September 16, 1999

New evidence revives old questions in Guatemala bishop's murder

                  GUATEMALA CITY (AP) -- FBI analyses show that blood found near the
                  site of a Guatemalan bishop's slaying match that of a priest and two other
                  men, the chief investigator said Thursday.

                  The new evidence raises old questions about the possible involvement of the
                  priest in the April 1998 murder of Roman Catholic Bishop Juan Gerardi, a
                  human rights crusader who criticized the military's role in the nation's 36-year
                  civil war.

                  Blood samples recovered from a rug in the room of the Rev. Mario Orantes,
                  located down the hall from the garage where Gerardi was bludgeoned to
                  death, were a mixture of blood from Orantes, a vagrant who often slept in
                  front of the parish, and a former drug dealer, prosecutor Celvin Galindo Lopez

                  "It's normal that 'It's my room, I cut myself, and I bleed there,' but it's not
                  normal to find 'my blood' mixed with the blood of two different people,"
                  Galindo said. "There are at least 10 reasons why the bloods could be mixed. I
                  can't explain it yet."

                  Orantes could not be reached for comment Thursday.

                  The priest who served as an assistant to Gerardi was arrested in June 1998
                  and held for eight months before murder charges against him were dropped
                  for lack of evidence. He was never officially cleared as a suspect, however,
                  and could still face charges.

                  The two other men who match the blood samples also have been linked to the
                  investigation. Ruben Chanx Sontay, a homeless man, has been a key witness.

                  Hours after the murder, Chanx identified Rafael Eduardo Perdomo Cabrera, a
                  former drug dealer, as having asked about Gerardi's schedule habits days
                  previous to the killing.

                  According to official reports, investigators who searched Perdomo's house
                  found a chain and watch similar to those taken from the bishop, but both items
                  later disappeared while in the hands of the public prosecutor's office.

                  Galindo said analyses of eight other DNA samples, which could place military
                  officers at the scene of the crime, have yet to be confirmed.

                  Most Guatemalans suspect political or military involvement in the killing.
                  Gerardi was slain two days after he presented a church report blaming the
                  army for most human rights violations during Guatemala's civil war, which
                  ended with 1996 peace accords.

                  Log books taken Monday from an elite military unit show discrepancies from
                  testimony provided by the army about the role of a military specialist, Galindo
                  said. The army had said that a military photographer who arrived at the crime
                  scene shortly after the murder was a photographer who commonly covered
                  military events and weddings, but the log books describe him as an intelligence