Mothers searching for their missing loved ones led authorities to 17 bodies or remains buried in the backyards and patios of houses in a low-income development in northern Mexico.
The Sonora State Office of the Attorney General revealed Monday that the bodies were found stacked in four secret graves at abandoned homes in the Sonora municipality of Ciudad Obregón.
The local authorities said the victims had apparently been killed between six months and a year ago.
Prosecutors said the discoveries were made over the weekend after the Guerreras Buscadoras de Cajeme (Warrior Searchers of Cajeme) and Rastreadoras de Ciudad Obregón (Ciudad Obregón Tracers) began canvassing the area last Friday.
Mexican newspaper Expreso reported that members of the Guerreras Buscadoras de Cajeme located the remains of two people at a home at 908 Espada Street on Friday and found three more bodies at the same property Saturday.
They searched a second abandoned residence at 904 Espada Street, where they found two more bodies.
Also on Saturday, the Rastreadoras de Ciudad Obregón collective were able to find two other bodies at a home in the same neighborhood. They went back Sunday and located eight more.
The state attorney general’s office said the bodies would undergo genetic and forensics tests to identify them.
Video footage showed searchers digging by hand and with a backhoe in the yards, and in some cases under the foundations of the homes.
While it is more common for bodies to be buried in pits in vacant lots or outside of towns, some drug cartels in Mexico use abandoned or rented dwellings as execution chambers for kidnapping victims or suspected rivals, and simply bury the bodies under the floors or in the yards before leaving.
Sonora has been locked in a bloody three-way turf battle with rival drug gangs, and the discovery of clandestine burial pits has become increasingly common.