By Aileen B. Flores
El Paso Times
Chihuahua state police confirmed Tuesday that three of the four bodies found in the back of a pickup in east Juárez on Monday were those of U.S. citizens abducted during a wedding last week.
Police identified the victims as bridegroom Rafael Morales Valencia, 29, his brother, Jaime Morales Valencia, 25, and their uncle Guadalupe Morales Arriola, 51.
All are from La Mesa, N.M., in Doña Ana County.
The identity of the fourth victim was not released.
The Moraleses were kidnapped by gunmen who burst into the wedding ceremony Friday evening at El Señor de la Misericordia Catholic church.
Another man, Alonso Sotelo Corral, was killed in the parking lot outside the church as he ran away or interfered during the kidnapping.
On Monday, Mexican police found four bodies with signs of torture in the covered bed of a Toyota Tacoma with Texas license plates.
Rafael Morales, the father of Rafael and Jaime Morales Valencia, said his family is in shock. He said he never thought that the violence in Juárez would hit his family so hard.
"I'm confused, frustrated and in despair. My wife, she is devastated," Rafael Morales said in a telephone interview from Juárez.
He said the family was making arrangements to take the bodies to La Mesa for funeral services today.
Rafael Morales said that his family is originally from Namiquipa, a small town in Chihuahua, but that his sons were born and raised in the United States.
Brothers Rafael and Jaime Morales Valencia are survived by an older sister, he added. Their father said the wedding took place in Juárez because that is where the bride was raised. He said she is also a U.S. citizen.
"I never thought something like this would happen to us," he said. "He was married like for five minutes, and then everything happened."
During the ceremony, a group of armed men arrived, ordered everyone to get down to the ground and kidnapped the victims.
Rafael Morales said Mexican and U.S. authorities are assisting the family in the investigation.
"Justice - who do we ask for justice? We don't know anything; there was no reason for this to happen," the elder Morales said.
FBI Special Agent Andrea Simmons said the FBI has offered its assistance to the family and Mexican authorities.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the FBI in El Paso was awaiting for a response, Simmons said. Chihuahua state police officials said the family did not file a kidnap report with the state police. They said an investigation into the slayings continues. No arrests have been made.
The slayings of the three family members are the latest murders of U.S. citizens in Juárez after the killings of a U.S. Consulate employee and her husband in March.
According to the U.S. State Department, from January 2008 to December 2009, 39 U.S. citizens were killed in Juárez and four more in other parts of Chihuahua state.
A report by the State Department indicates a surge in slayings of U.S. citizens in Juárez in the last six months of 2009 - 16 victims compared with seven in the first half of the year. Figures for 2010 were not available.
About 5,150 people have been killed in the Juárez area since a war between drug cartels began in 2008. More than 900 people have been killed this year.