The mutilated body of Susana Chavez, one of Mexico's most prominent poets and peace activists, has been found dumped on a street in Ciudad Juarez, a city infamous for a series of murders of women even before drug violence made it one of the most violent places in the world.
Ms Chavez, 36, who adopted the slogan "Not one more death", befriended three teenagers who strangled her after an argument and then cut off her hand to make it look like an execution, after they invited her to drink with them, authorities said.
The three suspects, now in custody, told authorities they are members of the local drug gang Azteca and became enraged when Ms Chavez told them she was a police officer and was going to report them, according to a statement from the state Attorney General's Office. "What's strange is that we're fighting to eliminate 'feminicide' in Juarez and, look, she died that way, in the hands of criminals," said her friend, Linda Meza.
Ms Chavez was a well-known artist in the city and a leading member of the group May Our Daughters Return Home, made up of family members and friends of Juarez women who had been killed. Authorities estimate that as many as 400 women were killed in the city over a 10-year-period to 2003.
Ms Chavez's book, Song to a City in the Desert, grew, she wrote, from a cry from the heart against violence and included the poem Blood, written from the perspective of a victim.
Her murder was condemned yesterday by international and Mexican human rights groups, as well as the president of Mexico's lower house of Congress, Jorge Carlos Ramirez Marin.
"Susana was a noble woman committed to the cause and to her city, which she loved," said Gustavo de la Rosa Hickerson of the Human Rights Commission in Chihuahua state, where Ciudad Juarez is located.
The killing was the result of an "unfortunate encounter" and had nothing to do with Ms Chavez's activism, said Chihuahua state Attorney General Carlos Manuel Salas. The suspects told authorities that they met her in a convenience store and invited her to drink with them. After several hours of drinking, the teenagers argued, then took her to the shower, covered her face in adhesive tape and started to drown her until she suffocated.
The suspects – one of them a neighbour of Ms Chavez – told investigators that because the boys had been drinking and taking drugs, they found it "easy" to kill her, said Arturo Sandoval, a spokesman for the state Attorney General's office. Her death has rocked a community already jaded by more than 3,000 murders last year.