Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Friday, January 19, 2024

The Kid Killed By The Zambadas

"HEARST" for Borderland Beat

Only fools believe there are cartel groups which don’t harm the innocent but, well, that’s never really stopped those groups from trying to sell you that line.

The Zambada family, from the Sinaloa Cartel, has somehow developed the reputation of being less cruel than many of their peers. 

But there is an important long-forgotten and under-reported story of a young man that the Zambadas killed. And the government's official version of what happened quickly became a story that Time magazine noted “few in Mexico are buying.”

El Rey’s Arrest

In October 2008, a group of federal agents showed up outside the Mexico City home of the Sinaloa Cartel capo named Jesús Reynaldo Zambada Garcia, alias “El Rey” - the brother of El Mayo. 

El Rey and his son Jesús Zambada Reyes had been living in a modest home in the Lindavista neighborhood of Mexico City, while Rey managed the Sinaloa Cartel’s drug smuggling operation at the Mexico City international airport.

The appearance of federal agents at Rey’s doorstep was not only unwelcome, but somewhat unexpected. 

After all, Rey was regularly paying one of the highest ranking men in the Mexican government, Genaro García Luna, the head of the Federal Police, large sums of money in order to avoid arrest attempts such as this. 

Rey had also recently paid García Luna to assign his inside man - an Federal Police inspector named Édgar Enrique Bayardo - to the Anti-Narcotics division, in return for a bribe of $350,000. 

Men like García Luna and Bayardo were being paid to divert law enforcement investigations not only away from Rey himself, but also from the ongoing drug smuggling at the Mexico City International Airport.

Now, Rey hadn’t always been the man in charge of the smuggling at the airport. The job had previously been held by another Sinaloa Cartel figure named Arturo Beltrán Leyva, however, in December 2007, Arturo had been summarily dismissed and rotated to a different position within the organization so Rey could take over the role - a move which Arturo deeply resented. 

Although Rey and Arturo were both Sinaloa Cartel operatives and seemingly on the same “side”, there had been an undercurrent of rivalry between them for years. Both men had been carefully guarding their own interests and building up their own corrupt contacts in law enforcement. 

Then, in January 2008, Alfredo Beltran was arrested. Tension between the Beltrán Leyva brothers and the rest of the Sinaloa Cartel escalated dramatically and all-out war broke out.

The war divided federal law enforcement in Mexico City, with Rey largely maintaining his influence over the Federal Police, while a different federal law enforcement agency known as the Federal Investigation Agency (or AFI) mainly stayed loyal to the Beltrán Leyva brothers. 

Unbeknownst to many, Garcia Luna was hedging his bets and taking bribes from both the Sinaloa Cartel and the Beltráns.

At some point in October 2008, the Beltrán Leyvas reached out to a director in the AFI named Francisco Javier Gómez Meza and offered to pay him $2 million dollars for either killing or arresting Rey.

Director Gómez Meza reportedly accepted their offer, and so, in October 2008, his AFI agents showed up outside Rey’s home, guns at the ready. 

El Rey would later claim, both in a court testimony and in an interview with Pepe Garza, that he could tell this was no ordinary arrest operation because he spotted a number of BLO men accompanying the AFI agents. 

And indeed, we know that there were in fact BLO gunmen disguised as agents there that day. 

Sergio Villarreal Barragán, alias “El Grande”, an imposing 6’7” Beltrán Leyva lieutenant, admitted in US court that he “participated in the arrest operation, disguised as an agent of the Specialized Deputy Prosecutor's Office for Organized Crime Investigation (SEIDO).”

El Grande admits that there were other Beltrán Leyva operatives with him that day, all dressed in law enforcement uniforms and mingling with the federal agents outside of Rey’s house. 

Rey’s bodyguards managed to hold off the AFI agents, while Rey called his primary contact in the Federal Police.

Inspector Édgar Bayardo answered Rey’s call and promised to send Federal Police agents to prevent Rey from being “accidentally killed” during the arrest operation. Bayardo’s men arrived outside Rey’s home and, after a series of unknown events, Rey and his son were taken into federal custody, alive. 

Rey’s Son Jesús

Rey’s son Jesús Zambada Reyes was presented to the public in handcuffs alongside his father. He stood out in the lineup with his young face still marked from teenage acne scars, a stark contrast from the weathered faces of Rey’s bodyguards standing alongside him.

The 21-year old Jesús Zambada was questioned by investigators from the federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR) and after some degree of convincing, and some threats about US extradition, Jesús began working with the PGR as part of negotiating a plea deal for himself. 

Jesús had been learning the trade from his father, who was grooming him to one day take over his role in the cartel. 

Jesús reportedly told investigators important details of the drug smuggling routes used by the Sinaloa Cartel as well as information about his uncle, El Mayo. 

The PGR made Jesús a federally protected witness and moved Jesús to a secure government safehouse in a different part of Mexico City. 

The safehouse was property #87 on Xitle Street, in Santa Ursula. It had once been owned by the drug lord Amado Carillo, then later seized by the government and repurposed to house protected witnesses. The site was guarded by federal agents 24 hours a day. Jesús lived there among 15 other protected witnesses

Eventually, Jesús began to reveal which Federal Police agents were working with his father during his interviews with the PGR. Jesús named Inspector Édgar Bayardo chiefly among them.

His statements about the Federal Police agents sparked a series of inquiries which eventually led to the largest corruption scandal of the decade, forcing a major culling across all federal law enforcement in an overhaul known as “Operación Limpieza”, or Operation Cleanup. 

But not all of the corrupt agents faced consequences. Inspector Édgar Bayardo managed to make his own plea deal with the PGR and he too was placed in federal witness protection and held at a different facility than Jesús Zambada. 

On November 20, 2009, little more than a year after the big arrest, Jesús was found hanging from a noose inside the federal safehouse. He was discovered by an unknown person at approximately 7:00 am. 

Jesus’s body was “cut down as part of an attempt to resuscitate him, but according to sources from the Attorney General's Office (PGR), it is still unknown who found the body or who cut it down.” He was pronounced dead on scene.

The publication Debate notes that there were rumors that Mayo had given the order for Jesús to be killed, as retribution for Jesús giving the PGR important information, and that his death was made to look like a suicide.

These rumors were delicately alluded to in a number of new publications, such as La Jornada’s article which wrote “the investigation into the death of this protected witness continue, although, according to the source we consulted, everything indicates that the PGR will conclude that his death was a suicide and they will close the case as soon as possible.”

And indeed, the official PGR report concluded that both his body and the crime scene showed no signs of a struggle. 

The PGR labeled his death a suicide, pointing to Jesús’s history of insomnia and “anxiety disorders” as signs of Jesús’s worsening mental health, although some might argue those symptoms are entirely to be expected when preparing to testify against the most powerful cartel figure in the country, especially since Jesús likely had knowledge of his father’s crooked dealings with Garcia Luna, one of the most important men within the Mexican government at the time. 

It is, of course possible, that Jesús committed suicide. 

After all, he was a 22 year old kid facing the daunting task of having to testify not just against his cartel family, but also against the highest officers within Mexico’s justice system - knowing he would then have to rely on said justice system to protect him from retribution. 

Jesús’s death made headlines again when inconsistencies within the autopsy were discovered. 

The autopsy was carried out by doctors Eduardo Escamilla Mondragón and Rubén Cruz Jerónimo and it stated that "the corpse corresponds to a male individual, 30 to 40 years old." Of note: Zambada Reyes was just 22 years old at the time of his death.

A noose made out of curtain cord was reportedly found at the scene but the noose was never documented in the autopsy, although standard procedure required it should be.

Many other steps, such as checking the fingernails, looking for fibers, mud, dust, and an examination of bodily fluids were not performed during the autopsy. 

The Mexico City news outlet Unomásuno ran a front page story highlighting these autopsy inconsistencies, while pointing a finger at Garcia Luna.

Their article highlighted a different instance in which autopsy reports were taken and hidden from the public in order to cover up a botched rescue operation which mistakenly killed a kidnapping victim.

And Jesús wasn’t the only important, federally protected witness who met a convenient end. 

Édgar Bayardo

Less than two weeks after Jesús died, Inspector Bayardo was shot to death at a Starbucks in Mexico City.

The police case file states that Bayardo had been called earlier in the day by a man who claimed to be a senior PGR official. The man on the phone said he needed to meet with Bayardo urgently and they agreed to meet up at a Starbucks that Bayardo was known to frequent.

Bayardo and his assistant traveled to the coffee shop, which was close to where Bayardo was living, and they waited. The federal agents assigned to act as Bayardo’s bodyguards did not accompany them for unknown reasons.

Three minutes after they arrived, two men dressed in black suits walked up and, without saying a word, shot Bayardo multiple times with an AR-15.

Bayardo’s assistant was also shot and severely wounded. A total of 23 shell casings were later found at the crime scene. 

The two gunmen ran out of the coffee shop and jumped into a waiting car driven by an accomplice. They sped out of the immediate area and just a few blocks away, they parked the vehicle and abandoned it.

By the time police arrived at the scene, Bayardo no longer showed vital signs, having bled out on the floor.

Former anti-drug prosecutor Samuel Gonzalez told the San Diego Union-Tribune that “there was little doubt Bayardo’s slaying was a killing by cartel hitmen.”

Reuters reported that “officials at the Mexico City prosecutor's office said hitmen had been following Bayardo for several days [prior]. It was unclear why the former policeman was not better protected or why he was out in public.”

The men who shot Bayardo were never found. The only people ever prosecuted for the death of Bayardo were the two bodyguards assigned to protect him, men named Francisco Gutiérrez Estrada and Juan Fabricio Ramírez Espinoza.

Their charges related to neglecting their duties and through neglect, culpability in Bayardo's death.

The quick succession in which two key witnesses for the federal case against El Mayo died should have drawn national attention and raised further questions about the real circumstances of Jesús’s death. 

And yet, almost all of the stories which bring up any suspicions about Jesús’s “suicide” in articles covering Bayardo’s death come from outside of Mexico. 

The Los Angeles Times wrote that “questions swirled over whether [Jesús] was coerced or killed by cartel hitmen”, and the Sydney Morning Herald wrote “many questioned whether the cartel could have pressured Zambada [Reyes] into killing himself or [if they] faked the death as a suicide.”

Time magazine even covered the story, writing that although “officials say he hanged himself, few in Mexico are buying that.”

Meanwhile, writer Anabel Hernandez described Jesús as being “foolishly garrulous” and seems to blame him for his own death. And that's a temptingly easy way to view the situation. But real life rarely fits into easy narratives.

The Family That Killed Him

In coming years, Rey Zambada and Mayo’s son Vicente would go on to cooperate with the US and testify against their own family.

Both men seem to have found a way to perfectly thread the needle of giving up enough information to be considered useful by law enforcement but not enough information that they were killed by their family for it.

But, lets remember that both men were considerably older than Jesús when they spoke to authorities and their years of experience, no doubt, helped them navigate the perilous game of being a government informant. 

It's worth remembering that Jesús Zambada Reyes gave information to the PGR because he was a scared 22-year old who was facing the possibility of being extradited and imprisoned in the US for decades. 

Jesús had grown up as a Zambada, and therefore he was inherently enmeshed in the cartel world. And yes, Jesús had started to learn about the drug smuggling business from his father, but there’s been no evidence - nor even claims - that Jesús ever participated in any violent actions (unlike his father). 

To many, it is the choice to participate in (or order) violence when a line is crossed and one can no longer blame their upbringing.

Jesús was dwarfed by the enormity of the larger war and twisted system. The Sinaloa Cartel and the Beltráns were battling over a multi-billion dollar industry, all while both groups played puppeteer with the Mexican justice system.

And the leaders of said "justice" system were undoubtedly determined to silence those that might expose their collusion with the cartels. There were so many people who benefitted from killing Jesús. 

Mayo may have given the order to kill Jesús. 

Garcia Luna may have given the order to kill Jesús.

Or Jesús may have killed himself after seeing just how utterly hopeless his options really were. 

It doesn’t really matter because Jesús never really stood a chance. He was so very small and powerless in light of the larger forces at work. 

He was the undercard crushed by titans.

And it's hard to not hate the system, the “business”, and the family which killed him.

Rey’s Arrest Sources: El Mañana, Milenio, Proceso, El Universal, La Jornada 

Jesus’s Suicide Sources: Zocalo, WRadio, El Universal, Noroeste, Debate, La Patilla, Jornada Article 1, Article 2, Informador, Razon, Proceso, El Periodico de Mexico Article 1, Article 2, Borderland Beat, My San Antonio, La Tarde, Debate 

Bayardo’s Murder Sources: Noroeste, San Diego Union Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Austin American Statesman, Informador, El Universal Article 1, Article 2, Time Magazine, Reuters

Reference Videos: Rey’s Arrest, Bayardo’s Murder

*Bayardo’s assistant is misreported as a bodyguard in some publications. 

*Some English articles describe the noose as made out of shoelaces and not curtain cord.


  1. The killing of Gueros kids marked a before and after in the Mexican narcos. After that familys and kids and innocents started being fair game .

    1. That’s bullshit! Started, yeah right, it’s been that way as far as I recall reading, watching, listening, researching. You fucking tell me when, and I mean when, there was this mythological time in narco world that girls/women weren’t raped/kidnapped in one way or another for some narcos pleasure, or that family was off limits? That is a fairytale and only a fool believes that. Snitching, raping, bribing cops to arrest, kidnapping, killing kids/innocents, it’s ALL the basics of the scum poison peddler no matter where! Fucking wake up. The buying of young/little girls for their pleasure is a deviant child rapists goal they just happen to be drug traffickers.

    2. 12:01 Nacho Coronel kidnapped HBL wife and returned her unharmed even after HBL left her for dead. Thats one time

    3. 4:06 pm and then Nacho Coronel died shortly after …

    4. Also didn't Chapo and Guero let El Trigrillo Arellano go because he was too young at the time ?

    5. 11:13
      They were killing family before that.

    6. 11:13 just like 5:27 said, Cartels had been killing families way before, the only reason you didnt hear about it is because they were lower level workers but they have always been killing kids and grandpas and grandmoms, they been shit since the begining, nothing new just the fact that now we can hear about it at the moment thanks to the internet

    7. 4:52 they were scared, they knew as long as the Ramon and Benja were out they would massacre all of their family members

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Keep CJNG looking less cruel?

      I literally titled an article "Jardinero: The Butcher of Nayarit" and laid out his complicity in the torture and murder of a journalist when no other article had named him in connection to the death.

    2. You sure as fuck are not going to be lying your ass off in here that's for sure

    3. Ya salieron los contras a pelear la plaza?

    4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    5. 1:20 😂😂😂 why you crying girl? Here in BB we see mostly CDS pro comments, and yes CDS is as bad CJNG no fucking daught, the only difference is CDS are a bunch hipocrits and CJNG doesnt care how you see them, plus as far as killings CDS has killed way more people than CJNG and thats a fact, just look at how many wars CDS has started, 1- CAF war. 2- CDJ war, 3-CDG war and the latest- the CJNG war, cause justvin case you didnt know Chapo tryed to kill Mencho when they were partners but fail to do so and the war started 😉 dont be naive all cartels are pieces of the same shit, but CDS has killed way more people than the ops

    6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    7. The weak bitches get their asses silenced!

    8. 6:49 no me agas caso pero creo que este guey es el que siempre se anda quejando y amenazando porque dices algo en contra de su cartel favorito, casi te aseguro que es el compa que pone de 3 a 5 comentarios en media hora como para hacer ver que son varios gueyes, no se pero por algo hoy no a puesto nada 🤭

    9. 9:04 think the guy you talking about is from the Jalisco Michoacan area

  3. I feel the title should be something more along the lines of " The kid that got killed for being a Zambada" 🤷

    1. It's kinda both, right?

      The kid who was killed for being born a Zambada and being stuck in all the stuff that entails.

      But also the kid who was killed by the Zambada family itself, either directly or indirectly.

    2. @HEARST: Do you think the death of Jesus Zambada may have led to Los Mayos working out an agreement regarding what type of info snitches were allowed to give law enforcement? It seems like that could explain how younger Zambadas (Mayito Gordo and especially Serafin) also managed to thread the needle of cooperating without being killed.

    3. 12:04 I agree with you . But in my humble opinion alot of the times it comes from home. Kinda for example let's take Emma's and Chapos twin daughters. There is a high chance one or both of them going to end up marrying someone from a powerful family from Sinaloa. There for most likely their kids going to be expose to that life and might end up getting killed just for having a certain last name. Just my opinion. Great great article like always 👍

    4. @12:53
      This is such a good question because, as you pointed out, Serafin was just 23 years old when he was arrested in 2013. (Meanwhile, Gordo was 30 when he was arrested in 2014.)

      I have no idea if that is what happened but it sounds like a great running theory to me. Very insightful comment.

  4. Al hijo del rey lo mataron en el arraigo porque puso al mayo Zambada y lo agarraron en Sinaloa pero soborno a la policía federal en especial a maricela q su jefe era Garcia luna y lo soltaron, pero dijo q quien lo puso y le dijeron q su sobrino el hijo del rey

  5. Wouldn't exactly consider him innocent, but I get your drift.

  6. He most likely killed himself. I’m not moved at all by the autopsy. You can expect shoddy work and negligence here. It’s absolutely standard.

  7. A lot of the cooperation was facilitated at least initially by Humberto Loya Castro, who was Chapo and Mayos's point man with the DEA

    He was Vicente's contact which started that whole situation, Vicente was willing to work out a deal when he learned he was being indicted, as far back as 2009, and that Mexico City meet was a part of those negotiations.

    They gave Humberto Loya Castro info about the Juarez Cartel, that they got from Gente Nueva who were former JC, and federal police, that's partially how they gained so much ground in Juarez

    so that line was formed around those times, 2008/2009, when that whole world of plea bargains and press releases was a lot more secretive. Not sure if I got smarter, or if technology like social media/internet/smart phone, online omnipresent
    it's both, but back then it all seemed very hard to read and follow, and now I can see it like a calling a play on sports.

    1. Absolutely on point. You absolutely read my mind and explained it better than myself. I’m from Texas and followed the Juarez Cartel news and history forever. CDS had a US green light as long as they fed DEA, CIA info on Juarez, Tijuana, Zetas, and Golfo Cartels. El Mayo’s son was shocked in the 2008 meeting when he found out he was going to be arrested and the US was no longer going to honor the previously arranged deal. lol, they told him they did not recall making such a deal.

  8. also, all the credit for the story, one I remember really well, when all these things seemed less comprehensible and hard to understand, you have provided clarity where there was almost none.

    I think he probably did commit suicide.

    Serafin def. followed some kind of guideline as did Mayito, but that's also just being the bosses kids. That old story from 2012 about Vicente being handed a phone in the Chicago MCC, and he talked to his Dad for 30 seconds, and his Dad "gave him the permission" to get his life back.

  9. Meanwhile Rey Zambada now writes Corridos for a living .
    Attentamente El Sicario 006

  10. Also, Rey gave his bro a shout out recently, so whatever went down, it's been forgiven, if anything. It was probably like "this is your problem clean it up"

    but that's mafia family life. Like Eduardo Arellano's wife being disappeared and he never mentioned it to Ramon or Benja, they all knew what happened, but it was never brought up.

  11. I’m open to hearing all ideas. And I know that there are people who understand this era of cartel history more than I do.

    For those that believe Jesus really did commit suicide, I'm curious to hear who you believe killed Bayardo. And why did that person choose to orchestrate a hit on Bayardo and not on Jesus too? And do you think the timing of it all was just coincidental?

    1. Why is el Vicentillo respected in Sinaloa if he ratted out many CDS operatives

    2. The most plausible scenario is that CDS & GGL understood the risk of both being alive. They went for it. Lasted a long time thereafter. @11:36 is correct imo. Had to be when they realized you can use pw to your advantage.

    3. There's a reason why

      El Rey Zambada

      Serafin is also a US citizen, but he seems like he lives in Sonora or somewhere and is ok, but out of the game. He's not in Culiacan partying in the clubs anymore.

      never went home. The only who tried was Chino.

    4. Garcia Luna for sure had the reason and the clout to have either or both killed with little repercussions. He may have had more to lose than anyone.

    5. Your wrong Serafin is in Culiacan and he aint partying in nightclubs. He's in fiestas privadas

  12. Ismael zambada dropped the plane that was carrying jose mouriňo,chief secretary of the calderon presidency ,that was on retaliation of el rey's arrest el mayo is well connected with the vizcarra's a very powerful political family on both sides of the border

    1. Arturo Beltran was the one who gave the order to blow up that plane . It’s well known after his bothers arrest mochomo the goverment of Felipe Calderón whom he was bribing wouldn’t accept to release his brother even behind the scenes .

  13. Excellent article.

    Very well written and informative.

    Thank you.

  14. It's pretty obvious his uncle had him whacked cause he didn't whacked his own kids who were bigger rats because he had a plan. Get them out if the game and have them live without worry in the US after snitching on Chapo. I wonder how bad the Chapitos want that old man gone forever for all the backstabbing he has done to loyal members of CDS. I can only imagine Chapitos having to look him in the eyes knowing his family is safe while their dad rots in ADX cause if them.

  15. the system preyed on the weak without having no evidence against him, just to get their guy

  16. The title is kind of misleading I think, to call a 22 year old narco a kid is a reach this so called kid knew what he signed up for and probably felt guilty for snitching this is before his dad and cousin became one as well so he would be the shame of the family at the moment so i do think he probably ended himself

    1. That's a temptingly easy way to view the situation.

    2. Sometimes we overthink things, it’s also just a theory that MZ had something to do with it but your title suggests it is definite, also I don’t buy any of that good cartel bs so don’t bury me

    3. So Time magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and the Sydney Morning Herald were all just "overthinking" things when they wrote about the suicide being highly suspicious?

      This isn't just some personal theory of mine, it's what well-respected international news agencies wrote in their coverage of the event.

      People who dismiss that out of hand sound like they're drinking that copium kool aid.

  17. I don’t think Jesus was killed. I think they faked his death. I always had a theory that Cruz Zambada was him. Mayo visits him and Mayito Gordo were like brothers. He has anyone killed who takes his picture. Los ántrax loved him. You will never meet a more low profile person and at the same time ruthless. From burying people alive to shooting an old lady just to test new guns Chino gave him. The Zambadas are the biggest snitches in the game. Mayo is a disgusting pedo that smells horrible from using so much coke. His nose rotted away. The culture is so messed up that it’s an honor if the pedo Mayo takes a liking to your under age daughter.

    1. I agree that they liked faked the kids death. Kid didn’t have the kind of heat like the rest of the family and could have easily disappeared far away. There is doubt whether he died and there isn’t alot of evidence out there showing the 🤠 family selling out there own.

      At the time it didn’t seem like Mz sold out his sons and bro to save his skin but like where they are now? They all out. Faking the kids death and hiding him is plausible.

      Although I think more possible is ggl taking care of loose ends. Another betrayal by altracomulcos

  18. A mí me tocó ser perito de ese caso. El joven estaba muy delgado, suspendido de una cuerda y más ojeroso que nunca.
    Sin golpes.


  20. Amazing work on this article

  21. Because his da giving out interviews on you tube it would be easisest way to find out truth and ask him direct.Sinor Rey are you or your brother involved in death of your son?

    1. Rey spoke very highly of Mayo in that interview, in fact he described his big brother more as a father figure than a brother.


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