An Arkansas native who recently graduated from medical school in Guadalajara has gone missing in Mexico after authorities found his friend dead, officials said Friday.
Jesse Pacheco, 29, walked through commencement ceremonies at Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara last weekend and was supposed to be back home in the U.S. this week, according to family members.
But loved ones said they haven't heard from him since he went out to celebrate his graduation in western Mexico on June 15.
Gerardo Octavio Solís Gómez, prosecutor for the state of Jalisco in Mexico, said Friday that there is enough evidence to believe that Pacheco may have been kidnapped. While investigating reports of Pacheco's disappearance authorities realized that he knew and attended the same university as a victim of a homicide, Carlos Alejandro Delgadillo Romero.
Romero was a medical student studying in Guadalajara with Pacheco, Gomez said. Romero's body was found outside a bar early Sunday, just hours before Pacheco was reported missing.
"Carlos Alejandro was taken by a group that beat him and shot him with a pistol, which killed him," Gomez said Friday. "The businesses nearby evacuated all their clients and closed down, to not get involved with this incident."
Romero's aunt identified his body, which has been sent home to his family. The U.S. State Department confirmed Romero's death to NBC News, adding, "Out of respect for the privacy of the family, we have no further comment at this time."
Gomez said that investigators have interviewed at least nine witnesses and have the names of more than 100 people who work in the area.
Pacheco's hometown congressman, Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., is working with officials to try to find him. In a statement to NBC News, Womack's spokeswoman, Alexia Sikora, said, "I can confirm that we are aware and that our office is in contact with the family, State Department, and consulate."
"The congressman is closely following the situation," Sikora added. "We are all hoping for a positive outcome."
Francine Solis, Pacheco's cousin and a spokeswoman for the family, fears the worst.
"He goes back there to get his diploma, his doctorate in medicine, and all of a sudden he’s gone," Solis told NBC News.
She said Pacheco’s mother, other family members and a number of friends traveled to Mexico to see him graduate on June 14. Pacheco went out to celebrate with friends the following night, but he never returned.
“When everyone woke up in the morning at 7, they saw he wasn’t home yet,” Solis recalled being told. “His cell phone was off and it wasn’t like Jesse to turn off his phone or let it die.”
Solis said Pacheco’s mother immediately went to local police to file a missing persons report. She also checked for him at the nightclub he was supposed to have been at, local hospitals and even morgues. But there was no trace of him.
The family is frustrated with the level of help they've received from authorities in Mexico and have only heard social media rumors about Pacheco's whereabouts.
“We haven’t heard from any Mexican officials," said Solis. "People have tagged me in various posts that say, ‘Oh, he’s been kidnapped,’ but no one’s saying anything official so we’re going off of hearsay.”
Pacheco worked as a surgical tech at Mercy Hospital in Fort Smith, Arkansas, from February, 2015 to February, 2017, according to hospital spokesman Todd Nighswonger.
"He was really well liked and had shadowed many doctors so he was fairly well known" around the hospital, Nighswonger said.
In a Facebook posting last week, Pacheco thanked his family and friends — especially his mother.
"And so my dream of becoming a doctor was fulfilled today!!!" he wrote. "I am so happy and blessed to have an amazing mother who helped me to this point of my life today. She is a true role model for me."
“He is the most amazing person ever,” Solis said. “If you bottle up all the good things a person could be, that’s Jesse. He’s not a trouble maker, he’s not a bad guy.”