Falcon Lake murder: witnesses come forth

April 14, 2011

Six months ago, David and Tiffany Hartley thought they were going to spend a pleasant day exploring the ruins of an abandoned Mexican town, now mostly submerged under Falcon Lake, in Texas.

Instead, they were attacked by Mexican drug runners: Tiffany barely escaped with her life, while David was gunned down. His body was never found, and the lead Mexican investigator on the case was beheaded by the cartels as a warning to authorities to back off.

Since then, Tiffany has returned to live with her parents, trying to put her life back together. As the weeks and months went by, it looked less and less like she would ever receive justice, or even the body of her husband to bury. In addition, she has had to endure suspicions on the part of some that she was not telling the truth and maybe even involved in David’s death.

Just recently, though, two witnesses have been found that who corroborate her story:

Gonzalez told South Texas television station KRGV an elderly couple with a home near Falcon Lake heard the gunshots that killed David Hartley.

“We’ve had calls from people that were in the area, U.S. fishermen fishing on the Mexican side of the lake. They heard what the witness calls a war zone, three different episodes of gunfire, a barrage of bullets,” Gonzalez said.

The sheriff says the new witness accounts validate Tiffany Hartley’s version of the events that led to her husband’s death.

“I’ve had to come up against a lot of criticism, a lot of judgment, kind of fighting through all this with what happened to David,” Tiffany Hartley said. “It’s hard being judged and it’s hard having your character judged.”

Gonzalez also released a photograph taken by a Customs and Border Protection helicopter, showing six men in a boat just after the attack. Two of the men match Tiffany Hartley’s description of the killers.

Follow the link for photos.

Hopefully this will lay those monstrous rumors to rest and provide a clue to the identity of the killers, and eventually to giving Tiffany some peace.

LINK: Earlier posts on the Falcon Lake murder.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)

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Falcon Lake killings: suspects identified

February 28, 2011

Five months ago, David and Tiffany Hartley set out to have a fun day of jet-skiing and sightseeing on Falcon Lake, in Texas on the border with Mexico. Their holiday turned into a nightmare, however, when they were attacked by members of Los Zetas, one of Mexico’s most violent drug cartels; David was shot dead and Tiffany barely escaped back to the American side after trying to rescue her husband. His body has never been found, and the investigation has largely come to a standstill; Mexican authorities have largely backed off since the lead investigator was beheaded, and US agencies are limited because of a lack of jurisdiction in Mexico. It looked as if the case would sit unsolved in a cold-case file.

But, maybe not. The one police agency still actively investigating David’s murder is the Zapata County Sheriff’s Office, and they claim to have identified four suspects:

[Sheriff Sigi] Gonzalez said the four men identified are Zetas members, but he refused to release any more details at this time.

The four of them, he added, were part of a larger group of seven men that attacked David and Tiffany Hartley as they approached the abandoned town of Guerrero Viejo, in the Mexican side of the bank.

“They were watching her with a rifle to her body and they lowered it and pick it up and lowered,” he said. “They were waiting for word whether to shoot her or not shoot her. “

Tiffany was able to get away and make it to safety, but David Hartley’s body has never been found.

Meanwhile, Gonzalez said the suspects are known to be living in Mexico, but since the attack, they have crossed into the U.S. several times.

He said his office will continue gathering enough information to arrest those responsible.

(There’s a video report at the link, too.)

Sheriff Zapata said any information gathered would be passed to the FBI and, from them, to the State Department, presumably to take up with Mexican authorities. Call me cynical, but, while I’m sure the FBI would like to nail these guys, I have my doubts about how willing State is to rock the boat with Mexico over this. And I’m even more doubtful of serious help from Mexican law enforcement; they’ve already shown themselves to be subject to intimidation, and the Zetas themselves show no restraint. I’ll be happy to be proven wrong, however. But, even if they are arrested in Mexico, Texas will have to forgo applying the death penalty, since Mexican law prohibits extradition in cases where execution is an option.

However, the fact that these killers cross regularly into the United States gives hope that Zapata County sheriff’s deputies or other law enforcement will be able to capture on our side of the border. Eventually, they’re bound to make a mistake.

I have another suggestion, however, one that crosses borders and is, one might say, traditional in the American West: name the men, put bounties on their heads, and make sure the posters are stamped “dead or alive.”

We’re dealing with outlaws, so let’s treat them as outlaws.

RELATED: An update on Tiffany Hartley. The beheading of Police Commander Rolando Armando Flores Villegas. A possible threat by Los Zetas to destroy Falcon Dam.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Tiffany Hartley, a sad update

February 26, 2011

Following up on the story of the murder of David Hartley by members of Los Zetas, a story came across my monitor yesterday about the life his widow, Tiffany, has lived since seeing her husband killed on Falcon Lake and barely escaping, herself. When not pressing for justice in the case and for better border security overall, she leads a quiet life on her parents’ farm, trying to get past what happened. As the following quote shows, it isn’t easy:

Daily life on the farm in La Salle is much different. It’s quiet. The neighbors no longer target shoot because the sound of gunfire still terrifies Tiffany Hartley.

She’s seeing a therapist and tries not to read what people write about her online. Some people still doubt her story and accuse her of plotting to kill David Hartley. They’ve also accused of her not showing enough emotion when talking about her husband.

“I mourn privately,” she said.

One life destroyed and another shattered, probably for a long time to come.

I doubt Tiffany Hartley will ever know justice in this case; her husband’s body was probably destroyed and the gunmen killed by their bosses for causing a problem, while the Mexican investigators are likely intimidated. Beheading tends to have that effect.

I just hope she someday finds some measure of peace.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Falcon Lake killing: Ooops! Our bad!

October 14, 2010

David Hartley and his wife Tiffany were sightseeing on Falcon Lake on the Mexican Border near McAllen, Texas, taking photos of the abandoned, flooded town of Old Guerrero. The young couple was enjoying a happy day on the lake, as allowed under Article 18 of the Water Treaty of 1944.

Then the happy day turned into a nightmare.

David and Tiffany were ambushed at Old Guerrero by members of the Zeta cartel. They fled on their jet skis, pursued by “pirates” firing automatic weapons at them. David was hit in the head and killed. Tiffany tried to recover his body, but the Zetas kept shooting and she had to leave him to save her own life. To this day, David’s body has not been recovered, the killers have not been arrested, and the lead Mexican investigator into the case was beheaded.

But, let’s not get too upset. You see, the head of the Zetas, Miguel Treviño, feels really bad about what happened, because it was all a case of mistaken identity:

A global intelligence company Wednesday said the death of U.S. citizen David Michael Hartley on Falcon Lake was a case of mistaken identity in a turf war between rival drug cartels.

Hartley, who was shot during a Sept. 30 sightseeing trip to the Mexican side of the binational reservoir, was shot by Zeta cartel enforcers because he was mistaken for a spy of the rival Gulf Cartel, according to the report by STRATFOR, and Austin-based think tank specializing in intelligence and international issues.

The report goes on to say Hartley’s body likely was destroyed as Los Zetas went into “damage control” mode and that the lower-level operatives responsible for the unauthorized strike against him now are on the Zetas’ hit list.

“The cartel boss — Miguel Treviño — is highly upset over the fact that these individuals shot and killed Mr. Hartley and it’s our understanding that the cartel boss is hunting for the killers of Mr. Hartley so he can take care of them himself,” said Fred Burton, STRATFOR’s vice president of intelligence.

Oh, well, that makes all the difference in the world, doesn’t it? It was just a couple of mooks who screwed up the Zeta’s criminal and terrorist business; the Hartley’s were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Miguel himself will put things right. Don’t worry, he’ll handle it.

Except David Hartley is still dead and his wife has no body to bury.

Screw you, Treviño. Screw you and all the Zetas. If it weren’t for you and your evil, this would never have happened; you are just as responsible as the idiots you hired. You are ruining lives on both sides of the border and you are no better than the barbarians we’re fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And just like them, you deserve to die.

Addendum: An Open Letter To President Barack Obama

Dear Mr. President,

Under Article 18 of the Water Treaty of 1944 between Mexico and the United States, American citizens have the right to use both shores of the lake freely:

Public use of the water surface of lakes formed by international dams shall, when not harmful to the services rendered by such dams, be free and common to both countries, subject to the police regulations of each country in its territory, to such general regulations as may appropriately be prescribed and enforced by the Commission with the approval of the two Governments for the purpose of the application of the provisions of this Treaty, and to such regulations as may appropriately be prescribed and enforced for the same purpose by each Section of the Commission with respect to the areas and borders of such parts of those lakes as lie within its territory.  Neither Government shall use for military purposes such water surface situated within the territory of the other country except by express agreement between the two Governments.

I submit to you, sir, that, either through complicity or impotence, the Mexican government is unable or unwilling guarantee “free and common” use of its side of Falcon Lake, as it is obliged to do under the cited article. It is therefore your obligation as President of the United States to guarantee the safety of American citizens enjoying lawful use of the lake. This is not Texas’ responsibility; this is an international treaty entered into by the United States as a whole, and it your responsibility to see that its terms are met.

With respect, I request that you take steps to establish a Coast Guard station on Falcon Lake with sufficient personnel and arms to patrol the American side of the lake and come to the aid of anyone in distress who is enjoying its lawful use.

Thank you.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Mexico: lead investigator in Falcon lake murder beheaded

October 13, 2010

Well, this certainly sends a message. The lead Mexican investigator into the murder of David Hartley, presumably by Mexican lake pirates, was himself killed and his severed head delivered to the Mexican Army:

State police in Tamaulipas looking for David Hartley’s body are now investigating the murder of one of their own. Miguel Alemán State Police Commander Rolando Armando Flores Villegas’ head was delivered in a suitcase Tuesday to the military post in Miguel Alemán.

Officials quickly denied connection between Villegas’ apparent murder and Hartley’s disappearance.

If they aren’t connected, then it’s one helluva coincidence.

Ironically, Flores Villegas had himself questioned Tiffany Hartley’s account of her husband’s death, implying she herself might have had something to do with it. (A witness has since come forth, backing up her story) Now he’s dead, and Tiffany Hartley still cannot bury her husband. Mexican investigators promise to continue the search for David’s body and his killers, but they want Tiffany to come to Tamaulipas to file a report, guaranteeing her safety.

With cops literally losing their heads down there, I can’t imagine she puts much stock in those guarantees.

LINKS: More from Bryan Preston.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)