updated 10/6/2010 3:15:53 PM ET 2010-10-06T19:15:53

Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Wednesday he has asked Mexico's president to call him in the next 48 hours to discuss the search efforts for the body of an American reportedly shot to death on a border lake.

Perry said he hopes the body has been retrieved by the time he gets the call.

"If not, we're not looking hard enough," he told The Associated Press.

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Tiffany Hartley, of Colorado, says her husband, David, was shot by Mexican pirates on Falcon Lake last week as they were returning to the United States on Jet Skis. Falcon Lake is a dammed section of the Rio Grande that has been plagued by pirates who rob boaters and fisherman who wander into Mexican waters. Hartley's death would be the first killing on the lake.

The Mexican Foreign Relations Ministry responded Wednesday with a statement that noted Mexico's "condemnation of any act that endangers the lives of innocent citizens," saying the country "is committed to the investigation of those acts."

The statement said Mexico has been in contact with the U.S. to coordinate the search and recovery of Hartley's body, and that Mexican authorities have "stepped up their actions with the support of specialized personnel, boats and helicopters."

The Hartley family has complained that Mexican authorities are not doing enough to find David Hartley's body.

Story: Wife: Pirates are hiding my husband’s body

Tiffany Hartley has said that her husband was shot in the head by three men chasing them in speedboats and that he fell off his Jet Ski and into the lake. His body has not been recovered.

Perry said Mexico needs to use every resource available to find the body and have it returned to U.S. soil. He said Mexican Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Julian Ventura had been accommodating during talks Tuesday.

The statement from Mexico City ran counter to comments by state officials in Tamaulipas, who cast doubt on Tiffany Hartley's story in interviews with the McAllen Monitor newspaper. The district attorney there, Marco Antonio Guerrero Carrixales, told the paper that authorities "are not certain that incident happened the way that they are telling us."

Perry said the couple was sightseeing in Mexico.

"I find it really reprehensible for anyone, U.S. or Mexican, to speak otherwise," he said.

Perry also used the incident to renew his demand that the federal government do more to secure the U.S.-Mexico border as northern Mexico sinks deeper into drug-gang violence. The violence has spread in the last few months from Ciudad Juarez, the epicenter of Mexico's drug war across from El Paso, Texas, to the Mexican side of the Rio Grande Valley, including Tamaulipas state where Hartley reportedly disappeared. Two drug gangs, the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas, are battling for supremacy there and fighting the Mexican military.

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"Frankly, these two presidents (Mexican President Felipe Calderon and President Barack Obama) need to get together with their secretaries of state and say, 'What are we going to do about this?'"

U.S. authorities are unable to investigate Hartley's disappearance because it happened in Mexico.

Pam Hartley, David's mother, said family members would be at the lake Wednesday to monitor the search.

"I think the ball is going. Again, how fast, I don't know. We're going to check for ourselves," she said.

She also said she hopes their presence at the lake will help the family heal. "As part of our closure, it's something we need to do," she said.

Democrat Bill White, who is challenging Perry's re-election bid, said responding to an incident after the fact is not enough, and that the governor needs to speak to sheriffs and law enforcement who work along the border to learn and respond to their needs. He said the area needs more sheriffs deputies and more assistance from state troopers.

Perry also said he spoke Tuesday to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's chief of staff and once again made his request for an additional 1,000 National Guard troops on the Texas-Mexico border, a request that has been repeatedly denied."How many more American citizens have to die?" Perry said.


Associated Press writers Katherine Corcoran in Mexico City, Ramit Plushnick-Masti in Houston and Ivan Moreno in Denver contributed to this report.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Jet ski widow: ‘I have no proof’ of murder

  1. Transcript of: Jet ski widow: ‘I have no proof’ of murder

    MEREDITH VIEIRA, co-host: But we begin with new details in the alleged attack of an American couple by Mexican pirates on a Texas border lake. Authorities say a witness has now come forward. NBC 's Janet Shamlian is outside the Mexican Consulate in McAllen , Texas , with the very latest. Janet , good morning to you.

    JANET SHAMLIAN reporting: Meredith , good morning. Just a devastating time for this young woman . As she's trying to get some answers, trying to get her husband 's body returned to the United States , Mexican authorities are now casting doubt on her account of what happened that day out there on the lake. The story of Mexican pirates shooting at Tiffany and David Hartley as they jet-skied on a border lake in South Texas has now become an international incident . Seeking answers and the return of her husband 's body, Tiffany had a three-hour meeting Tuesday at the Mexican Consulate .

    Mr. BOB YOUNG (Tiffany Hartley's Father): It seems like you have to file an official missing persons report in order to get the federal level. Now it's official.

    SHAMLIAN: US authorities said they couldn't search for David 's body because it happened on Mexico 's side of the lake. And they had no evidence officials in Mexico were looking. On TODAY, Tiffany told Meredith there was little assistance from across the border.

    Ms. NIKKI HARTLEY: These are two of... Ms. TIFFANY HARTLEY ( Husband Was Allegedly Shot and Killed by Mexican Pirates ): But they're not doing what they need to do to get in that water and find him. They're not getting in the water. They don't have people on the ground. They don't have people looking for him, and that's why we're pleading that please...

    Ms. PAM HARTLEY: They're not searching.

    Ms. T. HARTLEY: ...bring him back.

    Ms. P. HARTLEY: How are they going to find him?

    SHAMLIAN: Meanwhile, officials in Mexico question Tiffany's story, telling a Texas newspaper "We are not certain that the incident happened the way that they are telling us." But on the US side the sheriff overseeing the case says a credible witness corroborates Tiffany's account of what happened. Sheriff SIGIFREDO GONZALEZ , Jr. (Sheriff of Zapata County , Texas ): I have confidence that she's saying the truth. At the present moment, based on what we have, there's nothing really that would have me doubt her story at this time.

    SHAMLIAN: Meanwhile, with his motorcycle up on stage, a memorial for David Hartley in McAllen last night. A celebration of a life well lived.

    Unidentified Woman: He liked the finer things in life and was always up for an adventure.

    SHAMLIAN: But for those left behind , no closure...

    Unidentified Man: Until we meet again, my friend.

    SHAMLIAN: ...until they can bring David home. Tiffany was at that very touching memorial last night, but today, she resumes her fight to get Mexican authorities to look for her husband , to bring this family some closure, to finally bring David home. Meredith , back to you.

    VIEIRA: Janet Shamlian , thank you very much . We're going to talk to Zapata County Sheriff Sigi Gonzalez , Jr. in a moment. But first, Tiffany Hartley is with us again this morning, along with her mother, Cynthia Young . Good morning to all of you.

    Ms. CYNTHIA YOUNG: Good morning.

    Ms. T. HARTLEY: Good morning.

    VIEIRA: Tiffany , if I could start with you. You spent part of yesterday at the Mexican Consulate . Can you tell us what they said to you about their efforts to find your husband 's body?

    Ms. T. HARTLEY: They basically told us that we had to have this form filled out, basically a statement, and as soon as they had that they would take it and send it off to Mexico City authorities. And then they would also take it over to Reynosa and get the ball rolling on getting the government to do something.

    VIEIRA: Did you feel your concerns were being met by them?

    Ms. T. HARTLEY: Say that again.

    VIEIRA: Did you feel your concerns were being met by them in a timely fashion?

    Ms. T. HARTLEY: I do. I think they're going to start doing what needs to be done. I'm -- got hopes. We felt good when we left.

    VIEIRA: Tiffany , Mexican authorities and even some Americans have questioned your story, you're aware of that, partly because...

    Ms. T. HARTLEY: Yes.

    VIEIRA: ...there's no evidence at this point of a crime, no body has been found. So I have to ask you just point blank, did you have anything to do with the disappearance and/or the death of your husband David ?

    Ms. T. HARTLEY: No. Not at all. I loved him very much. And I went back for him to help him and I did what I could.

    VIEIRA: Why do you believe that authorities have cast doubts on your story?

    Ms. T. HARTLEY: Because we do have no evidence. I -- we were in Mexico , and US authorities can't go over there. And I have no proof. I have no cameras. I have nothing. I don't have the photos that we were taking. I don't have anything except for my word.

    VIEIRA: Yesterday, you told me, Tiffany , that you stayed -- and "one of the boats came up to me," this is your quote, "and had a gun pointed at me trying to decide what to do with me, and then they left." How close did these people come to you? Can you describe them to me?

    Ms. T. HARTLEY: Honestly, looking at the barrel of the gun is all I saw. I was pretty focused there; I couldn't tell what you they look like. But they were within the length of my Jet Ski of me, which is about 10 feet.

    VIEIRA: Why do you think, Tiffany -- why do you think that they would spare your life if in fact they had killed your husband ? Why would they want anybody around that could possibly ID them?

    Ms. T. HARTLEY: I have no idea. All I can do is give God the glory. That's all I can do is that he has touched them to leave, you know, leave me and go and figure out with the other two boats what could happen. So I had that time to get away.

    VIEIRA: Cynthia , you...

    Ms. T. HARTLEY: With God 's grace, I would -- I wouldn't be alive.

    VIEIRA: Cynthia , you're Tiffany's mom. When you hear her talking about what she describes as a frightening experience and the loss of her husband and now these questions about the veracity of her -- of her story, what goes through your mind as a mom?

    Ms. YOUNG: I get really angry as a mom because they didn't walk in her shoes that day, and I can understand where they think that didn't happen, that she fabricated it, because how many women would have the strength to turn around and try and help her husband instead of just running and saying, hope it works, you know? But her instinct at that point was save David , and so she instantly turned around, putting herself in danger, to get her husband and help him.

    VIEIRA: Sheriff, I...

    Ms. YOUNG: That's how much in love they were.

    VIEIRA: Sheriff, if I can bring you in now. Let me turn to you. When you first got word of this incident on the lake in the 911 call, what went through your mind -- immediately went through your mind?

    Sheriff GONZALEZ: What went through my mind immediately was what we have been telling people since April, and I made an interview because of this -- pirates on Falcon Lake -- is that the one thing I dreaded the most, having a fisherman come over here, go to the lake, go to Mexico and challenge some of these thugs with this weapons that they have, who barely even know how to use them, and having -- getting shot in the head and falling in the water, and I'm going to have a body in the water that I will not be able to retrieve. The one thing that I dreaded the most came true. So when this call came in, at first, I thought it was the ever present violence in Mexico that we were seeing in this area, the violence had probably crossed over again into our county .

    VIEIRA: Do you have any doubts about Tiffany's story, any unanswered questions that you'd like to have her respond to?

    Sheriff GONZALEZ: There is no doubt in my mind that Tiffany is -- that Tiffany's saying the truth. Tiffany -- when we saw her, she came over here. She was distraught. There was one witness, independent witness, who had never even met Tiffany before, who actually saw this -- you know, this commercial fishing boat -- chasing her into Zapata , way into the United States . And as soon as she arrived with him to seek assistance, this boat made a U-turn and headed back towards Mexico . And the information that Tiffany provided, there was four to five people in the boat -- same information the witness provided. So there's no doubt in my mind that Tiffany's saying the truth.

    VIEIRA: Do you believe, sir, that the Mexican government is doing all they can -- Mexican authorities -- to try to find David ? Or do you think they are hindering the investigation?

    Sheriff GONZALEZ: Well, it's a custom, I guess you could say, in some -- to some extent to hinder the investigation. However, yesterday, as a matter of fact, till late last night, I -- we spoke to an official with the state police in Mexico , in Tamaulipas , and he assured me that they had been out there on Friday. They had been on Saturday. The good news, though, is that he assured me that today, at -- starting around 10:00 this morning, they were going to have several boats, helicopters, ski jets looking in that area all over again, and they're not going to stop until they find something or until all efforts have been exhausted. So they plan to be there all day today, which is something that we were -- we were hoping for. We -- the sheriff -- my colleague, the sheriff just north of me in Laredo , Martin Cuellar , who made some phone calls. The governor of Texas called me last night also. He made some phone calls also last night, as did staff members from other congressmen, seeking some type of assistance. It's my understanding that they -- very high-ranking official from the attorney general's office in Mexico will also being flying down to the area by noon today.

    VIEIRA: There...

    Sheriff GONZALEZ: So things are moving.

    VIEIRA: Yeah.

    Sheriff GONZALEZ: I think that these efforts -- things are moving.

    VIEIRA: And, Sheriff, very quickly, and finally, if you had your druthers, would you prefer that folks from your office or American authorities could join in this search with the Mexican authorities instead of being left out of it?

    Sheriff GONZALEZ: Well, it's not -- it's not that we're being left out. We have been invited to participate just last night -- to actually go to Mexico and participate. We have chosen, however, to remain here simply because it's dangerous. It's not that we don't want to go there; we cannot protect ourselves. I'm sure we could get the assets to go to Mexico , but I'm thinking we go out there and we get into -- getting into a gun battle. I think it's definitely an international incident that would have some repercussions.

    VIEIRA: All right, Tiffany Hartley and Cynthia Young , I know how difficult this is for you. Thank you so much . Sheriff Sigi Gonzalez , Jr. , thank you, as well.


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