TLALMANALCO, Mexico - The bodies were headless and covered in lime and asbestos, hidden under a thick concrete slab - young men and women not seen since they went out partying in an upscale area of Mexico's capital nearly three months ago.
As the families of 12 missing youths settled in Saturday for an anguished wait for DNA identification, they and others said this week's gruesome discovery at a muddy mass grave in the countryside east of Mexico City was bitter vindication for those who have said all along that the city's top law-enforcement officials downplayed the disappearances and were at best incompetent in trying to find their loved ones.
The bodies were only found once federal investigators stepped in - after waiting impatiently for local police to make progress.
Family members of youth who disappeared in May from a Mexico City nightclub listen to prosecutor Rodolfo Rios at a press conference regarding a mass grave that was found in Mexico City, Thursday.
The kidnapping and murder has revealed a gangland battle for control of the lucrative drug trade in the poshest bars and nightclubs of a megalopolis that had been an oasis of calm during Mexico's nearly seven-year drug war.
A federal official who helped discover the bodies said that they were found separately from their heads in what could be a frightening echo of the brutal mutilations of drug cartel victims in other parts of Mexico. The official spoke condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation.
"Mexico City is not a bubble. If we don't put a stop to it, we're going to fall into a serious security problem," said Miguel Amelio Gomez, a security consultant and former investigative police chief for Mexico City's attorney-general.
The kidnapping occurred three months ago midday on a sunny Sunday in an upscale district in the heart of Mexico City, five cars pulled up outside the after-hours club known as Heaven, a block from federal police administrative offices and the U.S. Embassy. Eight men and four women who had been partying all night left and climbed inside, grainy surveillance video shows.
Then they vanished.
Mexico City police said they were working on the case. But after more than two months of little progress, federal investigators were brought in. They discovered 13 bodies, apparently the 12 young victims and an unidentified person, on Aug. 16 on a ranch 35 miles from where they disappeared. Tattoos and dental work identified at least five of the victims from the Heaven club. Work to identify the rest continued Saturday.