Pick Me Up! magazine asked for my professional opinion on Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo, an American serial killer, drug dealer, and cult leader. I supplied the following psychological insight.
Born in Miami in 1962, Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo was the son of a 15-year–old Cuban immigrant, Delia Aurora Gonzalez del Valle.The following years she was regularly arrested on charges ranging from trespassing to shoplifting, check fraud, grand theft and child neglect. But she always escaped with probation, crediting it to her religion.
What effect would it have had on Adolfo that his mother was a criminal who’d been accused of child neglect?
The evidence suggests that Adolfo’s mother included him in her crimes, role modelling and teaching Adolfo from a young age about the art of crime.
She had six-months-old Adolfo blessed by a Haitian priest of the “palo mayombe,” religion after he declared that Adolfo was “a chosen one” and “destined for great power.”
Palo Mayombe draws no line between “black” and “white” magic and allows practitioners to choose a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ path without moral judgement – hence its popularity with criminals and drug dealers.
They moved to Puerto Rico, where she immersed herself and Adolfo in palo mayombe. When he was 10 he was apprenticed to a Haitian priest.
Delia left a string of rented houses bloodstained and littered with the remains of sacrificial animals. If neighbours gossiped about her she left headless animal corpses on their doorsteps.
Can you explain what effect all of this would have on such a young child as he develops?
As a child, Adolfo is likely to have experienced a sense of isolation and separation from the rest of the world. His world comprised himself, his mother, and a religion that allowed crime and drug dealing. Not only would he have felt different to everyone else, but he was also prevented from seeing how others live, how other mother’s behave, and how children generally are not taught to steal but to play. The impact of this is immense, from giving Adolfo a very narrow view of the world to making it very difficult for him to develop healthy interpersonal and relationship skills. This set him up for a lonely childhood and a maladjusted adulthood. Constanzo failed at high school and cruised Miami gay bars in his teens.
He knew he was gay from a young age. Again, what effect might this have had?
By 19 he and his mentor were cursing their enemies with voodoo dolls. He claimed he was psychic and could predict the future. Adolfo’s mentor told him: “Let the nonbelievers kill themselves with drugs. We will profit from their foolishness.”
Age 21 Constanzo pledged himself to Kadiempembe, the religion’s Satan. Devoting himself to evil for profit. At his initiation ceremony, mystic symbols werecarved into Constanzo’s flesh. “My soul is dead,” he proclaimed. “I have no god.”
Why might Adolfo have chosen the dark side of the religion? What else can you say about all this?
Adolfo moved to Mexico City in 1983, predicting futures for money. He was very charismatic and recruited his first disciples, including two men who he’d sleep with, one as his “man” the other as his “woman,” depending on his whim. He lived with both, collecting other followers as his reputation spread.
He read futures, offering wealthy dealers predictions of safe times to transport drugs, and freed them from curses. Offered magic to make them bulletproof and invisible to police.
As well as drugs cartels, his clients included doctors, police officers, narcotics investigators, even from Interpol. They all worshipped Constanzo as a minorgod, ambassador to Hell itself.
What can this tell us about him? What effect would this power have on him and how did it influence what followed?
Now he called himself El Padrino (the Godfather) and was earning huge sums of money. To put on a show he raided graveyards for human bones to feed his cauldron along with blood, animal remains, spiders, scorpions.
Then he started feeding his cauldron with human sacrifices. Some were dealers who he’d fallen out with, others ex-lovers or cult members who’d been disobedient. Others were kidnapped strangers, or children.
Mutilation and pain were essential to palo mayombe. The demons were more likely to smile on a sacrifice that died in agony. “They must die screaming,” El Padrino told his flock. The victims were all men – and he’d rape them all before they died and their body parts used in rituals.
Again, what can you tell us about this? It seems the rapes were simply for his own pleasure, not linked to the religion.
Constanzo seduced a formerly A-grade college student, Sara. She soon worshipped him and became La Madrina (Godmother.). Though they sometimes had sex, she reluctantly accepted that he preferred men.
What are your thoughts on this?
He took over another powerful drugs cartel, offering magic protection via his murderous rituals in return for 50% of all their profits.
But one victim was kidnapped American Mark Kilroy. He came from a wealthy family – his disappearance launched a massive police search.
They raided the ranch after a tip off. Found numerous bodies. Cult members admitted freely to the murders but insisted they were protected by a higher power. ‘It’s our religion,’ one said. ‘Our voodoo.’
Constanzo and Sara went on the run with his two male lovers and a hitman, “El Duby”. They escaped capture for months.
But Constanzo read betrayal in his tarot cards. He kept an Uzi and rarely slept. He threatened his little gang. “They cannot kill you but I can.”
When he saw on the TV the police burning down his ranch and conducting a full exorcism over the site, he was wild with rage.
Police started searching their street – for a missing child – but Constanzo panicked, opening fire.
What does all of this tell you about him?
Soon they were in a siege with 180 armed police.Constanzo gave his Uzi to the hitman, El Duby. “He told me to kill him and Martin. I told him I couldn’t do it, but he hit me in the face and threatened that everything would go bad for me in hell. Then he hugged Martin, and I just stood in front of them and shot them.” The pair died. El Duby, Orea and Sara were arrested. El Duby cheerfully told police “The godfather will not be dead for long.”
What are your thoughts on his decision to die rather than face justice? Do you think Constanzo believed he would rise again? If not, what does it show about him?
The survivors all got massive jail sentences. It’s unknown how many victims Constanzo killed. But Sara told reporters, “I don’t think the religion will end with us, because it has a lot of people in it. It will continue.”