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Juana Barraza: The 'Old Lady Killer' Responsible For Over 30 Deaths

In the sun-soaked sands of Mexico, Lucha libre fighters are known for their feats of athleticism, colorful costumes, as well as their over-the-top character personalities. 

Like professional wrestling in North America, the lines between reality and performance in Lucha libre are fairly blurred, with luchadors mixing scripted sequences alongside genuinely fantastical acts of showmanship, fitness, and strength.

Unfortunately, the similarities to wrestling in the United States don’t end there. Just like its North American wrestling cousin, the history of Mexico’s Lucha libre is marked with scars; grim reminders of wrestlers whose lives were as troubled, exaggerated, and dangerous as their in-ring counterparts.

This brings us to one of the most peculiar wrestlers in the history of Lucha Libre. A luchador named Juana Barraza, who was responsible for a three-year-long reign of terror over Mexico City.

Who Was Juana Barraza?

Juana Barraza, born on 27 Dec 1957, grew up in Hidalgo, a Mexican state just north of Mexico City. Young Juana entered a troubled family, and she lived in a small village completely shrouded by poverty. Low-income families surrounded Juana everywhere, and reports state that she gained very little in terms of education, reportedly only truly learning to read and write her own name. 

From Juana’s own words, she was subject to neglect and abuse from an early age. In a disturbing retelling, Juana states that her mother sold her to a stranger for just three bottles of beer. This stranger became Juana’s new de-facto guardian, however, he proceeded to rape her repeatedly, eventually leading her to become pregnant multiple times as a teenager, resulting in the birth of her first son and multiple miscarriages.

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Very little else is known of Juana’s upbringing, but it is clear that despite the harrowing environment she grew up in, she soon developed a liking to Lucha Libre, perhaps in part to her own physical strength and strong build. Not only was Barraza a keen fan of Lucha Libre events and culture, she even entered the ring herself, donning the identity of La Dama del Silencio, “The Silent Lady”. Speaking of why she chose the name, Juana said "because I am quiet and keep myself to myself".

While certainly unusual for a woman approaching middle-age, nobody could have suspected what lay ahead for Juana in the years to come.

What Was Her Modus Operandi?

Starting in 1998, Juana would go-ahead to commit a violent series of crimes the likes that Mexico City had never seen before involving elderly women. Newspapers dubbed the supposed serial killer as “El Mataviejitas” (The Little Old Lady Killer), presuming the culprit to be male. While reports debate when Juana first began to kill her victims, her efforts started in earnest in the year 2003, when she began to leave a trail of destruction in her wake.

Barraza’s methods for murder involved tricking her victims into allowing them into their homes, no doubt a trick she had developed from her years robbing people in order to feed her family.

In addition to her previous skills at robbery, Barraza also had gained access to a list of elderly women who were on government welfare — women she knew that would be alone and vulnerable for attack.

 

Donning the appearance of a government worker or caregiver, Juana would greet elderly women with a cheery and helpful demeanor so that they would allow her entry into their homes. Once inside, Juana would grab whatever might be lying around — be it a telephone cord, stockings, or other useful murder weapons — in order to strangle the women to death.

Juana was forever tormented by the severe neglect inflicted on her by her own mother. It is believed that for this reason, Juana exclusively targeted elderly women in order to enact a kind of twisted revenge on her mother. All of Juana’s victims were female, and none were under the age of 60.

For years, the police were reluctant to admit the existence of a serial killer in Mexico City, and only publicly admitted to the connection between the series of murders in 2005. Reports of a man in a woman’s clothing did little but steer the investigation in the wrong direction, and the coincidental appearance of the painting “Boy in Red Waistcoat” by French artist Jean-Baptiste Greuze of three of the victim’s homes only helped to muddy the waters even further.

How Was She Caught?

Juana was eventually caught immediately after the murder of her final victim, Ana Maria de Los Reyes. 

On Jan 25, 2006, Ana received a knock at her front door. A 48-year-old Juana Barraza stood before her and asked if she could come in. Upon being let into Ana’s home, Juana asked for a glass of water. But before little time had passed, Jauna grabbed a stethoscope from Ana’s living room table and proceeded to strangle her with it. Ana died shortly thereafter.

Juana was caught as she attempted to flee the scene of the crime, only spotted leaving the property by a male tenant of Ana Maria’s, seconds before he stumbled upon her corpse.

 

Barraza was quickly identified and arrested under the charges that she was the Mataviejitas, and was linked to more than 30 murders in Mexico City. Upon a media circus and her new-found notoriety as one of Mexico’s most deadly serial killers, Barraza was sentenced to a total of 759 years in prison.

Despite Juana being behind bars, she continues to insist that she is only responsible for the murder of Ana Maria. 

"With all due respect to the authorities there are several of us involved in extortion and killing people,” she said. “So why don't the police go after the others too?”.

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