Forensic scientists in the Mexican state of Sonora have recovered 10 more bodies from mass graves near a beach town, raising the total number of bodies and skeletons found in the area since October to 52. The state attorney's office said Saturday they were tipped off to the desert burial pits by a group of volunteers called Searching Mothers that tries to find missing people, the AP reports. The remains will be taken to the state capital of Hermosillo for possible identification. The bodies were found near the Gulf of California beach town of Puerto Penasco, known to US tourists as Rocky Point. Drug and kidnapping gangs often bury the bodies of people they have killed in such clandestine sites.
Authorities began pulling human remains from the burial pits at the end of October. A handful of the skeletons still had clothing and decomposing flesh on them. Mexican forensic personnel are conducting autopsies and asking relatives of missing people in the area to submit DNA samples for comparison. The discoveries have offered a glimmer of hope to families searching for loved ones such as Rolando Gutierrez, a US citizen who was last heard from while in Puerto Penasco in 2017. "I feel like this is it—there's a chance that we might be able to find closure," says Chavie Gutierrez, one of Rolando's five siblings. (Mormons are fleeing northern Mexico after the massacre of nine women and children from their community.)