Prosecutors in the State of Mexico, bordering Mexico City, revealed the discovery in a statement obtained by the Associated Press on Saturday and suggested that the findings may increase in size as the investigation continues.
On May 14, the authorities began investigating the home of a suspect they have only referred to as a 72-year-old man called Andrés, after he was arrested for allegedly killing a 34-year-old woman before dismembering her body with a butcher’s hacksaw.
The man, whose full name cannot be released under Mexican law, lives in the municipality of Atizapan de Zaragoza, near Mexico City.
Since May 17, when excavations began, investigators have dug up floors of the suspect’s house, but will now search below other rooms on the property that the man rents out.
Alongside the 3,787 bone fragments, investigators have so far found ID cards and other possessions from people who disappeared in the area years ago, which suggests that the alleged crimes go back a long time.
During the excavations, police also found 91 photographs, eight cell phones, women’s jewelry, and videotapes, which they believe contain footage from the man filming the victims.
Prosecutors said that the number of bone fragments discovered suggests that the suspect cut up the victims into tiny pieces before hiding the evidence underneath rooms in his house. They revealed that Andrés was a butcher and allegedly fileted his last victim.
“The bones fragments are being subjected to ‘lateralization’ studies, which include carefully cleaning each one, identifying what part of the body they are and then placing them in their anatomical position, providing a method for determining the approximate number of victims,” the office said in a statement on Saturday.
“This analysis indicates that, up to now, the bone fragments found may possibly be those of 17 people.”
Investigators revealed that Andrés was caught because his latest victim was the wife of a police commander that he knew personally.
Andrés was supposed to accompany the woman on a shopping trip the day she disappeared, causing the officer to suspect him when she did not return home. The commander obtained security footage showing her entering the home of the suspect but not leaving.
Andrés has been ordered to stand trial for the suspected murder of the 34-year-old woman, while the authorities will continue to search his home and analyze the bone fragments to extract DNA to link them to victims.
Newsweek has contacted the authorities in Mexico for comment.