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)