In the bustling city of Boston, United States, back in 1962, a series of mysterious murders unfolded, leaving nearly thirteen women strangled to death by an unidentified killer. This grim situation presented an extreme challenge for the police as they sought to uncover the truth behind the heinous crimes. Decades later, around the year 2000, in Mexico, a strikingly similar pattern emerged, reminiscent of the infamous Boston Strangler. This time, however, a new serial killer surfaced, specifically targeting elderly women, whom they would strangle to death before robbing. Termed “Matalviejitas” or “The Little Old Lady Killer,” this serial killer spread fear and terror among the local community. This gripping murder case has been brought to light in the Netflix documentary titled The Lady of Silence, which sheds light on the serial killer’s identity and their modus operandi.
How did the police find the Matalviejitas?
In various locations across Mexico City, a series of murders unfolded, with the victims being exclusively Mexican “Abuelitas,” or grandmothers. These women were known for their selflessness and cherished role in society, making it perplexing for the police to understand why they became targets despite having no known feuds with others. Initially, due to the nature of the killing and the strength used in executing them, the serial killer was believed to be male. However, some eyewitnesses reported seeing a mysterious figure, possibly female, dressed in nurse attire and claiming to be from a government social work organization, entering the victims’ houses or roaming nearby.
The idea of a woman committing these murders with such extraordinary strength was hard for the police to accept, leading them to explore other possibilities, including the killer being a male disguised in women’s clothing or a transgender individual. Another theory that emerged was the involvement of multiple killers, but the lack of evidence hindered any confirmation. Early on in the investigation, suspicion fell on a female thief named Araceli Vazquez, who had a history of theft and had been seen in the houses of some of the deceased women. However, she vehemently denied any involvement in the killings. Subsequently, a man named Mario Tablas also became a suspect in these murders.
Both Araceli and Mario were presented to the media as potential Matalviejitas suspects after their arrests, but the killings continued, leaving the police baffled about the true culprit. It was only in 2006 that a suspect, attempting to flee from a victim’s house, was apprehended and identified as the real Matalviejitas. This female suspect turned out to be Juana Barraza, finally ending the reign of terror caused by the serial killer targeting elderly women.
Who was Juana Bazarra?
Juana Barraza, known as “The Lady of Silence,” faced charges for over 16 murders, though her actual victim count could exceed 40. Her arrest brought some relief to the police, but they grappled with the idea of a woman possessing such immense strength, akin to that of a man, carrying out these killings. Juana had a masculine physique as a former professional wrestler, which explained her physical power. However, the motive behind her targeting elderly women, despite being a middle-aged woman herself, remained a topic of discussion.
Juana’s early life sheds light on her troubled past. Upon her arrest, she tearfully recounted how her mother had mistreated her, selling her to a man for just three beers, who later impregnated her. Her tragic history provided insight into her anger and disgust toward elderly ladies, which likely fueled her actions. Although killing was not her initial coping mechanism, Juana sought solace in wrestling to deal with her trauma and found success in the Lucha Libre sport, where wrestlers wore colorful masks.
Unfortunately, her wrestling career came to an end, leading her to take on various temporary jobs, including being a popcorn vendor. In 2003, she saw an opportunity to enter the houses of a neighborhood under the guise of a social worker or a healthcare professional. However, before carrying out the robberies, she resorted to strangling the elderly owners to death. This disturbing pattern emerged as she continued to grapple with the emotional turmoil of her past through violent means.
Juana displayed a calculated approach to her killings and victim selection. She obtained a list of women receiving government assistance and targeted specific individuals from that list. Once a victim was chosen, Juana would keep a close watch on them, often wandering around their neighborhood or even in nearby parks. However, after her arrest in 2006, she only admitted to one murder and attempted to mislead the police by suggesting the involvement of other killers. But forensic analysis of fingerprints confirmed that Juana Barraza acted alone in her crimes.
Where is Juana Barraza now?
In 2008, she was found guilty and charged with 16 murders along with burglary, resulting in a staggering sentence of 759 years in prison. Yet, due to the Mexican judicial system’s limitation on a maximum of 60 years of imprisonment, Juana is expected to serve the duration of her sentence behind bars. While incarcerated, she has taken on the role of a gym instructor and participates in various reformative activities. At one point, she even married an elderly man but later went through a divorce. Currently, Juana Barraza remains in prison, living a drastically different life from her former reign of terror as “The Lady of Silence.”
An in-depth psychoanalysis of Juana Barraza’s persona could shed light on her difficult childhood, where she suffered mistreatment from her mother and was sold to a man, resulting in her being deeply affected emotionally. These experiences likely left her feeling abandoned and betrayed, and these scars stayed with her as she grew up. Her time as a successful professional wrestler might have been a way for her to release her emotions and feel strong and empowered.
In wrestling, Juana found a means to express her suppressed emotions, gain control over her opponents, and feel strong—a sense of strength she might have lacked in her personal life. However, when her wrestling career ended, she lost this opportunity to process her emotions, leading her to search for other ways to cope. Unfortunately, she turned to crime and violence as a disturbing way to deal with her unresolved trauma. Her specific targeting of elderly women may stem from seeing them as symbols of her own mother or those who failed to protect her, triggering deep-rooted rage and resentment towards maternal figures. Nevertheless, despite her traumatic past, her crimes cannot be forgiven, as she took the lives of innocent people. Though they cannot be brought back, the resolution of the case brings some closure to the families and communities affected, honoring the memories of those innocent lives lost.