A woman accused of being the chief of a cell of assassins in a faction of the Sinaloa Cartel is in custody in Baja California Sur, the remote Mexican state that has experienced a swell of violence since last year in an internal cartel split.
Authorities in Baja California Sur on Sunday said they captured Melissa Margarita Calderón Ojeda, also known as "La China," at the Cabo San Lucas airfield as she attempted to board a flight to the Sinaloa state capital of Culiacán on Saturday.
Calderón Ojeda is said to be the leader of a Sinaloa Cartel squad of hitmen accused of involvement in an internal struggle over trafficking routes in the Baja peninsula that has left more than 133 people dead since July 2014.
Twenty two people were killed in the area in August alone, reported the Tijuana investigative newsweekly Zeta.
La China, who is 30 or 31, led a group of assassins within a Sinaloa Cartel faction called Las Fuerzas Especiales de "Los Dámaso." Her group within Los Dámaso is said to be at war over control of La Paz, capital of Baja California Sur, with a rival group of sicarios within Los Dámaso, along with another Sinaloa Cartel hit-squad called Los Antrax.
The search for La China intensified after the arrest in June of her boyfriend and lieutenant, Pedro Hector Gomez Camarena, known as "El Chino." He led authorities to clandestine graves, said to have held between four and six bodies, that were buried at the behest of La China in the northern section of La Paz.
El Chino also stated that La China has been trying to create an independent cell within Los Dámaso and this may have contributed to the continuing violence, according to Zeta.
Photos released by Baja California Sur authorities showed a woman with fair skin and dark hair wearing handcuffs on one hand only. Baja California Sur state secretary Alvaro de la Peña Angulo said the detention was made "without a shot fired."
La China reportedly works with other women, specifically Gabriela Hulzar Lopez, or "La Gaby," to lure and kill their rivals, authorities told local news outlets.
In one documented case, which has been said to be their typical modus operandi, La Gaby pretended to be drunk outside of a bar, falling down, with her skirt nearly above her waist. When the intended target stopped to try to help the woman, La China emerged from the darkness, guns blazing.
Above, watch "Inside El Chapo's Escape Tunnel."
Follow Nathaniel Janowitz on Twitter: @ngjanowitz