VILLAHERMOSA, Mexico -- Four children who vanished on their way to primary school have been discovered suffocated and buried on a ranch not far from their homes in southern Mexico, according to Tabasco state authorities.
Three of the children who were formally interred by their families at dawn Saturday were siblings and another was their neighbor on a hillside in the colonial town of Tapijulapa. Their ages ranged from 7 to 10.
The state Attorney General's Office said that the mothers became alarmed when their children did not return from school Tuesday afternoon, and when they went to question school officials, found that the students had never arrived.
The bodies were discovered on Friday in shallow graves at a ranch named "Honey and Milk" about two miles (three kilometers) outside the town, which is in the municipality of Tacotalpa. Their faces had been covered with brown packing tape, which caused them to suffocate, the agency said in its statement issued Friday.
The motive for the killings remained unclear, but state Attorney General Gregorio Romero said investigators had found no sign of sexual abuse or organ trafficking.
The parents of the children are hardscrabble corn farmers living in wood houses on the edge of the picturesque town, and the children walked about a mile (two kilometers) to school each day, crossing the Oxolotan River. Another child reported seeing them that morning near a soccer field on their way to school.
Anita Gomez Perez, whose 7-year-old son Samuel was one of the victims, wept as she told reporters that she usually accompanied her child to school, "but that day, I don't know what happened to me. He didn't want to go to school, he didn't want to get up, and I told him to get dressed so they would not mark him down."