Of all the real-life archetypes populating society, it’s hard to come up with a more kind and innocent description for a person than “little old lady.” In other contexts, both "little" and "old" can be slightly dismissive, and some people even get offended by "lady" in the wrong setting, yet throw them all together, and everyone agrees the results are an adorable elderly woman dispensing love and advice to all those around her. Unfortunately, the cliché isn’t always true, and sometimes, senior citizens, male or female, can be viciously nasty, having an awful impact on the young minds they come into contact with throughout their lives.
This is the backstory for Juana Barraza, a woman who would later become one of Mexico’s most notorious serial killers, taking the lives of anywhere between 16 and 48 victims in less than a decade’s time. Nicknamed “La Mataviejitas” by the press, which is Spanish for “The Little Old Lady Killer,” the murderess herself had an alias of her own making as well in "La Dama Del Silencio" or "The Lady of Silence." This wasn’t some self-aggrandizing attempt at making her crimes more famous, however—the reality is that when she wasn’t killing the elderly, Barazza was hitting the ropes of lucha libre wrestling rings.
Ultimately, the fact Juana Barraza was a part-time pro wrestler had very little to do with the crimes she would go on to commit, and the industry itself obviously shouldn’t be blamed for this connection. That said, parts of Barraza’s wrestling past may have indeed influenced the way her killing spree went down, making her twisted tale an interesting one to hear for those interested in wrestling or true crime. If that sounds like you, keep learning about 15 shocking facts concerning the “Little Old Lady Killer” Juana Barraza, known inside the ring as "La Dama del Silencio."
15 She Was Abused By Her Mother From A Young Age
When a serial killer’s victims all have a particular quality in common, that’s almost always a sign about what sort of trauma influenced their actions. For Mataviejitas, the source is almost certainly how her own mother, Justa Samperio, treated her from a very young age. Juana Barraza's father was a truck driver who left his family from a young age, never marrying Juana's mother or spending any time with their newborn child. Born to poverty in Epazoyucan, Mexico in 1956, Barazza was disadvantaged from a young age regardless of how her mother acted, never learning to read or write. Of course, that the lone adult influence in her life was an alcoholic prostitute who verbally and physically abused her whenever they were alone was considerably worse than a lack of education. Samperio would also sell her daughter to horrific men wanting to sexually abuse her, usually for disgustingly low prices. When abusing Barazza no longer held her mother’s interest, the woman simply gave her child away.
14 Juana’s Mother Traded Her To A Man Who Abused Her
Two regular markings of a serial killer’s childhood is an abusive family and feelings of abandonment. Usually, these two don’t go hand in hand, as abusers need to stick around to keep the torment going. Unfortunately for Juana Barraza, the nightmare didn’t end when her mother traded her to a 62-year-old man named José Lugo for a measly three beers. Only 12 years old at the time herself, things would get unspeakably worse for young Juana in this near senior citizen’s care, as he kept her tied to his bed as an unwilling, underage sex slave. Barraza’s story gets a little fuzzy at this point, as a third man was supposedly also invited to the fold, but she didn't have much information on him beyond the fact that he also repeatedly sexually abused her. This is hardly a surprise, as incidents this traumatic and horrific can be hard for victims to recall no matter how much time passes after the incident.
13 She Was A Luchadora For Years Before Murdering Anyone
Based on what this article has already presented, it’s not wholly surprising that Juana Barraza would become a vicious serial killer in the way she did. However, there was also ample opportunity to turn her life around, and had things gone a little bit differently, her name could've wound up associated with overcoming abuse. For that to happen, Barraza’s career in the entertainment business would've needed to take off, which unfortunately didn’t happen in any sense of the word. The problem was that Juana Barraza wanted to be a professional wrestler, calling herself La Dama Del Silencio, or “the Lady of Silence.” She never got above a very minor league amateur level, though, not once competing against a single opponent of significant name value. In fact, Silencio was injured so early in her career, she didn’t have many opponents at all. As a result, she was usually confined to handing out popcorn or other snacks during the matches while talking about dreams deferred.
12 She Posed As A Social Worker To Gain Her Victims' Trust
One of the most shocking elements of Juana Barraza’s murders is that virtually all of them happened within her victims' own homes. The poor little old ladies she killed were also all strangers, meaning she somehow gained their favor in short order and got invited inside the house of people she had just met. Given the fact stethoscopes and other medical equipment were often found as murder weapons, they accurately surmised Barraza was posing as some sort of nurse or social worker to lull her victims into a sense of security. Barraza herself would later add she sometimes also pretended to be looking for work and would naturally take a nurse-like role over her victims before violently turning on them. Whether this was simply a ploy to make murder an easier job or there were deeper psychological ramifications to this pattern are unclear.
11 Her Victims Were All Aged 60 Or Older
Due to mass media not always understanding the point, some serial killers have weird or confusing nicknames that have little relation to their crimes. Not so with La Mataviejitas, whose actions are almost entirely explained through the translation of her most popular sobriquet. “Little Old Lady Killer” is a wholly accurate manner to describe Barraza’s actions, as every one of her victims was at least 60 years old. Many of them were even older, with the average appearing to be in the early 80s, though some had even reached their 90s by the time Barraza took their lives away in horrific fashion. Knowingly or not, Barraza’s choice of victims also may have prevented police from ever suspecting her, as the selection of weak and enfeebled victims who couldn’t fight back is usually part of a profile. Given what we know about Barraza’s own mother, that probably wasn’t the case with her and would have merely served a red herring.
10 Did She Find Artistry In The Murder, or Was It Mere Coincidence?
On the subject of red herrings, Juana Barraza offered police a pretty huge one in three of the last four murders on her spree. Each of Mataviejitas victims fit the same patterns in age and cause of death, and after some 40 murders, it looked like Barraza had added a third action to her modus operandi. In reality, Barraza may not have even realized three of her victims all owned the painting “Boy in Red Waistcoat” by Jean-Baptiste Greuze, keeping it on display in their homes. Then again, Barraza herself is seen wearing bright red in virtually every picture of her there is, wrestling gear notwithstanding. Police certainly thought there could have been some sort of connection between the painting and the crimes when it kept cropping up, but in the end, Barraza had no comment on the matter, so we’ll never know what the deal was with Greuze’s painting.
9 Her Eldest Son Died At A Young Age
Repeat sexual assaults by two men some four times her age ultimately and unsurprisingly led to Juana Barraza getting pregnant for the first time at the young age of 13. Because of the conditions José Lugo and his partner were keeping her in, this pregnancy ended in a miscarriage after three months, with constant beatings and Barraza’s poor diet making it impossible for her to carry the baby to term. Eventually, however, Barazza did have one male son through this abuse, plus three other children later on in life with two further husbands. The children’s father would all abandon her for various reasons, and despite the horrific circumstance leading to her eldest’s birth, Barazza was reportedly upbeat about and proud of being a successful single mother. That reality came crashing down when muggers killed her first son at the age of 24 in a gang-related incident. Sources close to Barazza at the time said this loss was what triggered her violent tendencies to manifest in earnest.
8 Her Wrestling Character Was Naturally A Major Heel
Because La Dama del Silencio never came anywhere near working for WWE, let alone Asistencia Asesoria y Administracíon, or heck, even Southpaw Regional Wrestling, very little about her career inside the ring has been made public knowledge. We know she wore a mask, had intricate ring gear to go with it, and chose her La Dama Del Silencio moniker because, in her own words, she was “quiet” and “kept to herself.” One more detail that people have discovered is that she was a villain in and out of the ring, blatantly calling herself “rudo to the core” in her only known wrestling promo. For those unfamiliar with lucha libre, "rudo" is their term for heel or bad guy, and it really isn’t that uncommon for a wrestler to proudly proclaim herself as such. Regardless of all that, again, her early career injury prevented the public from knowing anything significant about this side of Barraza’s life and personality.
7 She Strangled Women To Death With Stethoscopes And Phone Wires
After years of simmering resentment about the way her mother treated her, followed perhaps by some dissatisfaction about the failure of her wrestling career, the death of Juana Barraza's son was the final trigger to her descent into a murderous rage. Shortly thereafter, Mexican authorities soon started finding bodies scattered throughout Mexico City all murdered in the same way. The weapons were occasionally a little different, ranging from medical equipment, phone wires, scarves, and stockings, but the cause of death was always vicious strangulation. Barraza’s exact death toll is somewhat unclear, as she's refused to fully cooperate with authorities since the time of her arrest. Based on fingerprint evidence, however, certain criminologists believe the number could be as high as 48, and it’s definitely at least in the double digits, making her one of the most prolific monsters her country has ever seen.
6 She Kept Trophies From Most Of Her Victims
While Juana Barraza's interest in art remains unclear, this doesn’t mean she was completely blind to the possessions and belongings of her victims. If anything, the fact she did rob every last person she murdered of some valuable item should be a sign the painting indeed had absolutely nothing to do with her crimes, or else she probably would've taken them, too. Instead, Barraza would usually steal decorative holiday ornaments or religious items from the little old ladies she killed, further implying they all fit the cliché her vicious nickname would imply. After Barraza was caught, these repeat thefts added an additional 11 burglary counts to the various charges of murder she was facing, showing this was hardly a heat-of-the-moment decision in some of her killings but regular and, most likely, planned behavior.
5 Police Had Trouble Believing A Woman Committed Her Crimes
To this day, when police hear there’s a serial killer on the loose, their first instinct is to assume that the culprit is almost definitely a man. Female mass murderers have existed all throughout history, yet it nonetheless is far more common that a male would start a murderous rampage, statistically speaking. Because of this trend, police strongly believed La Mataviejitas was a man from the moment they found the first body. Eventually, they would make the mild concession that the suspect could be a man in woman’s clothing or possibly a transgender person but remained firm that whoever it was had short, masculine hair and appeared powerfully strong. Reports also indicate that Barraza would occasionally sexually abuse some of her victims with household items, adding to the confusion and making it seem impossible a woman could've done such horrible things.
4 She Was Caught Fleeing The Scene Of Her Last Victim
With a death toll some believe was in the upper 40s, La Mataviejitas was still at large in January 2006, when she murdered her final victim, Ana María de los Reyes Alfaro. Authorities still had absolutely no clue who she was and had few leads that could lead them to her until one minor difference between Alfaro and all her other victims changed the case in a major way. Unlike everyone else Barraza had murdered, Alfaro didn’t live alone, having rented out a room to a young man named José Joel López. Either forgetting or wanting to earn Barraza’s favor, Alfaro lied about this fact, and it ultimately brought Mataviejitas to justice when López came home mere minutes after his landlord had been murdered. Immediately, López informed the police that a large woman in red had just ran out of his building after murdering his 82-year-old neighbor, and within minutes, Juana Barraza was apprehended at long last.
3 She Confessed To One Murder And Denied All Others
Caught fleeing the scene of a murder, Juana Barraza had little choice in admitting her involvement with Ana María de los Reyes Alfaro’s death. However, in her words, she had “only” killed one little old lady, and the accusation that she was La Mataviejitas was a scapegoat job to the highest degree. Of course, this story got a little more suspect when Barraza went on to confess two further murders after evidence made it clear she was involved with them, as well. Not that we’re trying to defend Barraza in any way, but it's worth pointing out that serial killers' numbers can get inflated by police assuming unrelated crimes must've been committed by the same people. This doesn’t mean Barraza didn’t viciously murder dozens of old women and deserve to rot in jail for it, of course. That said, there could, in fact, be another Mataviejitas still out there responsible for half the crimes people think Barraza committed and needing the same punishment.
2 She Was Sentenced To 759 Years In Prison
Regardless of Juana Barraza's denial, Mexican courts found her guilty of 16 murders in the spring of 2008. In the American legal system, this would almost definitely mean either life in prison or possibly the death sentence, depending on which state it took place in. Mexico handles things differently, though, and chose to impose a sentence of 759 years in prison or roughly 43 years for every death she was found guilty of having caused. Technically speaking, there's no such thing as a sentence of life imprisonment in Mexico, which would explain why authorities felt such an incredibly long time was necessary to ensure she never again walked free. Unfortunately, Mexican law also makes it possible for Barazza to petition for parole in 50 years, but given she’ll be a little old lady herself by then, there’s not much risk she’ll be the same menace she once was.
1 She Blamed Her Mother’s Abuse For Her Own Actions
There’s no excusing the actions committed by Juana Barraza in any way, yet from the very beginning, it was pretty darn easy for psychologists to figure out the source of her madness. As it would turn out, Barraza herself was aware of her mother’s undying negative influence on her, openly admitting it was long-standing rage about how she was sold to an abuser for a measly three beers that made her resent all older women throughout her life. Barraza’s victims all reminded her of her mother in one way or another, which brought her back to the horrific childhood no one should have to endure. Of course, these women were not Barraza’s mother but merely had a resemblance to her, and thus, in no way deserved the awful torment Barraza brought upon them.
Sources: The Guardian, BBC, Reuters, Entre Semana