The gruesome case of a man who was stabbed and beheaded in a suburban Phoenix apartment has police investigating whether the killing is potentially the most extreme example of Mexican drug cartel violence spilling over the border.A shame our Justice Department has turned into an arm of the Democratic Party.
Martin Alejandro Cota-Monroy's body was found Oct. 10 in a Chandler apartment -- his severed head a couple feet away. One man suspected in the killing has been arrested, and a manhunt is under way for three others.
Detectives are focused on whether the men belong to a Mexican drug cartel, and they suspect that Cota-Monroy's killing was punishment for stealing drugs. The brutal nature of the killing could be designed to send a message to others within the cartel.
"If it does turn out to be a drug cartel out of Mexico, typically that's a message being sent," said Chandler police Detective David Ramer. "This person was chosen to be executed. It sends a message to other people: If you cross us, this is what happens."
Decapitations are a regular part of the drug war in Mexico as cartels fight over territory. Headless bodies have been hanged from bridges by their feet, severed heads have been sent to victims' family members and government officials, and bags of up to 12 heads have been dropped off in high-profile locations.
More than 28,000 people have been killed in Mexico in drug-related violence since December 2006, when President Felipe Calderon deployed soldiers to battle the cartels in their strongholds.
If the suspects in the Arizona case belong to a cartel, the crime could be the only known beheading in the U.S. carried out by a drug cartel, said Tony Payan, a political science professor at the University of Texas at El Paso who has done extensive research about border violence.
The killing could also affect the immigration debate in Arizona. Supporters of the state's controversial immigration law frequently cite this type of violence as reason to crack down on illegal immigrants. The decapitation victim and the suspects were all illegal immigrants.
Republican Gov. Jan Brewer drew criticism this year for claiming that headless bodies were being found in the Arizona desert as she sought to bolster her argument for immigration reform. She later backtracked on those claims, but said such violence in the broader border region is cause enough for alarm.
The killing has unnerved residents in the neighborhood and apartment complex where Cota-Monroy was killed.
The tiny, run-down complex sits along a side street across from ramshackle trailer homes in a neighborhood not far from brand-new strip malls with big-box stores in the suburb of Chandler.
No one is living inside the apartment that is the scene of the crime. There's beat-up leather furniture, a bouquet of flowers and a candle on a dining-room table, and the kitchen cabinets are ajar, as if someone left in a hurry.
"I'm terrified," said Norma Alvarado, a 47-year-old housekeeper who lives two doors down from the apartment. "I've lived here for 20 years and I've never heard of that (decapitation) happening, and it was so close to us ... Maybe they're copying what's happening in Mexico."
Update: Thanks to Instapundit, we have an Eric Holder sighting. He's busy giving himself awards. As the man says, we're in the very best of hands.
The president himself could not make the ceremony. He was doing what this president chooses to do five days before midterm elections -- go on Comedy Central, since all the nation's other problems are so well under control.