Image: Jose and Marisela Molinar
Courtesy of the Molinar family
Jose Molinar and his wife of 22 years Marisela are seen in their home in El Paso, Texas, in December, 2007. Marisela Granados de Molinar died the following December in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, when she was caught in that city’s escalating drug violence.
Image: F. Brinley Bruton
By Reporter
msnbc.com
updated 3/9/2009 6:07:35 AM ET 2009-03-09T10:07:35

Getting the 2009 Dodge in which Jose Molinar's wife was shot dead back into Texas from Mexico quickly grew complicated.

"The inspectors didn’t want to get near it because the way it was with all the blood and everything," said the 48-year-old warehouse supervisor from El Paso. "They were going to put one of those dogs on it to smell, but the dog didn’t want to go near it either."

The car, its windshield splashed with bullet holes, drew plenty of attention as it crossed into the United States about two weeks ago.

"People were looking at it on the bridge and it caused a fender bender," said Molinar, who moved the car into the United States in order to release it to his insurance company. "I think everybody who saw it firsthand thought, 'Here’s a vehicle that was shot at in Juarez, here it is right in front of me.'"

Molinar’s wife of 22 years, Marisela Granados de Molinar, died on Dec. 3, 2008, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, when assassins pumped more than 80 rounds into her car.

Molinar does not believe his wife, an office manager in the country’s attorney general’s office, was the target. Instead, the attackers were going after her boss, Jesus Martin Huerta Hiedra, a deputy prosecutor who was catching a ride to Wal-Mart in El Paso.

"One shot hit her right in the heart … when they were shooting at him from the side she was hit again, in her leg, but by then she had already passed," he recently told msnbc.com by telephone, speaking in a low, measured voice.

Molinar's wife was one of an estimated 25,000 El Paso residents who regularly brave growing perils to commute cross-border into Juarez to work.

Granados and Huerta were just two of a growing number of people killed in the war between Mexico’s government and cartels controlling the flow of marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamines into the United States.

The gangs retaliated against the police, army and government officials with horrific violence after President Felipe Calderon Hinojosa started cracking down on traffickers in late 2006. Deaths have spiraled since then: drug-related slayings doubled in 2008 to an estimated 5,300 throughout Mexico. About 1,000 people have been killed so far in 2009.

‘My wife wasn’t afraid’
While Molinar is trying to resign himself to his wife’s death, he is also angry.

"The people that did the shootings could have just taken him, right? It wasn’t like my wife was going to stop them, they were carrying AK-47s and she wasn’t carrying anything. I guess I’m angry at everybody on all sides. First of all, you know the Mexican government, it’s probably going to be one of those unsolved cases," he said.

"The American government — there’s a lot of things, but according to what I've been reading recently all these weapons going across to Mexico (are from the United States)," he said. "So I think everybody here is a little bit to blame."

It is clear that everybody is also more vulnerable, Molinar said.

"My wife wasn’t afraid. Like she said, 'I’m not involved in any of that so I don’t have anything to worry about,'" said Molinar. "But you see what happened, it can happen to you and a lot of people now have realized that because she was one of the ones that was clearly not involved."

Ignoring police barricades
On the day of the assassination, Molinar rushed across the border to Juarez after watching a report of the incident on the television. He ignored police barricades to get to his wife’s car, he said.

"I stood there at the window and I saw my wife, I stood for I don’t know how long," he said. "I needed to be sure, I guess because I couldn’t believe it. I see them every day, especially today," said Molinar, who spoke on the three-month anniversary of his wife’s death.

BLOODSHED IN JUAREZ
Shaul Schwarz  /  Reportage for Getty Images
The inside of Marisela Granados de Molinar's car after she was killed on Dec. 3 alongside her boss, Jesus Martin Huerta Hiedra, a deputy prosecutor in Mexico's Ciudad Juarez.
"There were 85 (bullet) casings — 85 casings — that’s an extremely big amount," said Molinar. "I guess it’s kind of lucky that they didn’t do to my wife what they did to (Huerta), because he got hit with 70. He was hit in the face, the head, just about everywhere you can imagine."

"We were fortunate to have an open casket, I’m sure they weren’t able," he said. "And his family were lucky they didn’t have to see him the way I did."

These and other images from Dec. 3 still haunt Molinar, something going back to work has not helped, as many people suggested it would.

"Everybody said going back to work will help you get your mind off it, but it didn’t, it was worse," he said.

"She would call me at certain times of the day. So when 9:00 came around, I usually got a phone call. When 3:00 came around, same thing," Molinar said. "And now I don’t."

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Photos: Mexico Under Siege

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  1. A tattooed man stands on a hill overlooking Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, one of the most dangerous cities in the world, on Dec. 20, 2008. Cartels have launched a wave of violence against the government of President Felipe Calderon since it began a crackdown on organized crime in 2006. According to the attorney general’s office there were 5,370 drug-related homicides in the year to Dec. 2, 2008. That is double the 2007 number. Juarez alone saw an estimated 1,600 such slayings. And the deaths can be horrific – victims have been tortured, beheaded or dissolved in acid. (Shaul Schwarz / Reportage by Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Inside the car where Marisela Granados de Molinar was killed on Dec. 3 alongside her boss, Jesus Martin Huerta Hiedra, a deputy prosecutor in the Mexican city of Juarez. (Shaul Schwarz / Reportage by Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Federal police search cars at an impromptu checkpoint near the U.S. border on Nov. 10, 2008. In the late 1980s the United States stemmed the flow of cocaine from South America through the traditional trade routes in the Caribbean. Looking for alternate ways into the U.S., South American cartels began to run drugs through Central America and Mexico, and now the vast majority of illegal drugs flow through this corridor. Facing the recent slew of deaths and corruption scandals among all levels of the police, the government has deployed 45,000 soldiers to fight the cartels as well. (Shaul Schwarz / Reportage by Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Missing person signs litter the walls of local police stations in Juarez. Kidnapping is integral to the drug-running business and the general lawlessness accompanying it. Before the latest surge in drug violence, Juarez was infamous for another gruesome string of crimes – the kidnapping and murder of young women. There have been 508 such incidents since 1993, according to the state government. When the bodies do show up, many have been raped and mutilated. Many believe that most of these deaths are related to gang initiation rituals. (Shaul Schwarz / Reportage by Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. El Diario newspaper's Armando Rodriquez was murdered outside his home while warming up his car on Nov. 13, 2008. The 40-year-old crime reporter was killed in front of his 8-year-old daughter who he was about to drive to school. Mexico is one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Since 2000, 25 have been killed there. In addition, seven journalists have disappeared since 2005. Many reporters refuse to put their bylines on stories, and many newspapers have stopped covering the drug gangs altogether. (Shaul Schwarz / Reportage by Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. The body of El Diario's Rodriquez -- killed in his car outside his house while his family watched in November 2008 -- is taken away in a body bag by an ambulance. (Shaul Schwarz / Reportage by Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. A U.S. official stands beside a recently discovered cache of drugs on the El Paso-Ciudad Juarez border crossing. In December, the United States delivered $197 million to Mexico, the first stage of a $400-million package to buy high-tech surveillance aircraft, airport inspection equipment, and case-tracking software to help police share intelligence. (Shaul Schwarz / Reportage by Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Men and boys shoot heroin in a "picadero," or shooting gallery, in Ciudad Juarez on the banks of the Rio Grande, just across from the United States. Thousands of picaderos, some serving as many as 100 customers a day, are said to exist in Juarez alone. Drug use and addiction among Mexicans has exploded recently, with the number of known addicts almost doubling to 307,000 in six years. Most experts assume these numbers dramatically undercount the problem. (Shaul Schwarz / Reportage by Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Patrons and workers mingle at Hollywood strip club in downtown Juarez. With American sex tourism on the decline due to the dramatic increase in murder and violence, the few remaining strip clubs have become common hangouts for narcotics traffickers, or ‘narcos.’ (Shaul Schwarz / Reportage by Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A man walks in front of 24-hour funeral parlor. The death industry is booming in Juarez where an estimated 1,600 people were murdered in 2008. (Shaul Schwarz / Reportage by Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Neighbors and family of slain Alberto Rodriquez, 28, watch and cry as the authorities descend on the crime scene. Rodriguez was killed in his car outside his house while his family watched. (Shaul Schwarz) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. A bus carrying women and children drives by the site where David Rodriguez Gardea, 42, and Antonio Bustillos Fierro, 38, were gunned down on Nov. 12, 2008. The agents had led an investigation resulting in the arrests of gang members suspected in dozens of murders. The cartels are killing police officers at an unprecedented rate, especially at the border. Gangs have been breaking into police radio frequencies to issue death threats. "You're next, bastard ... We're going to get you," an unidentified drug gang member said over the police radio in the city of Tijuana after naming a policeman, Reuters reported recently. (Shaul Schwarz / Reportage by Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. A U.S. border patrol officer stands behind bullet-scared bullet-proof glass on the El Paso-Ciudad Juarez border. Although border agents do not get shot at often they are self-described "sitting ducks." The cartels and drug traffickers send messages of terror through such examples. (Shaul Schwarz / Reportage by Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. The casket of David Miranda Ramirez, 36, is carried by fellow police at his funeral on Nov. 13, 2008. An estimated 50 of Ciudad Juarez’s police officers were killed in 2008 in incidents blamed on drug gangs. Many officers have quit out of fear for their lives, often after their names have appeared on hit lists left in public. While some police have been killed, others are being lured into cooperating with the cartels. Theses gangs have “enormous economic power, and behind that, enormous power to corrupt and intimidate,” says Attorney General Eduardo Medina-Mora. (Shaul Schwarz / Reportage by Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Family of slain police officer Miranda Ramirez mourn his loss at his funeral. (Shaul Schwarz / Reportage by Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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