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.
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.
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.
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.
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."