The Art of Ordeal

Kidnaped, tortured and nearly killed in a Mexican hellhole, a Phoenix entrepreneur wants to teach others about the perils of doing business south of the border

"Once he was taken to the spot, all bets were off," says FBI agent Cisneros.

Krusensterna's guard was sleeping when the cops kicked in the door. Krusensterna had dreamed about rescue, imagined the noise and the chaos, and when the real thing went down, he wondered if he were dreaming again -- until the gunfire.

"Then I knew I wasn't dreaming," he says. "My first thought was I was going to be shot sitting in the chair, sure as shit."

When the noise stopped and Krusensterna's blindfold was removed, he saw a bleeding body on the floor in front of him, he says. The FBI says it knows nothing of casualties, and there was no mention of any in the Mexican newspapers.

He wasn't sure if he was being freed or if he had just been rekidnaped, and he cried out when the cops sat him back down in the chair. But they assured him they were only taking pictures to be used later as evidence. He has a printout of one digital shot taken while he was in the chair, but it is so eerily muddled it's reminiscent of the Turin Shroud.

When he got outside, he saw his captor, whom the police identified to the Mexican press as Johnny Alexandre Pedroza Bautista. According to the Mexican press, he'd been hired by Alfredo Torres Zumaya, who allegedly was Gabriela Leyva's boyfriend. While the plot was unfolding, said the papers, Leyva's mother dropped in for a visit. Elvia Ortiz de Leyva allegedly entered into the caper to help convince Krusensterna that she had been kidnaped as well. When the police broke down the door to Krusensterna's prison, she was sleeping in an adjacent bedroom, placed there, ostensibly, as a prop for the evening's meeting with the cops. At first they thought she was another victim. According to the FBI, charges were ultimately dropped against Leyva and her mother, but the FBI would not speculate as to their guilt.

How many others were involved is another mystery. Krusensterna claims to have been assaulted in the first place by three men, and given his size and demeanor, it's hard to believe that two smaller, even younger men could have taken him down so handily.

But Krusensterna's account of his rescue, however vivid, has to be considered the memories of a man nearing death from blood loss and dehydration. He remembers an understandably surreal evening in which the cops loaded him into a police SUV and drove off to catch bad guys for the next five hours. He remembers hanging his head out the window of the truck. He remembers one of the cops giving him a Pepsi, which he drained and immediately threw up, and another cop buying him a pack of crackers, which Krusensterna managed to keep down -- tiny details that would seem insignificant, except that in his condition, they were miraculous.

They passed another police SUV; Leyva was inside, and the cops told Krusensterna they'd surrounded her house and only got her to come out by saying her mother had been shot. The Mexican newspapers later said she'd been caught trying to cross the international bridge into Texas.

Then the cops drove Krusensterna to a nightclub where they told him they were looking for more "bad guys," which he took to mean kidnapers. He sat on the curb like a drunk until the cops finally took him to meet with Jorge Cisneros and the female FBI agent, who talked the Mexican police into letting Krusensterna go to a hospital in McAllen instead of in Reynosa.

Krusensterna had lost 45 pounds during his ordeal, but he was out of the hospital and back home in Dallas after four days in the hospital. But he couldn't stay there. He'd been so shaken that he walked away from his business and told his wife to sell the house. Within weeks they piled into a big RV and moved to Phoenix.


In March, Krusensterna got a call from CBS because 60 Minutes II was producing a segment on the Mexican kidnaping industry. It was the first time he had talked to anyone about his ordeal. Though he was having nightmares, he didn't want to go into therapy, but he did take out a concealed-weapons permit. And then, after talking to CBS, he started thinking that his next career would come out of the very trauma that possessed him, his kidnaping.

He hired a ghostwriting firm to write Terror in Mexico. It's slated to come out on January 14. The book paints a compelling picture of what went through his mind as he was chained to the chair, but it is fuzzy on either end, namely in explaining just how and why he was taken for ransom in the first place and just what happened to the people who kidnaped him when the gunsmoke cleared. There is no resolution of the wheres and hows, the disparities between his account and the published reports. But it may be the only version of facts that Krusensterna knows.

In the book, Leyva is identified as "Rosa," and a fair amount of vehemence is leveled at her, which is understandable since he feels she betrayed him, even if the Mexican authorities ultimately didn't agree.

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