Video: Mexico: No suspects in Falcon Lake shooting

  1. Transcript of: Mexico: No suspects in Falcon Lake shooting

    MATT LAUER, co-host: But we begin this half-hour with new developments in the murder of an American tourist who was shot and killed by pirates on a lake bordering Texas and Mexico . We're going to talk to the victim's wife and mother in a moment. But first, NBC 's Janet Shamlian has the latest on this story. Janet , what's up? Good morning.

    JANET SHAMLIAN reporting: Matt, good morning to you. Well, we're now 11 days into this investigation, no sign of David Hartley , and today there are conflicting reports from Mexico about whether there are suspects in this case. Meanwhile, we're also getting our first look at the Hartleys and their activities on the day of the reported attack. These are David Hartley 's last hours, driving his truck, pulling the couple's Jet Skis as they headed to Falcon Lake . Just a short time later, his wife, Tiffany , says, they came under a barrage of gunfire while jet-skiing. David was shot in the head, she says, on the Mexico side of the waterway. On the police dash-cam video, Hartley can be heard talking with Texas troopers, who stopped him for an expired registration sticker.

    Unidentified Texas State Trooper: Where you headed to?

    Mr. DAVID HARTLEY: Up to Falcon .

    State Trooper: To Falcon ?

    Mr. HARTLEY: Yeah.

    State Trooper: How long were you going to stay up there?

    Mr. HARTLEY: At Falcon ? ...day.

    State Trooper: Just to -- just for the day?

    Mr. HARTLEY: Yeah.

    SHAMLIAN: Meanwhile, over the weekend, it was widely reported that Mexican police had identified two suspects , brothers connected to the Zeta drug cartel. But late Sunday night, Mexican officials dismissed those reports to a Texas newspaper. US authorities are puzzled as well.

    Sheriff SIGIFREDO GONZALEZ Jr. (Zapata County, Texas): We're trying to find out how this information came about.

    SHAMLIAN: Tiffany Hartley is still frustrated by the scope and pace of Mexico 's search for David . Ms. TIFFANY HARTLEY ( Wife of Man Who Was Allegedly Shot and Killed by Mexican Pirates ): Until we get some more footage and video or, you know, pictures to say this is what they're doing, you know, we're just kind of hoping and praying that they're doing what they say they're doing.

    SHAMLIAN: Tiffany gave NBC News an exclusive look at evidence authorities have analyzed, including her Jet Ski , the one she raced back to the US side of the lake, and her life vest, the one the Zapata County sheriff says contains microscopic stains, believed to be David 's blood splattered on Tiffany when she tried to help him. Looking back on a marriage filled with adventure, she wonders whether that passion for excitement may have cost David his life. For all who loved him, so much grief, still no closure.

    Ms. PAM HARTLEY (Son Was Allegedly Shot and Killed by Mexican Pirates): And you hear this, you hear that, you don't know what's true, you don't know, you know, what to believe. But I'm not giving up hope that we are going to find him and that we are going to bring him home, so everything we do get, it's -- I hope. It's always hope.

    SHAMLIAN: The Hartleys had been planning to move back to their home state of Colorado this week, but for now, Tiffany remains here in Texas , focused on bringing David home. Matt, back to you.

    LAUER: All right. That's Janet Shamlian in Texas for us this morning. Tiffany Hartley is with us now along with David Hartley 's mother, Pam . Ladies , good morning to both of you.

    Ms. T. HARTLEY: Good morning.

    Ms. P. HARTLEY: Good morning.

    LAUER: Tiffany , I mean, this is very confusing here. Over the weekend we'd been hearing that Mexican authorities had identified two suspects in the murder or disappearance of your husband. They had names, they had connections to a drug gang, and now Mexican officials as early as today are denying that they're eyeing any suspects in this. What are you hearing?

    Ms. T. HARTLEY: Yeah, I just heard about that they're now saying that they're not -- that they don't have any suspects . So, yeah, this is very frustrating. One -- at one moment we do have suspects , at another moment we don't. You know, either way , I hope that they do find somebody who can lead us to where David is.

    LAUER: Did...

    Ms. T. HARTLEY: Ultimately that's all we want.

    LAUER: Did someone in an official position either with US authorities or Mexican authorities tell you directly that in fact these two suspects were under consideration?

    Ms. T. HARTLEY: No, not directly, no.

    LAUER: And now, I mean, this takes you back to square one in some ways. Are you concerned that this investigation is basically stalled now?

    Ms. T. HARTLEY: No, I think that there's -- the Mexican authorities are still searching for David . I think they're -- they are doing what they can. But then again, we -- we're not there, so we can't really see what they're doing. We're just getting word of what they're doing over there. So hopefully they'll keep on the search and we'll find him this week.

    LAUER: And now that they're saying there are no suspects at this moment, are you worried? I mean, you've faced some very difficult questions over the past week or two about any possible involvement you might have in David 's disappearance or death. Are you concerned that without those two suspects that the focus will again turn to you?

    Ms. T. HARTLEY: Not really. I think everyone's, you know, on my side and they do believe that David is out there and that the pirates did shoot him. So either way , if these aren't the two suspects , I think somebody else will, you know, come forward, hopefully, somebody will touch their heart and know that, you know, we just want David back ultimately. And that's -- you know, until we have him back, it's not final.

    LAUER: Pam , I mean, nothing can happen quickly enough for a mother who's lost a son. Are you frustrated by the pace of this?

    Ms. P. HARTLEY: Yes. I mean, I don't want to seem critical, I mean, we're so thankful for all the support that we're getting from the authorities, but there's nothing worse than sitting and going, ' What's going on ? What's happening ? What's' -- it's like, you know, we need information.

    LAUER: And at no point over the last several days has the bond between you and Tiffany changed at all? You still are in complete agreement as to what happened?

    Ms. P. HARTLEY: Totally. Totally. I mean, she's not my blood daughter, but she's just as important as my real daughter. I mean, I support her 100 percent.

    LAUER: Pam Hartley and Tiffany Hartley . Ladies , as I said, thanks for sharing your time with us again this morning. We appreciate it, and we'll follow this...

    Ms. P. HARTLEY: I...

    LAUER: Yes.

    Ms. P. HARTLEY: Can I say one -- can I say one thing?

    LAUER: Of course, Pam .

    Ms. P. HARTLEY: It's like with all the love and support that we've got, people have to see what a good person David was . And it's like please, he does not need to be discarded this way. Please help us to bring him home. Please.

    LAUER: Pam and Tiffany Hartley , ladies, our condolences and our thanks again for you joining us this morning.

NBC News and news services
updated 10/13/2010 8:30:04 AM ET 2010-10-13T12:30:04

The severed head of a Mexican investigator looking into the disappearance of an American has been delivered to authorities in Mexico, the sheriff on the Texas side of the border told NBC News on Tuesday.

Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez is spearheading the investigation on the U.S. side. David Hartley vanished on Sept. 30 while on Jet Skis with his wife on Falcon Lake, which stretches into Mexico.

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A spokesman for the prosecutor's office in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas confirmed that Commander Rolando Flores, the head of state investigators in the border city of Ciudad Miguel Aleman, had been killed.

Flores was investigating the disappearance of Hartley, but the prosecutor's spokesman said the death was unrelated.

Still, Flores last weekend had delivered information about two alleged Mexican gang members to KRGV TV in Texas as part of its investigation into Hartley's disappearance.

And U.S. authorities have said threats of violence from Mexican drug gangs who control much of the area has hampered the search for Hartley's body.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Tuesday that backing down in the face of threats from Mexican drug cartels and gangsters was "the worst thing we can do."

Perry told The Associated Press that the response on both sides of the border should be to increase "the numbers of law enforcement and military."

Perry has been pressuring Mexico to step up the search for David Hartley. Hartley's wife, Tiffany, says she and her husband were attacked by pirates on the lake on Sept. 30, while they were returning to the U.S. from Mexico on Jet Skis.

Gonzalez, the Zapata County sheriff, has said he has an eyewitness who corroborates her account.

Falcon Lake is a dammed section of the Rio Grande, 25 miles long and 3 miles across. Pirates have robbed boaters and fisherman on the Mexican side, prompting warnings to Americans by Texas state officials, but Hartley's death would mark the first violent fatality on the lake.

That part of Tamaulipas state is overrun by violence from a turf battle between the Gulf Cartel and the Zeta drug gang, made up of former Mexican special forces soldiers, and both are battling the Mexican military.

Dennis Hartley, David Hartley's father, expressed shock and regret at Flores' killing.

"I just, I'm in shock about this right now," he told The Associated Press from his Colorado home. "I really don't have any hope that David will be found. I really hate other people putting their lives at stake. We don't need more sons lost. If this is true, I'm just really heart broken that this happened."

Video: Severed head of Mexican investigator found

Tamaulipas State Police unit chief Juan Carlos Ballesteros said earlier that Mexican investigators believe brothers Juan Pedro and Jose Manuel Zaldivar Farias might have killed Hartley as he took photos of a sunken church at the lake.

The brothers already were sought for allegedly being in a gang of pirates that operates on Falcon Lake and for terrorizing a Mexican town at the south end of the lake.

Perry said once again that the Hartley incident points to the need for heightened border security by the U.S. federal government.

"The American people have had it up to here with their lack of understanding and their lack of action securing that border, where citizens of both sides can know that they are living in a country where they're going to be safe," he said.

NBC's Janet Shamlian and Austin Anderson, as well as The Associated Press, contributed to this report.

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