Disturbing Details About The Life Of Cannibal Author Jose Luis Calva

The following article includes graphic descriptions of murder.

Cannibalism remains one of the most taboo acts a human being can indulge in. As a last resort, some folks have been forced to consume the flesh of a fellow human or face death by starvation. History doesn't look unkindly on the survivors of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, who ate from those on board that perished in the crash in 1972 (via History). Nor does society vilify the Fore tribe of Papua New Guinea, who, up until several generations ago, still consumed their dead in rituals (via NPR). But for every person who makes the pages of history because they faced the hard choice of cannibalism or a slow and painful death from hunger, there's one who makes the news for eating a person for completely disturbing reasons. 

The internet was buzzing with the morbid story of Jeffrey Dahmer back in late 2022, mostly due to the Netflix series "Dahmer — Monster" that earned lead actor Evan Peters a Golden Globe for best actor for his stellar performance as the Milwaukee Cannibal (via People). And given the number of victims Dahmer had, as well as the media attention his case received, it's no wonder that he is probably the best-known cannibal in history.

Cannibal killers are rare, indeed. But news of their dastardly crimes will make headlines from time to time. One such murderer made the news in Mexico City 15 years ago after it was discovered that he had killed and eaten an ex-girlfriend. The life of Jose Luis Calva Zepeda is as interesting as it is horrific, still captivating true crime readers years later.

Police encounter a gruesome scene

Jose Luis Calva's name came up as a person of interest the day his ex-girlfriend Alejandra Galeana failed to show up for her shift at the pharmacy that employed her (via Newsweek). Galeana had recently angered Calva by transferring to that store so that she could be closer to the home she shared with her family. Her mother, Soledad Garabito Fernández, felt that Calva might be behind Galeana's disappearance, thinking at the time that "maybe he had her tied up somewhere under the influence of some drug in order to stop her from going out." Days before, Calva had called Galeana multiple times and threatened suicide if she ended their courtship. For good reason, police visited their suspect. But what they encountered in his apartment was something out of a horror film.

The police found Galeana's body on the floor of a bedroom closet. What was left of it, anyway. The right forearm was missing, and so was half of the right leg. A more thorough search of the apartment turned up these missing pieces when an officer opened up the refrigerator door. Inside with other perishables were Galeana's limbs. On the stove was a frying pan that held bits of flesh and fat from the woman, along with a cut lemon. Officers wondered whether or not Calva had used the juices from this fruit to give his meal more flavor. More of her remains were found on a dinner plate on the table. Finally, inside a box of breakfast cereal was a human bone that looked as if it had been fried.

Calva was victimized by an abusive mother

Jose Luis Calva certainly didn't have an easy go of things when he was younger. His father died when he was only 2 years old, leaving him solely in the care of his mother (per Newsweek). The woman who raised him was far from maternal. Prosecutor Gustavo Salas Chávez referred to Elia Calva as a "domineering" woman who subjected her young son to physical and emotional abuse. On one occasion, Calva accidentally found his mother and sister setting out gifts for a holiday. Rather than forgive the unexpected intrusion, his mother flew into a rage and beat the boy. To make matters even worse, she took the toy truck that was to be his gift and shattered it. When Calva earned money to buy it on his own, she lost control, beat him again, and broke the replacement toy.

Calva would reveal other dreadful details about his childhood to prosecutors after his arrest. According to Metro, Calva claimed that when he was 7, he was sexually assaulted by the friend of one of his older siblings. Newsweek reports that Calva didn't appear to have any strong ties with his family, even immediately after his arrest. He was hospitalized before being taken to jail after suffering injuries while trying to escape his apartment. He fell from his apartment balcony and was taken to a nearby medical facility for treatment. The news outlet tells of how neither his mother nor any of his five siblings visited him while he recovered.

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Calva tries his hand at writing

Jose Luis Calva fancied himself an author and a poet. When he first met Alejandra Galeana's mother, he told the woman that he made upward of $200 each day selling copies of his works to people on the street (per Newsweek). But she wasn't buying it. She says she could take one look at the man's appearance and determine that he wasn't everything he purported to be. 

But police were able to determine that the man they charged with killing and eating Galeana was busy writing. Though there is no record of what he sold on the street or how many folks had purchased his works, he was found to have one work in progress in his apartment. The unfinished tome, "Cannibal Instinct," was discovered by investigators while searching Calva's apartment. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the book "has a storyline much like the cannibal thriller film 'Silence of the Lambs,' but with a Mexican angle." Reuters tells of how the cover of the book featured a man who looked like Calva wearing a mask similar to the one Sir Anthony Hopkins wore when he played cannibal killer Hannibal Lecter.

Banderas News reports that Calva might have tried to pass himself off as something that he was not. The outlet maintains that Calva was a writer of "poetry, fiction, and plays" but also told people erroneously that he was a journalist and "TV personality." These false claims by Calva would certainly factor into the profile that experts assembled.

Investigators put together a psychological profile of Calva

Newsweek tells of how the prosecution assembled a psychological profile of Jose Luis Calva. Salas Chávez, who prosecuted Calva's case, maintains that he was experiencing addiction and both cocaine and alcohol in copious amounts. Calva was also depressive and had thoughts of suicide. He was noted as being smug and somewhat of a braggart, a man who desperately desired to fit in and have social acceptance but was never able to achieve it. Calva was noted to be of average intelligence but could turn on the charm to get what he wanted out of women. 

The news outlet would also point out that Alejandra Galeana' wasn't the only woman who might have fallen prey to Calva. The Cannibal Poet, as he was referred to in the media, may have been responsible for the deaths of at least two other women. In 2004, police found the remains of one of Calva's ex-girlfriends disposed of in a suburb of Mexico City. Veronica Martínez Casarrubia had her head removed. Additionally, Calva may have killed a sex worker in 2007.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Calva died in jail, but was it by his own hand?

Jose Luis Calva didn't live long behind bars. On December 11, 2007, he was found dead in his jail cell (via Banderas News). The news outlet reports that the Cannibal Poet had been hung from his belt and that his death was ruled a suicide. This ruling didn't sit well with Calva's sister, however. She feels as though her brother was murdered in his cell. But does her claim have any validity?

Relatives of Calva maintain that he was targeted by other inmates, who were trying to extort money from him. But according to a Metro, prison officials pointed out that Calva had "reinforced his locked cell door with wire and shoelaces tied from the inside," suggesting he couldn't have been murdered. The one mystery that investigators were trying to solve was how Calva was able to get a belt to begin with, considering he was supposed to be under 24-hour observation. 

Moises Humberto Guerrero Calderon, the lawyer who was representing Calva, didn't believe it was a case of suicide, either. "He didn't seem to have suicidal tendencies," he stated (per Metro). He pointed out that Calva was working on a book and was "very enthused" about it. "That was sort of what gave him a reason to live," Calderon said.

With Calva dead, it might never be known if he had any involvement in the other murders he was thought to have committed. But perhaps his death served as an important step for the loved ones of Galeana to move on with their lives.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255).