Mexican authorities said they arrested a fourth suspect Thursday in the killing of three film students who were abducted, tortured and dissolved in acid, an episode that triggered outrage in a crime-weary nation.
The suspect, identified only as Miguel Angel “N,” was found hiding out in the small municipality of Degollado in the western state of Jalisco, said state prosecutor Raul Sanchez Jimenez.
“Statements by the three suspects in custody enabled investigators to locate” him, Sanchez told a press conference.
He will be charged with aggravated kidnapping, the prosecutor said.
The students — Javier Salomon Aceves Gastelum, 25; Daniel Diaz, 20; and Marco Avalos, 20 — went missing on March 19 as they returned from shooting a film project outside Guadalajara, Mexico’s second city, where they attended the University of Audiovisual Media.
Investigators say members of the powerful Jalisco New Generation drug cartel appear to have mistaken them for members of a rival group, the New Plaza Cartel, because they were staying in the house of a relative who had ties to the latter.
All four suspects in custody are believed to belong to Jalisco New Generation.
Witnesses said the students were intercepted by a group of men disguised as police who ushered them into two other cars and fled.
They were then taken to a cartel safe house and tortured, investigators say. When Aceves died of his injuries, the kidnappers killed the other two students and dissolved the bodies in barrels of sulfuric acid.
The case drew protests from tens of thousands of their fellow students, backed by Mexican film luminaries such as Oscar-winning directors Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuaron.
Authorities initially said there were four suspects in the case, but Sanchez said they are now looking for two more.
One of the suspects arrested last month, a rapper and YouTube star known as “QBA,” has confessed to dissolving the bodies in acid, according to investigators.
QBA, whose real name is Christian Omar Palma Gutierrez, allegedly received 3,000 pesos ($159) a week to work for Jalisco New Generation.
He has a YouTube page with 135,000 subscribers and millions of views where he posted professionally shot rap videos about violence, weapons and drugs.