On December 2, 1980, Dorothy Kazel, Jean Donovan, Ita Ford, and Maura Clarke were intercepted on their way home from the airport in El Salvador. Five Salvadoran National Guardsmen kidnapped, raped, and killed them. Their murders and the subsequent outcry by CISPES and other solidarity organizations was a factor in catalyzing a broad Central America anti-intervention movement in the US.
The families of the women killed filed a lawsuit in May, 1999, naming Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova and José Guillermo García responsible for the murders. On November 3, 2000, a jury in West Palm Beach, Fla., found the two Salvadoran generals not guilty under the 1991 federal Torture Victims Protection Act. García was Minister of Defense and Vides was head of the National Guard of El Salvador at the time of the crimes.
The four American women were among 75,000 to lose their lives in El Salvador during the country’s 12-year civil war, which ended in 1992. Ford and Clarke were nuns from the Maryknoll Order in Maryknoll, N.Y. Kazel was a nun in the Ursuline Order. Donovan was an accountant before going to El Salvador.