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  HOME | Mexico

Mexico Halts Search for Missing American’s Body

MEXICO CITY – Police in Tamaulipas state have suspended the search for the body of an American missing since late September and presumed killed by drug traffickers in Falcon Lake, which straddles the U.S.-Mexico border, state officials said.

The search for David Hartley’s body “was suspended on Thursday (Oct. 14) because new strategies are going to be developed to try to find the body,” Tamaulipas state Attorney General’s Office spokesman Ruben Dario said Saturday.

Hartley and his wife, Tiffany, who lived in McAllen, Texas, were riding jet skis on Sept. 30 at the reservoir when they were attacked and chased by men aboard a boat, the victim’s wife told police.

Hartley was shot in the head, Tiffany Hartley, who managed to escape to Texas, said.

Tamaulipas Gov. Eugenio Hernandez said during a visit to the United States on Friday that the search had been halted because of the lack of results.

Searchers have found no traces of Hartley’s body or his jet ski, officials said.

“The search for the body has been suspended with the agreement of both sides because it has been more than 10 days and there are no traces,” Hernandez told Televisa from Washington.

Tiffany Hartley “provided valuable information” about the attack in a statement given to Mexican investigators in McAllen, the Attorney General’s Office said Saturday.

The 29-year-old woman gave her statement to the Mexican consul in McAllen and an AG’s office investigator, “allowing the investigations” under way in Mexico to continue, the AG’s office said.

Federal prosecutors are working with the Attorney General’s Office in Tamaulipas, located in northeastern Mexico, on the case.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has called on Mexican officials to press on with the investigation.

A Mexican police investigator working on the Hartley case was murdered and decapitated last Tuesday.

Rolando Flores Villegas, who was in command of the police unit in the city of Miguel Aleman, was working on the operation to recover the U.S. citizen’s body on the Mexican side of a lake shared with the United States.

Mexico was using trained searchers, boats and helicopters to search for Hartley’s body in the Falcon International Reservoir, officials said.

The search got off to a slow start because Mexican police initially doubted Tiffany Hartley’s story and did little to recover her husband’s body, U.S. media reported.

The Foreign Relations Secretariat, however, said in an Oct. 6 statement that Mexico spared no effort in the case.

Mexico said it “condemned any attack on the life of innocent citizens.”

“From the beginning, Mexican authorities from different levels of government have been in contact with their counterparts in the United States to coordinate the search and recovery efforts,” the Foreign Relations Secretariat said.

The Falcon Reservoir is located in Tamaulipas, where the Gulf and Los Zetas drug cartels have been battling for control of smuggling routes into the United States.

Tamaulipas and neighboring Nuevo Leon state have been dealing with a wave of violence unleashed by drug traffickers battling for control of smuggling routes into the United States.

The violence has intensified in the two border states since the appearance in February in Monterrey, the capital of Nuevo Leon, of giant banners heralding an alliance of the Gulf, Sinaloa and La Familia Michoacana drug cartels against Los Zetas, a band of Mexican special forces deserters turned hired guns.

After several years as the armed wing of the Gulf cartel, Los Zetas went into the drug business on their own account and now control several lucrative territories.

The cartels arrayed against Los Zetas blame the group’s involvement in kidnappings, armed robbery and extortion for discrediting “true drug traffickers” in the eyes of ordinary Mexicans willing to tolerate the illicit trade as long as the gangs stuck to their own unwritten rule against harming innocents.

About 28,000 people have died in drug-related violence since President Felipe Calderon declared war on Mexico’s cartels shortly after taking office in December 2006.

More than 7,000 gangland killings, according to officials, have occurred this year in Mexico. The death toll for all of 2009 was 7,724.

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