March 19, 2018
Tonala, Jalisco, Mexico
Three cinematography students — Javier Salomón Aceves Gastélum (25), Marco García Francisco Ávalos (20), and Jesús Daniel Díaz (20) — go missing

The students attended the Universidad de Medios Audiovisuales in Guadalajara, and traveled to Tonala about 17 km (10.5 miles) away to film a college project. Unbeknownst to the men, the location they chose was a safehouse for the Nuevo Plaza cartel.

Left to right: Javier Salomón Aceves Gastélum, Marco García Francisco Ávalos, and Jesús Daniel Díaz

According to government officials, the trio was spotted by members of the Cartel Jalisco Nuevo Generación (CJNG) — the Nuevo Plaza’s rivals — and were mistaken for members of the opposing group. As Gastélum, Díaz, and Ávalos emerged from the house, they were abducted by six armed men, taken to another location, and tortured during an interrogation. One of the students was killed during the torture, and the other two were executed soon after.

Investigators searching for the missing students interviewed over 400 people, eventually leading to Christian Omar Palma Gutiérrez (24), a YouTube rapper who used the name QBA professionally. During questioning, Gutiérrez admitted to disposing of the students’ bodies by dissolving them in sulphuric acid, a task he was often given by the CJNG he claimed, and he was linked to three previous murders whose victims were discarded in a similar manner. Gutiérrez would leave the bodies in acid for a period of days then return to pour the liquids into a storm drain and the sludge in a field. Supporting this claim were 46 56-liter (roughly 15-US gallon) drums containing sulphuric acid at a site deemed to be the location of the murders. Additionally, human remains that had not been completely destroyed were analyzed using familial DNA. The remains were matched to the parents of Gastélum, Díaz, and Ávalos.

The murders of Gastélum, Díaz, and Ávalos sparked widespread protests with demonstrators criticizing the Mexican government for the large number of missing young people in the country; by the end of 2016, the Mexican war on drugs had reportedly led to the disappearances of 30,000. As Juan Martinez Perez, director of Rights to Childhood, stated, “the disappearance of children, teen and young adults is attributable to factors including organized crime, lack of protection by the government, corruption and authorities’ complicity with criminal groups in many places.”

“The absurd war on drugs is taking our classmates and we will not allow it anymore,” Jesus Medina, a student leader of the University of Guadalajara, told reporters in a similar statement.

Student protestors carry a sign reading “No Son Tres, Somos Todos” (translated: It’s Not Three, It’s All Of Us)
AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo

Along with those who protested the government for failing to protect its people, others have rejected the official statement regarding the students’ murders. “What they presented is based on indications,” demonstrator Oscar Juarez told reporters, “there is not strong scientific evidence. There are many doubts.”

I could find no information pertaining to the case in regards to any convictions or sentences, from either Spanish- or English-language sources.

“#NoSonTresSomosTodxs.” La Gente. June 9, 2018. Accessed: March 19, 2021.
Javier Salomón Aceves Gastélum. Justice in Mexico. May 5, 2018. Accessed: March 19, 2021.
Rosenberg, Eli. “Mexican YouTube rapper melted bodies of slain film students in acid for cartel, officials say.” Chicago Tribune. April 28, 2018. Accessed: March 19, 2021.
Stevenson, Mark. “Mexican rapper linked to death of three students.” Daily News [Bowling Green, Kentucky]. April 28, 2018
“Rallies for peace as Mexican rapper QBA admits dissolving bodies.” CBS News. April 27, 2018. Accessed: March 19, 2021.
“El rapero “QBA” procesado en México por su participación en el asesinato de tres estudiantes disueltos en ácido.” BBC News. April 26, 2018. Accessed: March 19, 2021. (Spanish)
“3 missing film students believed killed and dissolved in acid, Mexico officials say.” CBS News. April 24, 2018. Accessed: March 19, 2021.
“El macabro final de tres estudiantes en México que fueron asesinados y disueltos en ácido tras ser confundidos con narcos.” BBC News. April 24, 2018. Accessed: March 19, 2021.
“Fiscalía confirma muerte de estudiantes desaparecidos en Jalisco.” Excelsior. Accessed: March 19, 2021. (Spanish)

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