Last week horror fans discovered that one of the genre’s most notorious villains, Thomas Harris’s Hannibal Lecter, was based on a real doctor imprisoned in Mexico, whom the author met while visiting the prison as a young man to interview another inmate named Dykes Askew Simmons. Last spring, through my editor, I received a message from Harris, who wanted me to find and identify someone who had been a prisoner in the Nuevo Leon State Prison during the 50s and 60s. For a few moments I thought I’d wind up sustaining an epistolary exchange with Harris like Hannibal held with some of his patients. As I read the note, however, it became clear that I was only needed as a sort of hired detective. His note read [sic]:
I need information about a medical doctor, known in the press as “The Werewolf of Nuevo Leon,” who was a prisoner in the Nuevo Leon State Prison in the late 1950’s and the l960s. I do not know his name. The doctor was convicted of killing hitchhikers in Nuevo Leon, dismembering them and throwing them piecemeal out of his car at night. The doctor saved the life of another prisoner, Dykes Askew Simmons, in the prison when Simmons was shot by prison guards while trying to escape. The doctor also treated poor people for free while he was a prisoner, and had a medical office inside the prison.
Simmons was a Texan convicted in Nuevo Leon in March, 1961, of murdering three young members of the Perez Villagomez family in October, l959. He was sentenced to death, a sentence later commuted to 30 years. He was in the Nuevo Leon State Prison from 1961 until his escape in 1969. The case of Simmons, and probably the case of the doctor, were covered by the newspapers El Norte de Nuevo Leon and El Sol de Nuevo Leon. Two of the El Norte reporters who wrote about Simmons were Ricardo Bartres and Esteban Ardines.
Any help would be much appreciated.
Good read on investigative journalism. I’d totally take these kind of assignments.
Spoiler: his name was Alfredo Ballí Treviño.