Image: Tiffany Hartley
Eric Gay  /  AP file
Tiffany Hartley, left, and family members, lay a wreath near the site her husband, David Hartley, was shot last week, on Falcon Lake, Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2010 in Zapata, Texas. staff and news service reports
updated 10/21/2010 6:02:03 AM ET 2010-10-21T10:02:03

The wife of an American tourist presumably gunned down by Mexican pirates on a border lake moved back to Colorado on Wednesday but said she isn't giving hope that her husband's body will be recovered.

"I felt like God was telling me it's OK to go back," Tiffany Hartley told The Associated Press in a phone interview from the road, shortly after she and her family left McAllen, Texas.

Hartley said it was difficult leaving South Texas without her husband, David, who she told authorities was shot Sept. 30 by gunmen who ambushed the couple on the Mexico side of Falcon Lake, where pirates have robbed several Americans this year.

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Hartley said the couple were riding Jet Skis back from sightseeing in Mexico when the pirates approached in speedboats. After her husband was shot, she said she tried circling back to get him but raced back to American soil after hearing bullets whizzing by her.

In May, Texas's Department of Public Safety warned of problems with pirates on the Mexico side of the border reservoir, but David Hartley's case is the first report of a U.S. citizen's killing,the San Antonio Express-News reported.

Video: Police probe new clues in lake-shooting case (on this page)

Hartley, 29, said she is "frustrated" that David's body has not been found after three weeks but understands that another country is handling the search.

"I have to be patient," Hartley said. "And I believe that's what I'm doing. Me going to Colorado doesn't mean I'm throwing my hands up. I just felt like it's time to go."

'A long process'
A U.S. consulate official said last week that David Hartley may have been a victim of mistaken identity. It came after a report by Stratfor, an Austin, Texas-based public policy research group that analyzes the Mexican drug war, suggested the couple might have been mistaken for drug runners.

The couple's Jet Skis had Mexican license plates, which might have added to cartel members' suspicions, the report noted. The Stratfor report theorized that once the killers realized Hartley was an American, they destroyed the body to avoid a U.S. backlash.

Story: Texas National Guardsman shot dead in Mexico

Although neither David Hartley or his Jet Ski have been found, officials have said they believe Hartley's story. She was interviewed again by Mexican authorities before leaving Texas and said the government should now have all the information it needs.

"It was fine. It was just a long process," she said. "And I can understand their point. They want to get all the questions answered."

The couple had been in the area while David Hartley was on assignment in the Mexican city of Reynosa for a Canadian oil well services firm, the Express-News reported. He had just finished the assignment before the incident on Falcon Lake, according to the paper.

Hartley said she will continue speaking out in Colorado about her husband's killing and the violence along the border. Last week, a state police commander in Tamaulipas who was investigating the Hartley disappearance was killed, his decapitated head delivered in a suitcase to a local Mexican army post.

Video: Investigator in Texas lake case decapitated (on this page)

Mexican authorities say they don't know if the murder was related to the Hartley search because the investigator was working on numerous cased involving drug gangs.

"People need to realize what's going on. They just don't now. They don't live down there," she said.

Hartley said she'll take some time to reflect about her future without her husband in Colorado and have "some quiet time to myself." The couple had been planning to move back before David Hartley was killed.

"I'll be on the next plane when David is found and we bring him home," Hartley said. "That's not something we're giving up just because we're moving back. This isn't the end."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: Police probe new clues in lake-shooting case

  1. Transcript of: Police probe new clues in lake-shooting case

    ANN CURRY, co-host: Mexican investigators say they have uncovered new information in the murder of that American tourist who was allegedly shot and killed by Mexican pirates. NBC 's Janet Shamlian is in McAllen , Texas , with details on this story. Janet , good morning.

    JANET SHAMLIAN reporting: Hi, Ann. Officials from here at the Mexican Consulate met with Tiffany Hartley for eight hours at a local FBI office on Friday. The Texas sheriff handling the US side of the investigation says those Mexican officials are actually trying to discourage and intimidate Hartley from pushing for a fuller investigation, even asking her to participate in a re-enactment, get back on Falcon Lake and show them exactly what happened. It was yet another meeting with Mexican investigators for Tiffany Hartley for eight hours at FBI headquarters , detailing once again what she says happened more than two weeks ago as she jet-skied with her husband, David , on Falcon Lake . Hartley says David was shot in the head by armed men in boats as the couple ventured onto the Mexico side to photograph an historic church.

    Ms. TIFFANY HARTLEY: They wanted us to go to Mexico to give this witness statement, and as a family we decided that that was not a wise decision. If they wanted to come and do the interview, they would have to do it over here in McAllen .

    SHAMLIAN: Though not getting into specifics, the Mexico attorney general's office says new details were revealed in Friday's meeting that will allow the investigation to continue. Those new details are a mystery to Tiffany , who says her story hasn't changed.

    Ms. HARTLEY: The story I've been telling from the beginning is the same story that I was telling them. They obviously get a little bit more in detail. The same story has been told over and over and over.

    SHAMLIAN: While the investigation may still be active, by all accounts the search for David Hartley 's body has ended following the beheading of the chief investigator in the case last week. She's still got her dog Tory and her family around, but Hartley admits it's been an unbearable few weeks.

    Ms. HARTLEY: Say we'll miss him very much.

    SHAMLIAN: Watching her husband die, then suspicions about her own story, and now the realization she'll never get David 's body back. What she does have, his wedding ring, she now wears next to hers.

    Ms. HARTLEY: It's going to always forever be on there till the day I have to decide I need to take it off. I can't even imagine that day.

    SHAMLIAN: Hartley will soon move back to her home state of Colorado but not, she says, before exhausting every opportunity in Texas to do what she can to help.

    Ms. HARTLEY: My head tells me yes, he's gone, and I'm -- he's not coming home. But my heart, it's still struggling. I just feel like he's going to be walking through that door any minute.

    SHAMLIAN: Hartley says that the meetings on Friday took so long simply because of the translation issues. They finally decided to break for the weekend and they will finish up later today. Ann , back to you.


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