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Mexican divers suspend search for American

By the CNN Wire Staff
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'Pirate Lake' mystery
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Tiffany Hartley meets with Mexican authorities in Texas
  • Mother is hopeful the search will resume Monday
  • No Mexican agencies are actively searching for David Hartley
  • Hartley's wife says he was shot on Falcon Lake on September 30

(CNN) -- The search for an American -- whose wife says he was shot on a lake that straddles the U.S.-Mexican border -- has been suspended, a Mexican official said Friday.

David Hartley was reportedly shot to death September 30 by gunmen investigators believe are linked to a Mexican drug gang.

At present, there are no Mexican agencies actively searching Falcon Lake for Hartley.

But the mother of Tiffany Hartley -- the woman who says her husband was shot -- says she's "hopeful that they'll restart on Monday," after meeting with Mexican officials on Friday.

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RELATED TOPICS
  • David Hartley
  • Tiffany Hartley
  • Mexico
  • Crime

Cynthia Young, Tiffany's mother, said said that she, her daughter and Tiffany's dad met with Mexican and American officials for about 8 hours on Friday.

Young would not specify which officials attended the meeting but said the family was told that the Mexican government was "restrategizing" how it is handling the search for Hartley's body.

Young said that the day mostly entailed Tiffany refiling a witness statement with Mexican officials, recounting what happened on the day she said he was killed.

Young said the meeting occurred in McAllen, Texas, where Tiffany and her husband had recently relocated.

Earlier in the day, Tamaulipas state attorney general spokesman Ruben Dario Rios explained the decision to halt the search.

"Our investigators have taken a temporary recess so that we can better assess the strategies we are using to find the body. We are currently considering other approaches to our search," he said.

The search was suspended on Thursday. Responding to local reports that it may have been threats of imminent gun battles by the Los Zetas cartel that led to Mexican officials to suspend the search, Dario Rios said, "Negative."

"We have no official information of threats on our investigators."

Tiffany's mother said that "we're very disappointed" in the development.

"The longer this goes the less chance there is of finding David," she said.

Tiffany Hartley told authorities the couple was on a sightseeing trip on Falcon Lake, a reservoir on the Rio Grande. She believes the attackers may still have her husband's body.

Dario Rios said earlier Friday taht Tiffany Hartley has not responded to the attorney general's formal request for more information about the incident.

"We still have not spoken to her," he said.

Young had said her daughter is willing to meet with Mexican authorities on her terms and on U.S. soil, not in Mexico.

Tamaulipas state governor Eugenio Hernandez Flores, in Washington for annual meetings on Mexican-U.S. partnerships, was scheduled to meet with FBI officials during his visit Friday to pledge cooperation as authorities look into the matter.

He told CNN that Mexican police had deployed dozens of searchers but have found neither a body nor a jet ski.

Tiffany said she met with the lead Mexican investigator in the death of her husband days before the police officer was killed and his severed head delivered to authorities in a suitcase.

U.S. and Mexican authorities vowed the search for Hartley's husband would continue despite the investigator's slaying on Tuesday.

"I met him. He sat right next to me," Hartley said, referring to Mexican state official Rolando Armando Flores Villegas. Her remarks aired on CNN's "American Morning" Thursday.

"We talked through a translator and he just seemed like a really good guy who really wanted to just do good for -- you know, his country," Hartley said.

Hartley said she wonders if the death of the lead Mexican investigator will hamper the search for her husband.

"It definitely makes me worried that nobody is going to want to take over," she said.

On Thursday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States is doing everything it can to find Hartley and told ABC's "Good Morning America" that she is "sickened" by the case.

"I hope that we can [find him]," said Clinton. "I mean, the beheaded body of the brave Mexican investigator that just showed up shows what we're dealing with."

She said the United States is "supporting local law enforcement, supporting the authorities on the border, doing everything that we know to do to try to assist in helping to find the body and helping to find the perpetrators."

A report issued by a Texas-based think tank suggested Thursday that Hartley's death may have stemmed from a case of mistaken identity in the ongoing war between two Mexican drug cartels.

The Stratfor report, which cites anonymous sources, noted that Hartley worked for an oil and gas company with operations in Reynosa, Mexico. The couple had lived there for two years and had only moved to McAllen within the past few months, the report said.

The truck they drove to Falcon Lake on September 30 still had a license plate from Mexico's Tamaulipas state.

The couple drove their personal watercraft to the Old Guerrero area of the lake, which the report said is a "known battleground in the ongoing war in the Los Zetas and Gulf cartels."

The sources told Stratfor both cartels have been known to conduct surveillance and countersurveillance operations on personal watercraft, so Zetas scouts identified them as possible Gulf spies, because of their license plate and their method and direction of travel on Falcon Lake. They were then apparently confronted by "Zetas enforcers," Stratfor said.

The sources told Stratfor the attack was unauthorized by senior Los Zetas members and "a damage control campaign is currently under way ... to identify and eliminate those who engaged the Hartleys without proper authorization."

Protocol involves prompt disposition of a body to ensure no evidence can be brought against the group, the report said.

Sources said that "once Hartley was identified as an American, his body was destroyed the same day as the incident to prevent a backlash from the U.S. government against the group," Stratfor said.

"With the heavy diplomatic and public pressure on both U.S. and Mexican authorities to find David Hartley's remains in the investigation, the decapitation of Flores Villegas was a stern signal to both the United States and Mexico that no body will be produced and to leave the situation alone."

Falcon Lake is about 70 miles west of the Hartleys' home in McAllen.

CNN's Ed Lavandera, Eric Fiegel and Nick Valencia contributed to this report.

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