://articles.latimes.com/1988-06-07/news/mn-3854_1_made-public

MaloneP.M., (2010). The Enrique Camarena Case: A forensic nightmare. Web.Retrieved on 10 Jan from


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