María Concepción Ladino Gutiérrez is a Colombian charlatan, swindler and a serial killer. Alias: “Doña Conchita,”“La Hermana María” (“Sister Mary”); called by the press “La Bruja Asesina” (The Killer Witch).
No mention of her age has been located yet, but a photo that appeared in the newspapers has the appearance of a woman of about 40. The image used here was taken from a Columbia’s true crime Discovery Channel show, Instento Asesino, which was first broadcast Feb. 7, 2011.
Her murder career began, as far as is is known, in 1994. She used poison on some of her victims, all of whom believed her claims of having magical powers. One of them was drugged and then incinerated in her own car. In at least two cases, her credulous clients were recipients of letters they were expected to believe were written by the spirits of their deceased loved ones, including from one of the murder victims address to his widow.
The known death toll is seven, plus one poisoning in which the victim survived the attempted murder, as well as at least twenty swindles. The number being indeterminate due to the dupes’ very reasonable fear of violent reprisal from the “witch’s” male accomplices.
She was arrested September 1998 (and assigned a public defender on September 25, 1998), was convicted and sentenced to 40 years in prison on September 11, 2002 and released to "house arrest” in 2009, a decision which, when discovered by El Tiempo, elicited controversy.
~ Murder Number 1: Carlos Julio Montaña (Oct. 13, 1994) ~
The earliest recorder murder, that of 54-year-old father of three Carlos Julio Montaña, occurred in the Fontibón district of western Bogota. On August 15, 1994, Doña Conchita rented rooms in the home of the Montaña family. She soon began to “diagnose” her new landlord as suffering from emaciation and offered him her magical curative.
She offered Señor Montaña baked desserts and gave him a concoction that she poured from “dark bottles” (another news report states they were in pill form), a measure of laxative that Doña Concita announced was worth more than the rent she was paying. After that she coaxed her patient to submit to continuous herbal baths with herbs that wold exorcise the evil spirits from his body. She likewise subjected his three young children to this treatment.
On October 13, when Señora Montaña was absent, she went in for the kill. The poisoner sent the little ones outdoors and prepared to finish him off. At about one in the afternoon according to one newspaper account, she went to her victim’s room and plied him with liquid refreshments.
When, five hours later, the wife returned she was surprised to see that her husband’s lunch, which she had prepared for him, before she left. She went to her husband’s bedroom where she found him, apparently, asleep. Behind her came the magic woman and warned the woman to let him be as he was in a trance in which he was put in order to cure heart disease. She then gathered the mother and children together for a séance for the purpose of spiritually augmenting the Señor Montaña’s magic cure, oblivious to the fact that he had passed away hours earlier.
Unsettled by the witch’s eerie incantations, Señora Montaña panicked and rushed to her husband’s side, where, as reports tells us, he was found in a pool of blood. (It is not made clear how the poisoning led to such a result). She assumed he had died of a heart attack with a burst artery. Then she called the police, but unbeknownst to Señora Montaña, already made the call.
Confronted with the officer after his arrival, Mary maintained an insouciant facade. The widow spooked by the events of the day and the presence of the woman she believed to have supernatural powers failed to report her suspicions. The lodger moved out.
Soon the widow started receiving letters purported to have been written by the spirit of her departed husband. The spirit missives instructed the bereaved woman to put her trust in Doña Concepción. “Trust,” it turned out, came to mean the witch was to have the Montaña home signed over to her possession. The widow was about to given but had a change of heart and turned on the witch, threatening to expose her. Doña Concepción left empty-handed.
~ Murder Number 2: Nebardo Adalberto Guevara Torres (after Aug. 14, 1994) ~
Nebardo Adalberto Guevara Torres, residing in the La Serafina district, came to be the witch’s next target. He owned two livery vehicles, a taxicab and a van. The victim’s brother had told him about a woman dealing in chickens and salt in need of transport. Guevara was not getting enough business and he suspected his cars had been contaminated by the salt. Doña Concita examined the vehicles and announced that indeed they were contaminated and that evil spirits were inhabiting them and his own person as well but that for 500,000 pesos she could disperse them. She gave the victim the same treatment as the last: liquids (a foul-tasting green potion) and herbal baths.
Wearied of the vain rituals, Guevara decided to just get rid of the “contaminated” vehicles and placed an advertisement to sell the. As soon as Doña Concita got wind of this plan she interceded. She said she had a son who would buy them. He agreed to allow Doña Concita to purchase the taxi and van, accepting post-dated checks for 11 million pesos as payment. The checks, of course, bounced; they were from a stolen checkbook. Yet Doña Concita was prepared. She had convinced Guevara to undergo a purification ritual at the river Cáqueza. He went with her and that was the last time he was seen alive. And it was the last time Doña Concita was seen by Señora Guevara. Yet right way the witch was to employ the standard truck she used on her gullible hopelessly superstitious clients: she created letters from the spirit of the dead that were delivered to the widow. The widow reported her missing husband to the police and named Doña Concita as the person responsible. She was arrested, but as there was no hard evidence to hold her as responsible for Guevara’s disappearance, she was released.
~ Murder Number 3: Haydee Sánchez Florez (Aug. 1996) ~
The con woman eventually changed location to Bucaramanga, a major city 186 miles (300 kilometers) to the northeast of Bogota and adopted a new alias, “La Hermana María” (“Sister Mary”). She found her next known murder victim in that city in August 1996, in the shape of a jewelry seller by the name of Haydee Sánchez Florez. He business was doing poorly and she wanted to rid it of “bad energy.” Sister Mary gave her the usual prescription: spiritual spells, curative baths and green-colored magic potions. The witch soon, drugged her victim with benzodiacepina sleeping pills, scooped up her goods and drove her, in the drugged woman’s own car, to a secluded spot doused the jewelry seller with gasoline and lit the fuel, burning her to death.
~ Murder Number 4: Helena Cáceres González (1997) ~
Ladino next performed her magic on an elderly couple living in Ciudad Jardín del Norte de Bogotá. She grabbed 15 million pesos and the wife disappeared. Her corpse was found in the río Amarillo.
~ Multiple Swindles in Ciudad Jardín del Norte de Bogotá (1997) ~
It was learned later, after Ladino had been indicted for multiple murders that in Ciudad Jardín del Norte de Bogotá during this time period that Ladino had defrauded an additional 20 persons. This fact was discovered through telephone calls made to newspaper reporters of El Tiempo who stated that the victims never reported the crimes “for fear that behind it is an organization that could threaten their lives.” El Tiempo did not, at least in articles found by this researcher, did not name the “organization,” but referred to “gunmen friends of Doña Concepcion riding around the city in taxis.” Yet once it is learned (from U. S. court filings) that the organization was the FARC guerrilla communist group the fears prove to have been well-substantiated.
~ Attempted murder: Name unknown ~
Back in the center of Bogota proper she made friends with a woman (at number 17 on calle 19) she learned had saved up 3 million pesos. Ladino poisoned her with scopolamine placed one of her potions yet the victim’s constitution was robust and she survived the attempt on her life. When the victim recovered consciousness her assailant threats cowed her into silence so the crime remained, until much, later unreported.
~ Triple murder: The Bello Clavijo sisters (Oct.? 1997) ~
In early 1997, María Concepción Ladino exploited the painful illness of a dying woman in order to prey upon the old woman’s three daughters Bello Clavijo, Elsa Clara, Luz Stella and Ana Lucia. The lady was suffering from neck cancer and the worried young ladies looked at the magical lady as a possible savior.
Yet Dona Conchita’s potions were of no avail and her patient expired, leaving to the three the a 13 million peso inheritance, which a spoil which the wicked “healer” concentrated her energies. After going through the motions of assuaging the grief over the death of their beloved mother, the three girls were persuaded to invest their inheritance in a magical procedure which Dona Conchita assured them would, in less than four months, double their money.
A month later, she locked himself in a room of the house of the sisters and instructed them to deposit their inheritance money in a chest, and invoked the powers of the spirit world with magical prayers. The cheat was placed under a bed and the credulous girls were then warned that under no circumstanced should they open it.
Following this base theatrical performance, the woman offered to serve as a spirit medium so that the Bello sisters might communicate with the soul of their deceased mother. The result was that girls received more than fifteen letters, which were supposed to have been written by the dear departed, and which announced to the motherless girls that Mrs. Concepcion was to be received as their new mother.
After three months however, the faith of one of the girls was waning, and doubting the witchcraft she disobeyed orders, and peering into the chest found not a multiplication of the original 13 million, but merely four 10,000 peso notes.
To mollify the three furious Bollas, Dona Conchita reassured them by disclosing the wondrous fact only she could – due to her special powers – see the invisible banknotes and, to reassure the suspicious orphans, she offered to conduct a special purification rite in order make their eyes pure enough to see that which was unseen. The ritual was to occur at a natural water source. With this pretext, the girls were led a stream of the Sabana de Bogotá where, with the assistance of two hired killers, they were pummeled to death with stones.
Yet there was a surviving brother, Santiago Bello Clavijo, who immediately instigated an investigation.
Court records from Clavijo’s plea for asylum in the United States, explain the specifics of the “organization” and the gunman friends” that the newspapers so gingerly reported:
“Clavijo is a native and citizen of Colombia. In August 1998, Clavijo’s three sisters were murdered in Colombia after they refused to make extortionate payments to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (“FARC”). Clavijo began assisting Colombian authorities with the investigation into his sisters’ murders. Two days after the murders, Clavijo’s brother received a telephone call from an individual who identified himself as a member of the FARC. The caller threatened to kill Clavijo if he continued to assist with the murder investigation. Clavijo continued to assist the police and continued to receive telephone death threats from the FARC.” [United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit. CLAVIJO v. U.S. ATT. GEN. No. 07-10042 Non-Argument Calendar. (11th Cir. Aug. 13, 2007)]
María Concepción Ladino Gutiérrez was arrested in August 1998. Two of her male accomplices were also captured. She was briefly hospitalized on the 30th of that month after a what appeared to be a suicide attempt. She was brought before the court on September 6th and assigned a public defender on the 25th. The process dragged on, resulting in a trial on multiple charges, ending on September 11, 2002, when the Criminal Court 52 in the Bogota Circuit sentenced Ladino to 40 years in prison fined her $30,000.
In 2009, Ladino was released from prison and placed under “house arrest” as part of a furlough program, with an explanation that the decision was due to medical considerations. The newspaper registered strong complaints about this, and other cases, of violent criminals receiving lenient treatment.
NOTE: This narrative has been patched together from various, sometimes sketchy, sources. It will be checked for accuracy of dates, some of which had to be inferred, as well as other details when additional sources become available.
1) Juan Carlos Escobar, “Crímenes De Una Bruja,” El Tiempo (Bogota, Colombia), Nov. 1, 1998
2) “Condenada La Bruja María Concepción,” El Tiempo (Bogota, Colombia), Sep. 22, 2002
3) Bogotá, D.C., cuatro (4) de agosto de dos mil cuatro (2004). CORTE SUPREMA DE JUSTICIA SALA DE CASACIÓN PENAL, Magistrado Ponente: Dr. EDGAR LOMBANA TRUJILLO Aprobado Acta No. 065, Bogotá, D.C., cuatro (4) de agosto de dos mil cuatro (2004).
4) United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit. CLAVIJO v. U.S. ATT. GEN. No. 07-10042 Non-Argument Calendar. (11th Cir. Aug. 13, 2007)
5) “Estos son los cinco delincuentes que deben estar tras las rejas, pero tienen casa por cárcel,” El Tiempo (Bogota, Colombia), Mar. 20, 2010
►7 Known Murder Victims:
Oct.. 23, 1994 – Carlos Julio Montaña, 54, poisoned, “two glasses of soda”
After Aug. 14, 1994 – Nebardo Adalberto Guevara Torres, “green water,” disppeared
Aug. 1996 – Haydee Sánchez Florez, burned to death
1997 – Helena Cáceres González, body found in river
Oct.? 1997 – Elsa Clara Bello Clavijo, pummeled to death with stones by hired killers
Oct.? 1997 – Luz Stella Bello Clavijo, pummeled to death with stones by hired killers
Oct.? 1997 – Ana Lucia Bello Clavijo, pummeled to death with stones by hired killers